Friday, July 06, 2007

It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

While the content is certainly different (acceptance of terrorism by some Muslims vs. the acceptance of unevangelized Christians in the Church), the underlying psychological and social dynamic that former Islamist radical Hassan Butt discusses in a recent article is instructive for those of us who see a need for renewal in the Church (with a hat tip to Rod Dreher, the Crunchy Con).

I have copied below some of Butt's essay with my emphasis in bold and my comments in red"

But the main reason why radicals have managed to increase their following is because most Islamic institutions in Britain just don't want to talk about theology (even as many Orthodox parishes do not wish to speak about personal commitment to Christ as the necessary first step to active life in the Church). They refuse to broach the difficult and often complex topic of violence within Islam (or in our case repentance and conversion) and instead repeat the mantra that Islam is peace (or that Orthodoxy is the True Church), focus on Islam as personal (or ethnic), and hope that all of this debate will go away (and that somehow, our parish will grow and our young people will remain Orthodox).

This has left the territory of ideas open for radicals (or in our case, the indifferent) to claim as their own. I should know because, as a former extremist recruiter, every time mosque authorities banned us from their grounds, it felt like a moral and religious victory.
. . .

However, it isn't enough for Muslims to say that because they feel at home in Britain (or to "Americanize" the Church or increasing the number or monasteries, or whatever we say rather then face our shortcomings) they can simply ignore those passages of the Koran which instruct on killing unbelievers (or to "repent and believe" and to "preach to all the nations"). By refusing to challenge centuries-old theological arguments (or spiritual apathy among Christians), the tensions between Islamic theology and the modern world grow larger every day. (Or in our case, the Church will grow smaller and weaker everyday).

I'm not suggesting that the Orthodox Church is a terrorist organization. Nor am I suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists. But what I am saying is that spiritual apathy breeds violence--sometimes physical, but always spiritual.

When we fail to take the Gospel seriously, when we fail to take seriously our own needs to leave everything and follow Jesus Christ, when we fail to take seriously that as the People of God we

are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).
we do something infinitely worse then what any terrorist can do: We leave Christ stillborn in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This I would suggest is where Christians are called to fight the real war on terrorism, to help Christ be born first in each Christian heart, and then in each human heart.

So how are we to do? I leave the last word to Butt:

I believe that the issue of terrorism (or in the case of the Church, discipleship and spiritual formation of the laity as the foundation of the Church's ministry) can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism (or fuel the acceptance among Christians of spiritual indifference as the norm). (The Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake (even as the Orthodox Christian community must do as well) from this state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism (or spiritual indifferent Christians) within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.) However, demystification will not be achieved if the only bridges of engagement that are formed are between the [British jihadi network] and the security services.

And here I am stymied--who among us will be the bridge people?

I guess all we can any of us do is respond as did Isaiah the Prophet and leave the rest to God:

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

" Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?"

Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." (Isaiah 6:8)
So, here I am Lord, send me.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Print this post