Tuesday, February 05, 2013

An older essay on "Christian Wilsonianism"

Today's essay is a reprise of an essay I published here over two years ago, consequent upon a cordial kaffee-with-cream-klatsch Robert Spencer had with his mentor and colleague, the Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft.  The reason my memory in this regard was jogged concerns a reminder someone noted in a Jihad Watch comment to the effect that Peter Kreeft was, like Robert Spencer more recently, disinvited by Bishop McManus from an invitation to lecture at Worcester Chancery (see my previous essay for more details).  (Why Bishop McManus got his panties in a bunch about Kreeft I have no idea, as Kreeft's blandly mild stance on Islam surely could not have rubbed the good Bishop's PC MC radar the wrong way; and otherwise, Kreeft is, as the reader will see below, rather a conventional conservative (with only a D'Souzitist twist), perhaps much like McManus.)  

Sans additional ado, I now present that former essay, published in November of 2010:

About a week ago, the Christian Wildersianist Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch debated one of his former professors (if "debate" is the accurate word for this warmly convivial colloquium between peers who had few substantive disagreements), the paradoxically DeSouzish Christian Wilsonianist Peter Kreeft.

One thing their conversation clarified (though no Jihad Watcher seems to have noticed) is the relative Wilsonianisms of the two debaters. The only real difference between the two is that Spencer knows enough about Islam to know that it presents a major problem and threat to the modern West (and to much of the rest of the world). On one level, of course, that is a significant difference. On another level, however -- the level of concrete policy we must pursue to manage this problem and threat -- the two do not diverge that far apart: while in the debate both of them answered a resounding "Yes" to a typically punches-pulled articulation of seemingly tough talk about what our society should do about Muslims spoken by the moderator John Zmirak (at about 1:15 in the video), neither one wants to round up all Muslims and deport them; and the reason why they don't stems from their Christianity (indeed, at about 1:20 in the video, both Spencer and Kreeft agree about the significance of supposed conversions by Muslims to Christianity in the Muslim world -- many involving visions of Mary). One would only refrain from faulting Kreeft for his failure to take our self-defense to the logical conclusion insofar as he doesn't know better (though for this ignorance he surely can be faulted), as Spencer does.

An additional, subtler difference may be adduced between them: namely, that Spencer's Christian idealism which reins him in from condemning Muslims collectively has deeper affinities with modern liberal secularism than does Kreeft's. However, Kreeft is not a simplistic D'Souzite, nor is he an arch-conservative reactionary. His call to a return to Christian morals and piety seems sprinkled and leavened with quite a bit of New Agey mushiness. Even if Kreeft might genially balk at Spencer's liberal stance on gay rights and women's rights, etc., they seem to share a generally fuzzy humanitarianism which unthinkingly and apodictically would embrace Muslims -- in order to save them. Thus, it is likely Kreeft and Spencer have no problem in dovetailing their respective Christian idealisms.

One Jihad Watcher wrote an apposite comment in the comments thread to the above-linked article, though he failed to flesh out its implications:

It is very difficult for many Catholics in our day (even orthodox ones like Prof. Kreeft) to call evil by its name.

In fact, Kreeft seems to be a strange hybrid of the D'Souzish conservative and the fuzzy New Age liberal. The former moves him to admire the fiercely disciplined "piety" and "fear of God" he thinks he sees in Muslims; the latter blinds him to the mountain of ghoulishly grotesque data about Muslims that would indicate to any rational Christian that they are not merely incorrect but downright Satanic. I suspect that on no other sociopolitical issue does his strange hybrid nature come to relief -- except on the one issue of the problem of Islam (an issue that seems to serve to crystallize the true position of many Westerners who seem otherwise "conservative").

Additionally, we can, of course, broaden out the "Catholics" in the comment quoted above to Christians in general throughout the West. And we may thus apportion modern Western Christians out among the following groupings -- the percentages are appended by me and reflect guesstimates relative to the total population of Western Christians:

1) Leftist Christians (15%)

2) PC MC Christians (60%)

3) D'Souzish Christians (10%)

4) Right-wing Christians (10%)

5) Incoherently anti-Islam Christians somewhere between PC MC and D'Souzish (3%)

6) Coherent anti-Islam Christians (2%).

Leftist Christians are brazenly pro-Islam, anti-Western, anti-Israel -- even to a great extent anti-Christian!

PC MC Christians are "Leftist Lite": they tend to share the animosities of their Leftist brethren, but to one degree or another in ways that are diluted, decaffeinated and sweetened with ideological Sweet 'N' Low. That's why they are mainstream throughout the West.

D'Souzish Christians are, of course, against the "extremist" Muslims (who isn't?), but they believe the vast majority of Muslims are good people -- and not merely good, but admirably "pious" and "disciplined" and "moral" compared unfavorably with the godless secular West and liberal Christians around them.

Right-wing Christians share some substance with the D'Souzish Christians in that they can tend to be more exercised by various "godless" aspects of the modern world than they are with regard to Islam, but their fierce defense of Israel, framed in quasi-heterodox non-denominationalist eschatology -- along with their baseline quasi-redneck bigotry -- tends to put them on the side against Islam, but more often than not in illiterate and fallacious ways, with ultimate goals at odds with the pragmatic secular concern for protecting our societies from Muslims.

The incoherently anti-Islam Christians may be emblematically represented by Robert Spencer: they seem to hold a mishmash of several other points on the spectrum reflected by the others on the list above -- resulting in being sorta kinda against Islam, with lots of tough talk but no concrete plans to walk the talk, and of course we can't be against Muslims, we are only against Islam (unless we're Spencer, in which case we are only against "elements of Islam"), we "love the sinner and hate the sin", and yes we have to do something about this problem, but we don't know exactly what, maybe we can "restrict immigration" some time, and also monitor "extremist" mosques while we're at it, but we sure don't want to "become like them" and start slipping down the road to genocide, so get back to me on that... and in the meanwhile, Go Spencer & Geller!

Finally, we have the coherently anti-Islam Christians who in my estimation seem to be a minuscule number in our time -- though in centuries past during various eras of Christendom, they constituted the vast majority.

As already mentioned above, Kreeft would be a strange hybrid of 3 and 2. A more acutely bitter and stinging rebuke of Kreeft would be hard to find than in the comment of a Jihad Watcher named "dumbledoresarmy", a Catholic herself, and with perhaps niggling exceptions, a Christian in the fine tradition of #6 . One suspects that her circumspect respect for Spencer restrained her from taking her rebuke to the logical conclusion -- with a condemnation of Kreeft as not only grievously benighted, but recklessly dangerous insofar as, being an esteemed professor and writer, his vaguely mushy admiration about Islam may well be influential.

Further Reading:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Hesp. The comment by dumbledoresarmy is very well put. :)