Saturday, November 17, 2007

Recently the following question was put to me by a bright college freshman at NYU. Michael is a former Altar Server of mine. He presently is working on a paper concerning Fundamentalism in the USA and abroad. His questions are below and my replies follow.

What are your thoughts on fundamentalism and how do you think it shapes society in the United States and how the United States deals and should deal with it in other countries?


Dear Michael,

My definition of FUNDAMENTALISM can be briefly stated as Faith without Reason. This means that Fundamentalism is actually NOT CHRISTIAN and certainly not CATHOLIC. Catholicism always contains a very important little word “and,” Faith and Reason, Word and Sacrament, private devotions (such as the Rosary) and public worship (Liturgy, mass).

This is not true with Islam, Islam is fundamentally “fundamental.” That is to say, ISLAM is not a religion of Faith and Reason but Faith Alone; this has been true from its inception. Unlike Christianity there is no ISLAMIC THEOLOGY, there is no development of dogma, there are schools in which to study the Qur’an and Sharia, but the highest scholarship for Islam is the memorization of the Qur’an, and the discussion on how best to practice the Islamic law. It was actually to this characteristic of Islam that Pope Benedict was directing his remarks at Regensburg University. You might want see these links []; [{9592215A-31CD-4548-879D-1C8F8A29FA81}]

"Islam" is a religion of 'submission" to Sharia, God’s Law! It is for this reason that Muslims desire the state they inhabit to be ISLAMIC. There is only one way to live Islam that is by following the Law. It is in the nature of Islam to be Fundamentalist and to insist on the Theocratic State. In the Middle East, one sees that there are generally two kinds of Islamic states. Those that are Theocratic like Iran is and Afghanistan was, or like Pakistan were certain Pakistani and Taliban elements are already fighting to transform Pakistan into an Islamic Theocracy. Secondly, there are those, which are Authoritarian, such as Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and as Iraq was, which has been so far the only alternative to the Islamic Theocratic state. Democracy in a state with an Islamic majority is likely to devolve rapidly into a Theocratic state.

What we are seeing in Pakistan is the struggle between the governing Military junta that is trying to prevent Islam from becoming the state, which is complicated by a third minority trying to resurrect a democratic state. If you note Pakistan’s neighbor India, the largest democracy in the world, is inching its way towards modernity. It is not Islamic, it has an element of Hindi fundamentalism, but there is no serious threat of India becoming a Hindu Theocracy. While in Pakistan, where there was once also a democratic government, Islamic militants created so much chaos and violence that, the military was forced to size control to bring about some semblance of law and order, when the democratic government failed.

Terrorism is the method now used by Islamic militants to create such chaos in a particular nation to allow an Islamic Theocracy to arise as the solution to the problems that Islamic militants have created in the first place. In large measure, this is what is happening in Iraq, and why the USA has a difficult road ahead. In Iraq, the so called "insurgency" is really Al Qaeda which is not only killing Americans as a part of their global war of terrorism against the west, but it is also an attempt to destabilize and prevent the elected government from consolidating its legitimate authority over the nation. It is their hope that an Islamic government will emerge from the chaos they create. Recently there has been significant progress by American forces in suppressing this violence and restoring some semblance of order. Presently some Iraqi refugees are returning from Syria. The Shiite and Sunni elements are not only settling old and new scores but they are also have been battling to be the Islamic government. Iran is a Shiite state, Iraq has elements of both, but all other Islamic nations are overwhelmingly Sunni. Iran wants Iraq to be Shiite.

I will attempt some kind of summation to answer your questions.

What are your thoughts on fundamentalism? I believe that my definition of Fundamentalism above covers all types. It is faith in a set of beliefs that are not open to rational investigation, philosophical or theological and secondarily historical and scientific. For Christian Fundamentalists, God created the world in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh day, no discussion, end of story. For Catholics, theology allows for a nuanced understanding of these days as symbolic numbers for the perfect amount of time and method God used. Catholics see evolution as the way God created the universe. Evolution does not contradict Catholic belief that God is Creator. Fundamentalists cannot make these distinctions.

"How to you think it shapes society in the United States?"

I believe that it brings with it good and not so good elements to the culture and political process. Fundamentalists can be allies in the anti-abortion efforts of the Catholic Church. However, they would be less helpful to the efforts of the Catholic Church to provide social services to the poor. Also, they have a tendency to can get involved in controversies in ways that are more harmful and helpful. They are capable of violent attacks on Abortion Clinics and vicious attacks on Gays that the Catholic Church would never condone, and which do nothing to promote pro-life issues or traditional Christian morality.

The present controversy over the teaching of Evolution and Creationism is a needless and confusing battle. There is no real contradiction between the two. Perhaps the best solution is to allow teachers to explain that evolution itself is strong evidence of an intelligent designer. Rather that require them to claim unscientifically that the universe and we are just accidents of evolution, which is as much as SOME scientist will say about the how and why we are here.

