In my spare time reading today, I came across a good deal of controversy in conservative circles about Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left And Its Responsibility For 9/11, in which he argues that 9/11 happened because Muslims were justifiably outraged by the social liberalism which the US is spreading around the world. Judging by reviews, D’Souza suggests that American conservatives/traditionalists ought to form an alliance with Muslims and other traditionalist societies against the forces of liberalism, thus solving both the war on terror and the cultural war at the same time.
“D’Souza tries to clear a path for an alliance of Muslim and Christian traditionalists by sympathetically explaining key differences between the two religions: ‘Unlike many Christians, who have multiple identities only one of which is that they happen to be Christian, Muslims typically regard their religion as central to both private and public identity, and consider all other affiliations as secondary or derivative.’ Good point. The lesson D’Souza seeks to draw here is that Christians ought to tolerate the somewhat broader religious boundaries of their sincerely traditionalist brethren in the Middle East. Yet doesn’t the tendency to subordinate all public and private identities to Islam suggest a reason why Islam and modernity are in tension to begin with?”
The problem is, D’Souza has drawn a strong dilemma, and Kurtz chooses the wrong horn of the dilemma. The answer is not, if we want liberty we have to separate private and public, religious and secular spheres. The answer is, we need the right religion, one which teaches conversion by persuasion, not violence, one which upholds individual rights rather than subordinating everything to a totalitarian religious leader (eg Iranian ayatollahs).
As long as we try to interact with Muslims by trying to persuade them that they can separate their religion from their daily activities and choices, we are bound to fail. Not only that, but as long as the American church continues to grasp at this rag of an excuse for incomplete obedience to Christ, we will continue to deserve the shame of abortion and sodomy flung like filth across our land.
True Christianity is not one among multiple identities. It should be the overwhelming, all-encompassing identity which subsumes all others. Only then will life have true meaning, instead of being “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (For an eloquent and earthshaking statement of this old-new philosophy, see Peter Leithart’s new book, Against Christianity.) I am not a Christian on Sunday, and a medical student Monday-Friday, and a twenty-something girl on Saturday. I am a Christian, always, because the whole universe, and every minute of every day, belongs to my Lord Jesus, and everything I do ought to be subordinate to that. (Not saying it is, but that’s my failing, not my desire.)
This is the only true answer to Islam. We cannot fight a world-encompassing way of life and thought which centers every aspect of society around a false god by politely requesting its adherents to withdraw into a 1-in-7 mentality, thus matching the surrender of modern Christianity. The only response which is on the same level, which in the end will be stronger, is one which acknowledges that religion truly drives culture, politics, economics, and private life, and then gets down to living the true religion in that way.