Wednesday, September 11, 2002

One would hope that a theologian would have something theological to say about the one year anniversary of the terrorist attack (not "tragedy") on the United States. Well, I don't. The only thing I can think of is, as James Schall says, "We refuse to inquire whether there is anything about Islam itself that might be the origin of the problem." More specifically, does Islam (as Christianity does) have any resources in itself that can be used to authoritatively renounce terrorism? Quoting passages in the Qu'ran about civilians doesn't seem to help. The terrorists considered their victims to be "combatants" in the American economic and cultural war against Islam. Still, as Schall also points out,

Is there hope in dialogue? In "peaceful" means? This is the official line of the Church, even when Christians are under direct attack in Muslim countries. If there is any Islamic state that deserves to be attacked on humanitarian grounds, it is the Sudan. But we prefer martyrs to war.

A preference for martyrdom is not in itself lack of courage. In fact, it is quite courageous. But, a preference for martyrdom should not be a smokescreen for lack of resolve. Sometimes we are obliged for the sake of justice to engage in war. Do we have the courage to engage in a just war (assuming it can be sufficiently demonstrated to be just)? And to engage in it with the focus and energy necessary to win? Are we willing to make the sacrifice necessary (in lives, even) to secure a firmer peace for the whole world? If not, perhaps Schall is right that the soul of the west is sick. "The final lesson is that most democracies fail not because of some outside enemy, but because of something enervating in their own souls." By turning away from traditional values and virtues we have weakened our souls so that we sometimes can't even recognize, much less fight our real enemies.

Requiescat in pacem!

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