Open and serious discussion of religion in is no longer taboo among “cultured elites.”
During the second half of the 20th century Communist
and Western materialisms
clashed in global confrontation, and it was chic to treat religion as anachronism, a thing of the past, a quaint habit of simple folk who knew no better. The fall of Communism, the war in Kosovo
, the 9/11 attacks
and other remarkable events forced many to realize that rejection and ignorance of religion was neither clever nor wise, and in fact left the West vulnerable and flat-footed as it imagined the world had “graduated from superstition.”
As horrors, perpetrated in the name of religion grew to dominate news, media, and consciousness by an out-sized proportion, thinkers as well as folks on the street naturally began to look for insight and wisdom from people familiar with religion and spirituality.
The decline of condescension and hostility, and the emerging, necessary interest in religion has created a post materialist awareness that allows people more naturally to recognize good, positive, and healthy forms of religion and spirituality. The natural force of conscience resonates with constructive religious impact so that things like the patience and universalism of the Dalai Lama
, or the nimble efforts of Pope Francis I
to nudge his hierarchy toward greater egalitarianism and compassion tends to be appreciated and admired, even by non-religious people.
As we see the freakish sadism and vicious oppression by ISIS
individuals, we now recognize that religiously infused passion is mighty indeed. The desperation on a global scale to combat such vile fruits of religious perversion, intensify our search for forms and institutions of “good religion” capable of responding with authority and persuasion. Sure there are all sorts of military, economic, and social designs constantly presented as ways to undo ISIS, but the simple truth is that these cannot succeed without concerted investment and collaboration from intelligent believers with the capacity to the define religion properly. A thousand US led summits will never produce an ascendant Islam with true beauty capable of attracting young people seeking passion, meaning, and purpose. Only people with true religious understanding and belief will be capable of presenting elevated and elegant Islams that are truly attractive.
Currently two core elements of ISIS are overlooked in current plans and designs to remove this plague from our midst. Without knowing these, designs to defeat it will fail. The central, defining pillars of ISIS are: 1. There is only one true religious way, and 2. It is legitimate to use whatever means necessary to extirpate any and all other ways of religion and life.
The reason why people investing in the overthrow of ISIS are failing is that they do not differ enough from ISIS to be a conduit for the solution.
Far too many people tapped to combat ISIS are ISIS-like, if even to an immensely lesser degree. How ISIS-like? They believe that their own way of life is the one legitimate way, and they are involved in or allow that some forms of violence and/or oppression are legitimate in order to advance supremacy for their own way. It could be military, it could be economic, it could even be diplomatic pressure, but any degree to which diminishing an other is deemed legitimate is ISIS-like.
People are looking to the high-minded religionists for clues to address these wrenching horrors, but are missing the one most necessary demand from religion and believers at this time.
The singular advance that must come from the religious world at this time, is this: No matter how passionate and confident I am about the truth of my way, I cannot ever allow this to cloud my genuine commitment to support any all other healthy and life-affirming people, no matter how differently they live and see the world. Regardless of my passions, commitments, and beliefs, regardless of my religion, my nation, my race, I must at all times be a champion for all. Only when I as a Muslim I defend Christians, only when I as a Hindu stand for the Catholics and Buddhists, only when the evidence of my religious passions is my readiness to protect all believers do I become sufficiently distinct from ISIS to become part of the solution. Otherwise, I share too much in common with ISIS to be much good, no matter how bright I am, or where I studied political science.
The second thing I must become, in order to be part of the solution, is someone with no trace of willingness to commit any form of violence or advantage over others to advance what I believe is a superior way of being, nor to advance the benefit of “my kind,” be they my fellow Baptists, or my fellow Americans, or my fellow Muslims. If I have borders and a subset of people who are right while other constructive life-affirming believers are wrong I have too much in common with ISIS. If I have a willingness to aggress against others or oppress any other person, group, nation, or culture, who are not “one of my own,” I have too much in common with ISIS. This is not a pacifist stance. It is a anti-parochial stance.
Those who understand religion, yet are not constrained nor bound in whom we defend, advantage, and protect are the ones who will spearhead the designs and solutions to the ISIS contagion and similar evils that torture us with every passing day.