I am unexpectedly in southern California in advance of a conference at Pepperdine University on the crisis in Europe and the rise of radical Islam. While these two themes are not of direct concern to the Cornerstone Forum, they are the two deeply interrelated world-historical events of our time. Our work in the years to come will have as its larger historical context these two profound and profoundly troubling historical developments. So I felt the opportunity to attend this conference was not one I should pass up.
In preparing for the conference, I have been thinking about the situation. Since I might have a few more thoughts in the aftermath of the conference, I thought I would take a moment tonight to share a preliminary one:
History repeats itself, but never exactly. There are parallels, however, that are glaring. The ominous and unambiguous signals accompanying the rise of German National Socialism in the 1930s failed to awaken the world to the scope of the catastrophe it signaled. As Hitler solidified his power, the horror that the Nazi commandeering of state power portended became so glaring that it took an act of will to ignore it. But ignore it many did.
Today there are thousands of hate-mongering Hitlers in the Islamic world (and in the West) spewing antisemitic venom and calling for indiscriminate murder of Jews (and others of course, but always and everywhere Jews first and foremost) with a fanaticism that would make a Nazi blush. But precisely because there are a thousand of these lunatics rather than just one, the the looming danger is diffused and more easily dismissed by those who are determined to do so.
If there are thousands of hate-mongering Imams trying to out-Hitler Hilter in the Islamic world, in the West there are thousands of Neville Chamberlain's resolved to look the other way and ready to grasp at straws.
What to do about this crisis? I cannot claim to know. But I do know that pretending that it is the resentment of the poor and oppressed, or that it is a response to American foreign policy, or an expression of the hatred of George Bush in the Arab world is sheer nonsense. (Today, an Al-Qaeda operation in Kashmir circulated a message calling for a jihad against India, for instance.)
These days I am preoccupied with a wide range of efforts we are making to insure that the Emmaus Road Initiative beginning in the fall will bear fruit. I do not intend to let what I learn at this conference distract me from that primary objective. But I do expect to learn things that will serve to underscore the urgency of the re-evangelization efforts we are trying to make.