Thoughts after Paris

© 2015 Jock McGregor

Guest blogger Jock McGregor grew up in Africa, spent over a decade in Europe and has resided in the US for the past 15 years. He and his wife Alison have worked for almost 30 years in L'Abri Fellowship and presently direct the Rochester branch. Jock has a B.Sc. and an M.Div from Regent College in Vancouver. 

Recent events have shocked us all. With the Middle East continuing to degenerate into chaos, human depravity in the shape of ruthless terrorists, and human misery in the shape of desperate refugees, are spreading further and further abroad, and the Western world is reeling under the challenge. What should be clear by now is that military solutions or political solutions can take us only so far – what we are dealing with appears to go much deeper.

The religious and ideological radicalism that is driving all this is not, I believe, primarily rooted in unemployment, depressed social conditions or political alienation. Yes, living under autocratic governments or struggling with lack of opportunity does generate deep discontent, and the various popular movements around the Arab Spring are certainly testimony to that. But what we are facing in radical Islamic extremism is an alternate vision of this world and how we are to live in it. It is as ideological as it is religious and it is captivating growing numbers of radicalized young people. It is a set of ideas about what is wrong with the West and what is right about a very narrow form of Islam. It is a worldview.  As long as we view it as rooted in bad social or political conditions rather than dangerous and wrong-headed ideas, we will underestimate it.

Ideas have consequences – and very bad ideas have very bad consequences. What possesses well-educated people to strap on suicide vests and kill themselves? What possess them to do it in a way that slaughters as many innocents as possible? This is not just anger or resentment, but deeply held conviction, and commitment to a deeply perverse view of the world. That is why the role of the internet and social media has been so important in amplifying this radical vision. It is the perfect media to propagate poisonous ideas – free from rebuttal. Until the West realizes that this is an ideological struggle, a battle of ideas, it will have very little hope of stemming the tide.

But here we face another challenge. How can the West possibly engage in this conflict of worldviews, when it is so deeply ambivalent about its own vision? Yes, Western values of Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights are still widely popular and much cherished, but the West has long since lost confidence that these can be rooted in anything deeper than the whim of the populace at any particular moment. And, to the degree that the West still reflects a coherent worldview, it appears to be little more than a self-indulgent Humanism resting on a stark and barren Materialism, and who has the conviction to fight for that?

Never has it been more important for the West to reclaim its true heritage, to recognize the true roots of these values and principles that are being so sorely contested. Without a doubt, it is the Biblical worldview of Christianity that has most shaped the West and made it largely a force for good in this world. No fair history of the West can fail to acknowledge the seminal ideas that Christianity contributed in shaping our culture. Yes, the West has been far from perfect and the Church has too often been complicit in that, but from the scientific method to the rule of law, from human rights to free enterprise, from universities to hospitals, so much of what has been Good and True in the West is the fruit of Christian thinkers and Christian thought. Unless it stands on this strong foundation, I cannot see the West prevailing in this battle.

But, there is something far more important at stake here than the survival of the West. We may have forgotten our heritage, but our enemies have not. It is not out of simplistic ignorance that these Jihadists refer to us as the 'Christian' West or ‘Crusaders’. They know that their real adversary is not Western Liberal Democracy, nor indeed even Israel, but Christianity itself. And what is at stake is not one political system over another, one culture versus another, but what is at stake is the Glory of God and the well-being of all Mankind. The real question is, what worldview, what vision of life, is ultimately true and good and life-giving? In Scripture, the Almighty God himself has given us Light – and in Jesus Christ He has given us Life. Whatever the West may choose to do in the face of this new evil, we know what we must do! Scripture makes it clear…

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Cor 10:3-5

 

Image: "Tour Eiffel Wikimedia Commons" by Benh LIEU SONG - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons.jpg#/media/File:Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons.jpg