Terrorism and Confidence


Over the weekend, I attended a conference at the Portsmouth Institute themed “Christian Courage in a Secular Age.”  For the second session on Saturday afternoon, Knights of Columbus executive Andrew Walther talked about genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.  He noted, in particular, the challenge of getting Westerners to acknowledge that it’s possible for Christians to be a minority.  After all, the narrative of the Western Left is that Christians are the oppressive majority.

After his talk, an audience member identifying himself (if I recall correctly) as a civil rights attorney made an accusation, masquerading as a question, that one might charitably characterize as tangential:  Does the Knights of Columbus intend to pressure the United States to pressure Israel to cave to the Palestinians and thereby resolve the problems of the Middle East?

In stark contrast, my co-contributor Andrew Morse followed this question, asking whether the United States should look to the cultural confidence it exhibited in bringing down the communism of the Soviet Union as a model for handling the Middle East.  In subsequent conversation, I suggested that something more would be needed, because Russia’s cultural experience had more shared assumptions with Western Europe and the United States than the predominantly Islamic Middle East has with any of us.

With the Soviet Union, we could largely rely on the confidence to compete.  With the Middle East, there really isn’t a competition, at least inasmuch as there is no agreement about the direction of the race, so to speak.

Waking up Sunday to the horrible news of an apparent terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, it came home to me how tangled and tripping our politics have become.  Much of the initial reaction I saw online associated the attack with internal Western culture wars rather than the accelerating series of terrorist attacks.  If you want an archetype, look to the disgusting cover of the New York Daily News.

In some respects, cultural confidence grows out of a sense of our own strength, as a people and as individuals.  The Left wants to weaken a core aspect of our culture that gave a set of principles about which to be confident — a constitutional republic founded on the assumed assent to the basic Judeo-Christian moral framework — not the least because it made us successful and strong.  The Left also wants to to weaken us as individuals, not the least when it comes to security, making us dependent on government under the Left’s control for our safety and self defense.

Maybe those who sympathize with the Left should start asking what it was about the United States that made us a country in which religious traditionalists could share the land with sexual radicals — that leaves many of us seeing this attack as a reason for unity of purpose and renewal of our shared heritage in opposition to its enemy.  Charging forward with the fundamental transformation of our nation is sure to be fatal.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I sometimes wonder if it is useful to consider how England dealt with Catholic terrorism in the late 16th and early 17th century. The gulf between Catholics and the CofE was at least as large as the current gulf between Islam and Christianity. In that age, Catholics saw the Pope as a secular ruler. The Pope had sponsored the Spanish Armada, which carried with it the Inquisition for the purpose of branding the royal family as heretics. Guy Fawkes was apprehended as a mastermind behind the Catholic “Gunpowder Plot” to blow up parliament. Sir Walter Raleigh was tried and condemned (although later pardoned) for an attempting to kidnap the king and replace him with a Catholic monarch. The list goes on. Still, the English treated it as “criminal activity” with trials, only requiring a loyalty oath from those employed by the government and taxing (fining) Catholics who “abjured”. It took about 100 years, but coexistence became possible. Most Catholics did not participate in gunpowder plots or kidnapping. But the Jesuits did encourage that activity, and were banned.