Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Faith and reason in San Bernadino
The woman in the story was a practiced marksmen, or so authorities have concluded. When she and her husband got stopped in the black SUV they were driving, she tried to kill cops with the AK-47 she leveled. She filled the air with bullets. She knew what she was doing.
Now it seems that she's Delilah, the one most well-practiced at jihad. She caught the bug of cultic hate first, then bargained it somehow to her brand new American-born husband. She gave her six-month old baby to her mother, dressed herself in martyr's gear, and, with her husband, shot 30+ people at a Christmas party for social workers, killing 14.
She did not listen to whatever warnings her own still small voice of reason maintained. She lost her ability to doubt, gave it up for the purity of a faith that promised a beautiful after-life. She believed the screed that said everyone who isn't of us must be slain. She knew that faith by heart. Nothing in her said, "wait a minute." If there was a voice of doubt, she squelched it, choked it off, left it behind in a blaze of what had too be for her heavenly glory. She was a true believer, so faithful to the cause that she turned her back on family--essentially killed her husband, abandoned her baby.
"We are all suckers for belief," says Maria Konnakova in last Sunday's New York Times, in an article that couldn't be better timed. We're all "born to be conned." The best con artists--and what is jihad but an elaborate, evil con?--do not work by force or coercion or intimidation; they simply determine to play music for us, music we can't help but love. They tell us we're worth something, that the world should be the kind of better place they claim it will be someday. They beg us to work for the kingdom. They ask to be our savior.
Great stories, writers know, are greatly effective--and affective--because they successfully maneuver us to suspend our disbelief. They have no typos, no spelling mistakes or grammar miscues; the stories they tell are such seamless wholes that we put away red pens back in our pockets. Those stories leave no room for questions and simply offer reverie. Only the best stories can lift you sweetly from the here and now. Jihadists obviously tell beautiful stories men and women like the San Bernadino terrorists give themselves faithfully, even prayerfully, to listen.
There's more. "Even as the evidence against them piles up," Konnikova says, "we hold on to our cherished beliefs." We will not be moved. "Faith," says the letter to the Hebrews," is the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." And it is, sadly, in this and every day and age. It is and was and has been.
People I trust say that Donald Trump's latest platform plank is a boon to jihadists, to Islamic terrorists because by maintaining, as he did yesterday, that we should allow no more Muslim people into this country for any reason, we are positioning ourselves to fight the way the terrorists want us to--as Christians vs. Muslims. Nothing that occurred yesterday in Syria or Iraq or anywhere else in the world gave over as much new territory to ISIS as Donald Trump's latest obscenity.
Try tell that story to the thousands who applauded him last night in South Carolina. They believe in him. They have no doubt he's right. Their faith too is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
During World War II, FDR shipped hundreds of thousands of Japanese-American off to camps throughout the rural west. Americans--75 percent of them--believed in what he was doing.
Trump's disciples, I'm sure, would too.
What Christianity has to fear from all of this isn't martyrdom--we've co-existed with martyrdom for centuries, even grown because of it--as ISIS is right now. What Christianity has to fear from terrorism is the wholesale abandonment of faith itself, the almost inevitable conclusion many will reach that belief itself is evil, that faith is not a joy but a cancer.
When Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik left their six-month old baby with her grandmother and sped off to murder and certain death, they weren't unbelievers. They counted themselves most definitely among the faithful, among the saints. They believed.
Help thou our unbelief.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:07 AM