See the opening of today’s series here: “What Is the Future of Religion?” by Frank J. Fleming. Also check out Aaron C. Smith’s installment here: “The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science“
Recently, ISIS ransacked a museum full of ancient Assyrian and Akkadian artifacts in Mosul. They upended works of art from the 7th century before Christ and whacked enormous chunks off of them with sledgehammers. There’s a video.
If you think this is the least of our ISIS problems, you’re not wrong. You can tell me a single human life is worth more than everything Raphael ever painted, and I won’t argue with you for a second. When they behead Christians and hurl gay men to their deaths, those are inestimable losses. A museum raid pales in comparison.
But I still felt sick watching them do this, and I think there’s a reason. I think there’s something in this video that drives home what we’re dealing with here. It’s like pulling the face off the Terminator to reveal the hideous grinning gears and diodes underneath. Watching ISIS destroy art shows me exactly who they really are.
It comes down to why we make art. To my mind, it’s because there’s something about being human that’s more than just facts. I can tell you perfectly well in prose what kind of sandwich I had for lunch, or how old I am. But to tell you what it’s like when I look at the night sky or fall in love, I need poetry. Or a painting. Or something — anything — that conveys the indescribable catch in my chest. “Where words fail, music speaks”: there’s something bigger than language in the human heart.
Now, all those big bull-lion-eagle-dude sculptures in Mosul don’t do a lot for me personally. But I recognize that irreducible worth in them: I see that someone felt something he couldn’t say in words. Something about the nobility of the human form, the humanity and inhumanity of the divine. So he got a big rock and he started chipping away at it until it spoke for him. He gave the thing in his heart a shape in the stone. That’s what Shelley meant in his poem about emotions “which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things”: that statue records a moment inside the soul of a human being. And that record is worth preserving.
But of course, to believe all this, you have to believe there’s something there to record. You have to believe a man is more than physical stuff — more than muscle, blood, and bones. What ISIS demonstrated in their video is that they don’t believe that. And their god doesn’t believe either. The video begins with a verse from the Qur’an about idolatry. Then someone declares that “god has ordered” that the statues be destroyed, and so “they became worthless to us.” Exactly: the god of ISIS is a god to whom humanity means nothing. He demands that people be treated like meat, gruesomely sacrificed to his power-hungry nihilism. Of course that god wants the evidence of human transcendence to be pounded into rubble. To the god of ISIS art is, as the man in the video says, just “some stones.”
Now tell me this isn’t a religious fight.
This is what the president, and The New Yorker, and all our well-meaning multiculturalist friends refuse to acknowledge. There is a question in front of us. Do we believe god lusts after power at the expense of human dignity and life? Or do we believe God humbled himself to the point of death for the sake of that dignity and life? I am not a scholar of Islam. I do not know anything about what most Muslims believe. But I know which god ISIS believes in. They showed me again in Mosul.
What ISIS did in that museum is a kind of art in itself. Their video is a performance, an enactment of their core creed. They’re symbolically expressing their belief that the human soul has no worth. It’s not just the destruction of art: it’s the art of destruction.
In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem for the last time, his disciples hail him aloud as the King. The Pharisees want to shut them up, but Jesus says, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” When the truth is silenced, the whole world screams it in our ears. And the West is falling silent: we’re refusing to put an honest name to the kind of god ISIS fights for. So the message is getting louder and louder — in Mosul, the very stones are crying out.
Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the eleventh in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle
- Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek
- Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
- Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
- David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
- Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
- Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
- Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
- Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:
2014 – Starting the Discussion…
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Liberty Island on November 22nd, 2014: A Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
January 2015 – Volume I
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
- David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
- Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
- Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned