Several years ago, I was speaking with a left-wing journalist who was rather hysterical about the subject of religion — although perhaps I repeat myself. In any case, she had heard that then-President George W. Bush prayed for guidance before ordering the invasion of Iraq. She was appalled.
“Bin Laden is fighting for his God and Bush is fighting for his God!” she said. “It’s a holy war!”
As happens sometimes in this tragicomical life we live, her line of reasoning was absurd but her conclusion happened to be correct. What has been fatuously called “The War on Terror,” this ongoing struggle between Islamism and the rest of the world (including some of the Islamic world) is, in fact, a holy war: a violent argument over the nature of our Creator.
Americans right and left hate this fact. Many can barely face it. Almost no one in authority or the media ever dares mention it at all (Glenn Beck is the exception). In principle, through tradition, by law and nature, most of us are repelled by the idea of killing over religion. Freedom in these matters is our watchword. I say Jesus; you say Allah; let’s call the whole thing God.
This is not to indulge in any mealy-mouthed moral equivalence or dribble out some balderdash about how all religions are one and faith is a mountain that can be climbed from any side. Not likely. If there is a God — whether or not there is, in fact — there will be things you can say about Him that are true and things that are not true and some religions will surely contain more of the truth than others.
Still, over hard history, we have learned that there are some struggles in which the evil of the fight itself supersedes the good of any potential victory. Faith is not knowledge; we should approach the super-natural with humility in our beliefs and forbearance towards the beliefs of others. And anyway, many cherished doctrines, no matter how deep or meaningful, don’t have much immediate effect on our lives. I believe that God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit — but if it turns out He’s five guys named Moe, I’m not going to change my weekend plans.
So we hate the idea of fighting a holy war. But we have no choice. No matter what moral knots some self-loathing westerners tie the facts into, the truth remains, the other bastards started it and now it’s on. Doesn’t matter how tolerant you think you are. Doesn’t matter how many “Coexist” bumper stickers you own. If a man with a gun kicks your door down and starts telling you how to pray, there are only two possible outcomes: victory or surrender.
In order to secure victory in a holy war, however, you have to know what you’re fighting for. It’s not enough to kill the jihadis who want to kill us, or to dismantle the no-go Sharia enclaves being purposely created in cities throughout the west. A holy war is a violent argument about the nature of our Creator so in order to win, we have to know what Creator we’re trying to defend. This isn’t easy in a nation committed to religious liberty — a commitment that could not survive a kill-or-be-killed smackdown between your prophet and mine.
There are those, of course, who believe the problem is religion itself: remove the subject of the argument, they say, and the argument would end. The murder and oppression that defined the atheist empires in communist Russia and China – not to mention the slow, insidious death currently claiming “post-Christian” Europe — strongly suggest otherwise. Culturally, atheism is a disaster— although atheists are entitled to express their opinion right up until the moment the Islamists kill them.
For the rest of us — including those atheists who have the wherewithal to think it through — we must be willing to stand in open argument, in steadfast defense and, if it’s our calling, in bloody battle for the God our founding principles, in fact, imply. This is the God who can only be found by each heart seeking freely and choosing without restraint; the God who fashioned us complete with rights no system of government or religion may abridge; the God who, to paraphrase the apostle, freed us for freedom.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we know His name. The important thing is that He knows ours. Every single one of them.