To date, the West’s response to resurgent Islam has been to focus on defeating its obvious manifestations: ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and other related terrorist groups. Peter Leahy, the ex-Chief of Army, has said the conflict could go on for 100 years. If he is correct, this is both impractical and unacceptable. We must find a better answer.
For the moment, let us assume that we were able to eliminate all terrorists, including those in Australia. Have we solved the problem? Should we congratulate ourselves? The answer to each is no. The Islamist objective of a worldwide caliphate will remain, driven by the directives and precepts of the Qur’an’s more aggressive and expansionist sentiments. Bombs and bullets alone cannot succeed. Where do we go from here?
Might we appeal to Australia’s Muslim population along the following lines: Can we persuade you to set aside the primacy of religion and, like Buddhist, Hindus, Christians and so many other creeds, accept that all are equal and it is the state, not Allah, which is sovereign on this temporal plain. Would we put a persuasive case? Let’s look at what we would be offering, starting with our lifestyle.
Australia offers a smorgasbord of pastimes to choose from: unlimited sport, drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling, to name a few. We have a highly developed desire for material pleasure and a financial debt structure to support this: cars, houses, exotic holidays, consumer technology, and unnecessary gadgets, to name a few more. We model our personas on transient idols: sports heroes, media personalities, movie stars and make-believe robotic heroes to name a few. Our entertainment is corny reality shows where the contestants, audience and judges try to outdo each other’s inanities. When we work, those of us who do work, it tends dominate our lives. Unfortunately, all these pleasures and preoccupations often leave little time for family pleasures and social relationships. As for quiet reflection, it is a seldom luxury.
Spiritually we have changed over the past 60 years. The God of the Bible has been de-throned, leaving only a small segment of the population with any investment in Christianity and theological understanding across the general population is low. It is a surprising change when one considers that the secular democracy on which Australia was founded, is so proud of, and has fought so hard to retain, is based on the foundation of the Christianity it has abandoned. Until the middle of the last century the majority of Australians would have called themselves Christian; now, those who do, more than likely announce that designation with a shrug. Religion played an important role in defining the fabric of our parents’ society, but that umbrella of belief and the cultural cohesion it fostered has folded. There is no God in our heaven. But are we all right with our world?
In abandoning God and the precepts of the Bible we have taken away the moral and spiritual floor that underpinned the three strands of secular democracy to emerge with the Enlightenment: liberalism, modernity, and the advancement of science. Without belief there is no longer a platform from which to view and identify what is true, noble, pure, good and right, that which is always in the long run best for mankind. Where faith and firm conviction once stood there swirl the secular creeds of political correctness and multiculturalism. Where once religion called upon us to judge, to determine right from wrong most of all, we now eschew making judgements of any kind. The twin ideologies of multiculturalism and political correctness have had a devastating impact on truth. Whilst seemingly prosperous, Australia has become a nation that, morally and spiritually, is weak and flabby.
Muslims are not interested in such a society, at least not the ardent sort who get carried away and cause trouble. The articles of the faith run counter to those we have enumerated above. So, where does that leave Australia? Our offer will be of no interest. Why would those fortified with actual, palpable faith surrender their god for a pottage of emptiness, amusements and hollow pleasures?
Our government emphasizes that its primary responsibility is the safety of the nation. I suggest that that safety is not solely territorial; it must extend also to concern for moral and spiritual health. For that reason, in a recent article (Kidding Ourselves About Islam) I suggested that Australia’s leaders should encourage individuals to re-engage with the God of the Bible to strengthen Australia while lovingly demonstrating by example to Muslims that freedom and faith can comfortably co-exist.
But wait, I hear latte cups rattling with nervous concern. Won’t that approach uproot liberalism, send us back to the Middle Ages? Might this not mark the re-introduction of theocracy? The ideas of the Reformation and Enlightenment, surely they will be trumped, their impact on Christianity lost? Let me conclude by putting these old chestnuts to bed.
First, the view that the Reformation and the Enlightenment were responsible for defining Christianity is a furphy. True, they did rescue Christianity from the designs of men who had hijacked Christianity for their own benefit. But — and it’s a big but — the Reformation and the Enlightenment did not change one word of the Bible or the theology of Christianity. But having considered Christianity ‘fixed’, we lost sight of seeing what the Bible was really telling us.
In suggesting a return to the God of the Bible I am not proposing a form of theocracy and abandoning the separation of church and state: far from it. Jesus, when answering a question from the Jewish leaders, made it quite clear that there is to be that separation (“Render unto Caesar….“) The concept is further emphasized in Peter’s first pastoral letter in which he instructs Christians to submit to every authority instituted by men. In a slightly tangential but still relevant way Jesus instructed his followers to make disciples from all nations not to make all nations His disciples. Christianity is big enough to look after itself: it does not need the state to do so, as Islam does. And note, Christianity is an opt-in deal and my call to leaders, and that includes political, spiritual, and community leaders, is to encourage Australians to opt-in, not to ignore it as is presently happening.
On the question of the dumbing down of liberalism, modernity and scientific enlightenment and a reversion to the Middle Ages: again, far from it. You could hardly find a more liberal person than Jesus. In the Gospels we see him constantly upbraiding, and in dispute with, the Jewish authorities over their nitpicking laws and hypocrisy. He constantly said he was the truth and the truth would liberate people. And, Jesus’ life was a model of modernity demonstrated by his relationships with others, his compassion, his understanding, and his empathy. In his interaction with women he was ahead of his time. In regard to scientific enlightenment, Jesus demonstrated by miraculous means that it is violation of Divine will to heal the ill and prolong life. The Bible is awash with liberalism, modernity and scientific enlightenment.
Today we look back to Easter and forward to Anzac Day, two events that are indelibly associated with the blood of sacrifice. Perhaps it is time for all Australians to sacrifice our own self-centeredness and consider that unless, as individuals, we are prepared to re-engage with the God of the Bible we will, over the next 50 years, fade into our self-constructed oblivion — or resurgent Islam will do the job for us.
Jim Campbell, an engineer and consultant, is the author of The Logic of the Qur’an