I do not see Christian Fundamentalism as a threat to the Republic, but they worrisome. Contrary to the conviction of some the Oklahoma City bombing, was not an act of a Christian fundamentalist. Timothy McViegh claimed that his religion was "Science," which actually would make him an Evolutionary Terrorist. I do fear the volatile combination of Christian Fundamentalism and neo-Nazi, Aryan race type movements that can increase the likelihood of violence. They are capable of death and destruction, but are not anywhere strong enough (at this time) to pose a security threat to the nation. It seems that US Law Enforcement is able to handle these criminals before they become revolutionary threats.

"How does the United States and how should it deal with it (fundamentalism) in other countries?"

This is a more difficult question. Presently the USA is making enormous sacrifices in men, capital, and material attempting to promote democracy in the Middle East. Democracy is the natural enemy of fundamentalism. Islam is fundamentally Fundamentalists. Can the USA succeed? The odds are against it. Is it possible to convince the majority of Muslims that democracy does not threaten their religion? If this is possible, it does not guarantee success on at least two fronts. It does not prevent the less malleable and accommodating Muslims from organizing a Fundamentalists party that will push on the political front for the adoption of Sharia and attempt to turn a developing democracy into a Islamic theocracy. Nor does it prevent the militant elements from using terrorist tactics to destabilize and topple the incipient democratic government. This process is already at work in Iraq, though millions of people voted for the new democratic constitution and for a representative government. This process has also been at work in Pakistan.

The greatest threat to American and western security is Militant Islam, which is fundamentalist in nature. In countries such as France there have already been wide spread riots, with putative causes, with the actual causes being the cultural clashes between the secular French government and Islam, which seeks “sacred” law and government of their own definition. Soon France will be 20% Muslim, this will only heighten the possibilities of cultural conflicts, greater violence and more demands for Islamic law to govern Muslims in France, thus creating a state within a state.

Pope Benedict XVI has his own solution to this problem, the re-evangelization of Europe. If Europe where to reaffirm its Catholic/Christian identity, it may actually help to lessen the pressure from Islam for theocracy. Islam is more adverse to SECULARISM than Christianity. Historically Christians have been allowed some degree of religious tolerance in Islamic countries. They become objects of violence when Islam feels threatened by outside forces. Iraq had a very ancient, small, robust community of Chaldean Catholics since the time of the Apostles. This community has suffered enormously since the commencement of Iraq War II. Many have been kidnapped, murdered, suffered terrorists attacks on their churches and been driven out of their country. Presently, there are Catholic Iraqi refugees in Rome, the USA and other countries. .

It is the hope of Pope Benedict XVI that a Catholic Europe would be far better able to resist “Islamification” by providing an alternative to the purely secularized culture that Islam detests. His Holiness is not looking to establish Catholic governments again in Europe. He is aware that Jihad is aimed primarily at the decadent west; perhaps a re-Christianized west would be more tolerable to Islamic immigrants.

What the USA can and must do is vigilantly keep the scourge of terrorism form our shores. We were caught off guard by 9/11/01, since then so far so good. Unfortunately, we have had to fight two wars to keep terrorists over there. Afghanistan was just and necessary. Iraq War II perhaps was not necessary. It is a gamble, an attempt, by those who believe that a democratic Iraq would change the balance of power in the Middle East acting as a bulwark against terrorism. This is still a question unanswered. Will we ever succeed in Iraq? We live in hope.

As long as Islam is Islam, I see no long-term solution to this problem. Islam is acting as Islam was designed to act to bring the infidels of the world to Islam by the sword. Financial, diplomatic, and strategic pressure must be kept on all nations that harbor and support terrorists, which is nearly every Islamic nation in the Middle East and in the world. Countries such as the Philippines have fought militant Islam for many years within its borders. The Catholic majority has been able to keep them at bay and support a democratic reform of the once Marcos Dictatorship, which arose in response to the communist and Islamic threats. The regime abused its power. It was eventually forced to abdicate by Catholic non-violent resistance. Islam will resist democracy and any other form of government that does not implement Sharia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia survives because it governs by Sharia. Democratic reform is just not a viable probability. The USA then accepts a less than perfect situation, and supports the Saudi Princess. Who are suspected of supporting Islamic terrorists, in hopes of self preservation. The Alternative of another Islamic Theocracy with a knife in one hand to throat of the USA and its other hand on the oil spigot is unthinkable.

As you can surmise these are very difficult realities that we here at home in the USA and other nations have to deal with, without a great deal of hope that anything will change soon. The world is a dangerous place and we do well to remember that, when considering national and local elections, in the development of foreign policy, and military strength and capability. Fundamentalism in its Islamic incarnation is the single most serious threat to western civilization since the nuclear standoff between the USA and the former USSR. Let us pray and work to keep nuclear arms out of the hands of terrorists and out of the hands of Islam Theocracies. While we do all we can to prevent Islamic Theocracies from developing. This is my best guess as to how the USA should handle fundamentalism home and abroad.