Daniel Moynihan might feel the way Millennials and Gen-Z view the Hamas terrorist attack illustrates what he called “the leakage of reality from American life.”
In the good old days, when Congress wasn’t as dysfunctional, Congressmen like Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan weren’t afraid to tell their tribe the truth. Case in point: In 1994, the Clinton administration proclaimed that by 2000, America’s high school graduation rate would be 90 percent and American students would lead the world in math and science. Moynihan was unimpressed. He compared it to the Soviet Union’s delusional grain quotas, illustrating what he called the “leakage of reality from American life.”
I was reminded of this leakage when I read a Harvard/Harris poll asking if the slaughter of 1,200 Israeli civilians was justified by the grievances of Palestinians. A majority of Gen-Z (18-24) said yes (51 percent). Just under a majority of Millennials (25-34) said yes (48 percent). In my mind, this illustrates more leakage of reality from American life.
If we desire to get back in touch with reality, I recommend four writers.
The first is Rod Dreher. I don’t always agree with everything he writes, but I give him credit from recognizing reality, especially how the church is in exile. This past week, his diary entry spares readers none of the horrors of what Hamas did to Israeli citizens, especially women and children. Be forewarned. If you’re a snowflake, move on to the next writer.
That would be Pope John Paul II and his address, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. In the chapter “Islam and the Word of God,” he writes, “Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. God has not revealed Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam, the God of the Koran is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us.” Hence, John Paul concludes, “Islam is not a religion of redemption.”
It is a religion of war. So writes Jacques Ellul, the distinguished French Protestant theologian and social critic. In his foreword to The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude by Bat Ye’or, Ellul notes how, in Islam, the world is divided into two regions: the dar al-Islamand (“domain of Islam”) and the dar al-harb (“the domain of war”). Everyone who does not submit to Allah (the Arabic word “Islam” means “submission to God”) lives in the dar al-harb (“the domain of war”). The earth belongs to Allah, and all its inhabitants must acknowledge this reality. To achieve this goal there is but one method: war. Peace with this world of war is impossible. Of course, there are circumstances where it is better not to make war. The Koran makes provision for this. But this changes nothing. For Islam, war must resume as soon as circumstances permit.
Finally, I recommend Rémi Brague, the Ratzinger Prize laureate and professor emeritus of medieval and Arabic philosophy at the Sorbonne. In his book, The Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea, Brague writes, “Christianity and Islam have two opposing views of the ‘political’ dimension. From the start, Christianity set itself outside the political domain, and its founding texts bear witness to a mistrust of things political. For Islam, the separation of the political and the religious has no right to exist. It is even shocking, for it appears as an abandonment of human affairs to the power of evil or a relegation of God to a place outside his proper sphere. The ideal city must be here below. In principle, it already exists: It is the Muslim city.”
The implications of this are daunting. Brague writes that other religions “of the Book” (Jews and Christians) “must first be conquered, by warfare, and then Islam dictates to these religions the right to operate in peace, and even the right to dictate conditions of survival.”
This, my friends, is reality. It doesn’t mean we hate Islam. God is love. He loves Muslims. We’re called to love Muslims, but not Islam. For all of Islam’s strengths, and despite its claims of a common ancestry with Judaism and Christianity, and despite its formal respect for Jesus and Mary, we must recognize reality. Anti-Jewish and anti-Christian prejudice has a long and often bitter history in Islam, despite claims to the contrary. This doesn’t license a similar prejudice on the part of Christians. But it does demand that we stop the leakage of reality from American life. A good place to start for most Americans, especially Millennials and Gen-Z, is to read better stuff than they’re getting in today’s colleges and universities.