Oh, this is too good -- too good almost to be believed.
I don't refer, of course, to such violence, actual or prospective, as may prove attributable to Islamic "outrage" at Pope Benedict XVI's harmless quotation last week of a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who was demonstrably no fan of Islam. There is speculation that the murder of a Catholic nun in Somalia was carried out by the usual homicidal maniacs who see bumping off unbelievers as part of their holy job description.
No, none of that is good. What is good is the opportunity given us -- provided we use it, please, Lord -- to look at radical Islamism with eyes wide open and spectacles unfogged by Western political correctness.
The unpleasantness of past days follows, by only the most meager time span, Hezbollah's unprovoked war against Israel and the thwarted plot by Islamists in England to blow up airplanes over the Atlantic. And a fragment of a papal address at a university precipitates a pseudo-crisis?
This is what we need to see, even beyond the bold hypocrisy of proving peaceful intentions by issuing death threats. We need to know just how unhinged a vocal, violent segment of a major world religion has become. That's the first thing. The second thing is doing that which is appropriate. Meaning? I will put it this way: It is appropriate, not to say vital, to regard the radical Islamic threat as real and getting worse.
Not because the varied screwballs and blowhards making and carrying out the threats have anything like the power they imagine in their fantasies. If they really think so well, as John Kerry once enjoyed saying, "Bring it on!" Not even among Muslims is there anything like majority sentiment for subjugating the West, or China, or India, or non-Muslim Africa. Most of us probably have a big bright picture of Taliban "fighters" (as the wire services persist in calling them) parachuting into northern Virginia or Brooklyn. Want to take on Texas, you all? Bring lots of guns.
The West isn't weak in weaponry or even, I think, moral determination of the last-resort sort. What the West is weak in, as to terrorism, is moral abhorrence and ... I like the word "hostility." We need more hostility of the proper and wary kind. We need to acknowledge as an enemy whoever tells us he is one, because, whatever the disconnect between his aims and his means, he may do much harm while trying to implement the former.
With the wimpy, generally sniveling, perpetually apologizing West of the 21st century, hostility toward, er, undeveloped lands and peoples is a no-no -- a mindset stemming at least from the Vietnam era, when military theorists taking time off from freshman biology declared the war imperialistic and prejudicial to indigenous interests. The politically correct environment wherein we languish today makes unnaturally hard the job of calling a spade a spade. We're always writing escape clauses for those who find the social contract stifling. A bearded booby appears at the Roman Catholic cathedral in London to urge "capital punishment" for those who insult Islam -- and gets by with it? Of course. It is what "tolerance" -- modern version-- demands.
The pope, who wisely declined the full apology demanded by his detractors, will presumably live to deliver another scholarly address. (The one that got him in the soup, by the way, is excellent -- a defense of the divine marriage of faith and reason.) Will he now, nevertheless, find it necessary to parse every word for prospective effect on the unhinged?
The intention of the unhinged is to render it impossible for Christianity to responsibly counter the claims of radical Islam. Yet not to challenge those claims is to concede radical Islam the theological field: just the point we should see this week with dreadful clarity. If for one reason or another we don't see it, how many more chances can we expect, before the mind and spirit of the West shut down only to be replaced by the ferocious certainty that demands for itself ... everything?