This from a Wall Street Journal piece celebrating the October 31st anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the 1517 protest against Church practices that is usually regarded as the start of Christianity’s Reformation. Joseph Loconte, an associate professor at the Christian King’s College, writes:
Given the failed revolutions of the Arab Spring, can Islam undergo a similar reformation? One hopeful sign is the outrage at the atrocities carried out under the banner of Islam.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the relentlessly heroic crusader against Islamism, and the author of Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, also finds hope in Islamic protests against Islamist atrocities.
And it’s fair to remember that the bloodshed of Christendom’s Thirty Years War was equally nightmarish to what’s going on now in the Middle East and that that scorched-earth conflict did, in fact, mark the turning point of the Reformation. As Catholics and Protestants fought it out in the loosely joined principalities of the Holy Roman Empire, the Great Powers of Europe rushed in to stake their claims and spread their influence. The result was a fight that lasted from 1618 to 1648 and laid most of the empire waste. When it was over, the survivors signed on to the so-called “Peace of Westphalia,” a series of treaties that recognized the sovereignty of nation states and the rights of those states to practice what religion they would like, with freedom for minority believers to practice their faiths in private. These tenets were the foundation of the modern political world.
Is that what’s unfolding in the Middle East?
The current chaos in the Levant did not just happen. It has its internal causes but no small amount of the horror can be laid at the door of Barack Obama too. From his re-establishment of relations with the tyrant Bashar Hafez al-Assad to his surrender of George W. Bush’s victory in Iraq, to his standing by with his thumb up his brain while peaceful protestors took to the Syrian streets and the country then descended into civil war, to his weak sauce bombing campaign, Putin stealing his lunch at the UN and Obama’s puny U.S. response — through it all, President Right-Side-of-History has been on the wrong side of every decision. And so yes, now, the current mess looks remarkably like the Thirty Years War with its religious underpinnings, warring states and over-involved mega powers. And so it does indeed raise the question of whether it will be the turning point in Islam’s reformation, leading to an enlightened Westphalia-style peace.
One can hope. But the tenets of Westphalia grew out of Christian thinking and Christian religion. Christians were appalled by the bloodletting of the the Thirty Years War precisely because it violated the central preachings of the Prince of Peace: Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you. The outline for modern statehood and separation of church and state were written into the Gospels: Judge not lest ye be judged; render under Caesar that which is Caesar and unto God that which is God’s, and so on.
Does the same hope lie in the tenets of Islam?
The other day, I forced myself to watch a graphically horrific video of an atrocity committed by the ISIS monsters: they crushed a prisoner under a tank. Accompanying the video was a Koranic verse: “And if you punish an enemy, O believers, punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed.”
Does Islam contain the ideas with which to reform itself? Because it seems to me at least equally possible that the version of Islam to emerge from the current nightmare may be even more true to an essential nature that our leaders don’t seem to want to face or contemplate.