Judge, be judged and act
[September 9, 2002]
By Nicholas Provenzo
When I was a youngster
in grade school, I was not one of
those kids on the top of the pecking order and occasionally, I
got into the scrapes that come with such status. I remember once after
mounting a rather ineffective defense against a playground pummeling, I
was counseled by my principal that it was wrong for me to fight in
self-defense because Jesus expects us to turn the other cheek. When I
protested that it really stank to get beat up, I was told
that I should not be concerned about the knots in my head because Jesus endured much worse.
Instead of a lecture
on pacifism, my principal would have served me better by teaching me how
to land a good left hook, followed by a solid hit from the right. There's
something to the idea that a willingness to defend yourself is a powerful
way to convince a foe to find a wiser use of his time. Thankfully, I was
able to work though the conflicts wrought from the pacifism I was
inculcated with as a youth.
Yet when I consider the larger war facing America, I can't help but think
how Christian pacifism and its secular counterparts still conflict many of
Consider, for example,
how many times have we heard that the war on terrorism is not a war
against Islam. Oh, really? Faith in Islam certainly motivated the 9/11
attackers, who were willing to impale themselves on our greatest buildings
to kill those they judged to be infidels from their religion. How many
times then have we been told that the terrorists were acting out of a
perversion of Islam and that it is wrong to hold the Islam itself
responsible for the actions of its benighted followers? Perhaps too many
times to count.
Yet an honest
evaluation tells us that the terrorists are very much the product of their
faith in Islam. They may contradict this part or that part of Islam
(belief in religion is, after all, something of a contradiction), but the
out of faith is undisputed. Yet for all the excuses for and evasions of
the beliefs of the terrorists, no criticism of faith itself is ever
offered. The reason is intellectual pacifism: the view that it is wrong to
judge the beliefs of others, even when those beliefs lead to actions that
have deadly consequences.
Yet life demands we
judge the beliefs and actions of others, so I offer this judgment in reply
to my non-judgmental friends: faith is perverse. Faith means belief
with out evidence or reason. There is no way to reason with someone acting
out of faith; there is no fact that one can reference to refute a premise
sprung from faith. That’s why faith begets violence; there can be no
reconciling with a belligerent acting on the basis of his faith. And that’s
why the Catholic faith of my grade school principal brought the world the
dark ages, the inquisition and the trail of Galileo despite its pretense
toward pacifism and charity).
It is crucial for us
today to identify how faith drives our enemies to act against us and judge
it accordingly. It’s our judgment that allows us to know who is our enemy,
how we must to defend ourselves, and ultimately what we are fighting for.
Right now, I fear we are missing the battle that is being fought with a
tone louder than bombs: the intellectual battle between the west and
So instead of prayers
and supplications on the 9/11 anniversary, I'd like to see our leaders
highlight the real reason that the US was attacked: our culture is one of
reason and our currency is intellectual freedom. We respect the individual
rights of others and we seek no fight with those who seek no fight with
us. That is the glue that binds America together and that's why we were
attacked that terrible September day. In the light of that knowledge, let
us rededicate ourselves to our defense.
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