Letters 05.15.16

Control Sin, Not Guns

Pertinent to “Does Catholic Faith Dictate a Position on Gun Control?” (Nation, Jan. 10): When deranged people have evil in their hearts, they will always have a way to carry out their violent intentions with guns, knives, pipe bombs, baseball bats or whatever else their sick minds can find. Banning all guns would just make it impossible for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families against these violent aggressors. Guns are not the problem. They are a symptom of the problem. Our sick, atheistic society, which has abandoned God, is the real problem. Instead of playing cozy with political liberals and hyperventilating over issues of prudential judgment, such as gun control and ownership, U.S. bishops ought to concentrate their homilies and efforts on the sins in our culture that destroy society and foster the violence we all abhor.

Mother Teresa recognized this cultural connection between grave sin and violence. When she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she said that “the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.” She did not mention a word about gun control. Unfortunately, many Church leaders who decry violence concentrate only on guns and not the sins that have broken down society and spawned the violence. I cannot remember the last time I heard a homily against abortion, cohabitation, contraception, pornography, divorce and “gay marriage” — grave sins that are an underlying cause in our time of the sick society that breeds the violence they are blaming on guns. The problem is not guns; the problem is sin!

In Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy, there is no better time than this to talk about the sins in our nation for which we need God’s mercy — and to be reminded that it is only in repentance for these sins that we can expect God’s mercy as Jeremiah warns: “Sometimes I threaten to uproot and tear down and destroy a nation or a kingdom. But if that nation which I have threatened turns from its evil, I also repent of the evil which I threatened to do” (Jeremiah 18:7-9).

                        Margaret Owers

                        Palm Harbor, Florida


Understanding Islam

The Register (“Muslims vs. ‘Outlaws of Islam,’” page one, Jan. 10 issue) reports that “[Islamic extremism] is a war within Islam.” In addition to challenging complicated United States foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia’s financing of Wahhabi radicalism in mosques around the world, perhaps the religious media can later dig into other interreligious and intercultural riddles to be teased out of this very broad article.

Al-Azhar University denounces ISIS and recognizes religions other than Islam, but what does this mean? Why should Christians feel reassured when Al-Azhar wishes them “happy holidays,” when the hostile, secularist Establishment in the West offers the same vacuous big-box-store sales pitch? The self-understanding is Islam is both a religion and the universal harmonizer of religions, while the secular West presumes itself the universal solvent for any such merely subjective attachments.

To get a fix on Islamic terrorism, we are counseled to “understand that it [Islam] is a spectrum,” not limited to either ISIS or the opposite notion that ISIS (etc.) has nothing to do with Islam. Is everything now to be a spectrum with a facile middle ground? By this big-tent paradigm, one is almost reminded of “LGBTQ rainbow politics” (no judgment here as to persons) and its “marriage” spectrum, as recently ratified by a complicit U.S. Supreme Court, with its Obergefell v. Hodges fatwa. And the article reports the presidential tagging of ISIS as a “cult of death”: Is this label a deflection from the Western Establishment’s “culture of death” (St. John Paul, The Gospel of Life)? Other parallels between the future of Islam and Western history — an Islamic Reformation or Counter-Reformation — are more superficial. Most recently, should the Catholic media buy into the elastic notion that Vatican II is “an example [to Muslims] for updating texts and teachings in the modern era”?

In truth, the Council was less about updating than it was about “today-ing” (aggiornamento) the received and intact Christian revelation, for more proclamation to tone deaf ears and especially by revisiting the texts of the Church Fathers (ressourcement).

As two scriptures, do the Quran and Bible offer needed symmetry between the followers of Islam and witnesses to Christ? Is a “nuanced” reading “as necessary [or sufficient] to the Quran as it is to the Bible?” The real comparison is between the “word made book” (the uncreated Quran) and the “Word made flesh” (the Incarnation).” So, does the Muslim-offered “Common Word” serve as a common ground for interreligious dialogue?

The full citation for this proposal reads, “O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word as between us and you: that we worship none but God and that we shall ascribe no partner unto him [the Trinity], that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons [the apostolic Church] other than Allah” (Quran 3:64). What, too, of Christ as the uniquely uncommon Word even now in our midst?

To pose these questions is not to mistrust the initiatives and parties cited in the article. It is simply to get a grip on some disconnected predispositions. Better grounded than anything postmodern or premodern is the Catholic social teaching (CST). The predisposition of CST — its core principle — is the transcendent and inviolable dignity of each human person — not Western identity politics and not Islamic sects, terrorist or otherwise. In the 21st century, we’re back to the innate natural law and the hope of prayer.

                        Peter D. Beaulieu

                        Shoreline, Washington


Your front-page article (“Muslims vs. ‘Outlaws of Islam’”) offered a far more complete understanding of the ascension of “radical” Islam than previous articles and certainly more than William Kilpatrick has contributed in his rather polemic statements (most recently in his Dec. 13, 2015, “Dangerous Compassion in the Syrian Refugee Debate”). However, Kilpatrick’s work, as well as a later piece by Msgr. Charles Pope (“There’s Biblical Precedent for Increased Violence,” In Depth, Dec. 27, 2015, issue), deserve to be synthesized to offer a full picture. Kilpatrick stated that increased violence committed by Muslim immigrants in Europe (beatings, stabbings and rapes) is indicative of Islamic behavior. Protestant “nativists” used to argue that the petty crime, municipal corruption and organized crime brought in by Italian and Irish immigrants were indicative of Catholic behavior. What Kilpatrick did not do was take into account the extensive feelings of apathy and despair among Muslim immigrants in Europe.

How would that explain the advent of Daesh in Mesopotamia and the spread of Salafism and Wahhabism throughout the Islamic world? Richard Reilly stated, correctly, that Saudi Arabia is bankrolling the “radicalization” of Islamic clerics and laity. However, the appeal goes beyond the logistics, and it ties into statements by Kilpatrick and Msgr. Pope. Islam is a religion governing all aspects of life: political, economic, social, as well as religious. It operates best when the Islamic state is the master of its fate, but this began to change in the 1800s, when European “infidels” ascended and impinged on the “House of Islam.” Salafism stated that only by returning to “true” Islam could the Islamic world restore its glory. Wahhabism developed separately, but it gave the Saud family its legitimacy. Due to what is known as “globalization,” the dictatorship of relativism and the idolatry of materialism have resulted in a spiritual vacuum. As Msgr. Pope stated, many of us would not be willing to sacrifice for a vision. We are content with the material lives and ideologies we have created for ourselves, but “radical” Islamic movements appeal to a world beyond. They offer not only a utopian vision of the world as it should be, but also the opportunity to violently act upon the achievement of that vision. There has always been an appeal to violence and sacrifice of one’s life, especially if life on earth appears to lack any meaning in and of itself. In short, if you want to understand the world of the jihadist, learn to think like one.

                        Francis Jacobson

                        Bainbridge Island, Washington