In Europe today Christian symbols are often seen to be part of archaeological troves that tourists pay to admire, but they are not seen as true testimony of faith – a condition considered offensive to other religions. Blasphemous expressions against Christianity are tolerated as an invocation of free speech. By contrast, Islam is treated with care since the criminal code is a source of protection and the fear of violent reaction is the unspoken word.
Already the Danish cartoons publisher and even Hebdo, the French publication attacked by Muslim radicals, have conceded the philosophical ground that was won after support emerged from free speech advocates. Now there is a refusal to say anything critical of Islam or the Prophet Mohammed. The expression “Islamic terrorism” is banned and fundamentalism may be criticized only by conflating the words, “Islamic, Catholic or other.”
When the chattering class refers to Christianity it is as a “parochial religion” and an impediment to progress, but when Islam is addressed, the language of multiculturalism emerges, Reciprocity be damned. If Muslims request a mosque alongside a Roman basilica, that request must be respected. When Christians are denied a chapel in an Arab or Islamic nation, it is seen as the protection of a distinct culture.
This European unwillingness to defend its Christian past and its present acquiescence in Muslim accession has significant implications for the future. Inter-faith dialogue, often referred to as a way to bridge the cultural divide, is actually impossible if believers are unwilling to consider ideas outside their faith. Here is the rub. How do nations engaged in thinking about foreign policy enlist the support of their own citizens against a militant Islamic threat when they do not recognize what it is they are defending and cannot muster the necessary resistance against a destructive force?
On this point, empirical evidence exists. The French Revolution was predicated on tearing off the scepter of tyrants. The tyranny in question was comprised of the Church, the King and the Aristocracy. However, the revolutionaries did not distinguish between the factors that maintained their civilization and the abuses within. They simply wished to destroy the past, any vestige of the Old Order. When they destroyed the Church and all it stood for, they destroyed Europe for a century. The belief that tenuously held the continent together was severed as bloodshed reigned. Without Christianity and its traditions, human rights hadn’t any moral grounding. Public tranquility was a victim of traditional erasure.
Not only did this moral decline lead to internal violence, it led to internal weakness, an inability to mobilize against external enemies. Napoleon conquered France because his authoritarian rule created a semblance of order when there was only disorder. The French sacrificed their form of libertine views for a new tyranny ignoring the very conditions that promote liberty. John Adam famously wrote about the maintenance of order in societies desirous of liberty: “Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government, and in all combinations of human society.”
What we see with the destructive effect of religious tradition and a sense of virtue are societies that sue for peace with hostile adversaries. Europeans are hostage to Russian aggression and the influence of Muslim militancy. The United States channels its foreign policy through a United Nations that sublimates human rights into Orwellian double speak. A weakness in the West is seen by our enemies as an opportunity for dominance and the imposition of tyranny.
There is a war between traditions that uphold the West’s ideological superstructure and militants who would destroy those traditions completely substituting autocracy for liberty and dogmatic adherence to sharia for individual rights. In 1789 Europe lost her freedom amid the orgy of destruction. If the West declines, so does reason, even the justification for self-preservation. From an ethical angle it is the barbarity of a father who engages in honor killing after his daughter is raped. Those who cannot challenge practices of this kind are lost in multicultural confusion.
From Germinal, the season of birth, to Thermidor, the 11th month of the French Republican calendar and the accession of Napoleonic order, history cannot tolerate chaos. Western traditions have a purpose in the maintenance of order. Nietzsche predicted in The Birth of Tragedy that “without God, the West would embrace the abyss.” Well, we are not there yet; but the traditions that God conferred are waning and the ability to defend the civilization in the face of evil is declining. The unappeasable yearning for unattainable ends haunts the West. A double standard of denial for what is and acceptance of what threatens, puts civilization on the shoals of despair. Charles Peguy, the French poet, put it most poignantly by noting “surrender is essentially an operation by means of which we set about explaining instead of acting.” Of course, one cannot act if he doesn’t believe and he doesn’t believe if the moral foundations of society have been continually eroded.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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