We have a couple weeks 'til Lent, and once again I'm toying with the idea of giving up all politics (news, blogs, all sources of secular day-to-day events). I did it for Advent and it was refreshing -- but that was only four weeks with lots of chores to distract. Seven weeks -- can it be done?
Having just read the chapter offered by CERC of Dinesh D'Sousa's new book, the idea is taking root. Do not read it unless you want a radical rethink to take place upstairs. I've read widely on Islam from many, many sources from historical tomes to tell-all-tales of unhappy women. But D'Sousa's book is different if that chapter is any indication. I think he's gotten in the head of the Other Side and made sense.
If you carefully read bin Laden's statements, not to scoff at the ravings of a maniac but to genuinely understand what the man is trying to communicate, two major themes emerge. One is that the Islamic world and Islam itself are gravely threatened, and the other is that America is the chief threat to the survival of both.
Okay, so far the threat is justified. They kill innocents, we plant liberty, right? But who is "America?" That's the key question.
In his "Letter to America," released in November 2002, bin Laden enumerates his grievances against the United States. Contrary to "the deceptive lie that you are a great nation," bin Laden informs the American people that theirs is a country based on "oppression, lies, immorality, and debauchery." He calls on Americans to "reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest" and instead to embrace "manners, principles, honor, and purity." American culture, he says, has become a kind of "abyss." Specifically, "You are a nation that permits acts of immorality and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom." ... In addition, "you are a nation that exploits women like consumer products" after which "you then rant that you support the liberation of women." Finally, bin Laden calls America a civilization in rebellion against God because "you separate religion from your policies" and thus "contradict the absolute authority of the Lord and Creator."
Regardless of the "source," these words are true. There is nothing mentioned there that Christians don't deplore, nor is there anything mentioned that we not only allow but promote freely in all media outlets. These are not abominations we pretend don't exist, but things many people are proud of -- and export at great profit. Elsewhere he writes:
I also argue that the policies that U.S. "progressives" promote around the world -- including abortion rights, contraception for teenagers and gay rights -- are viewed as an assault on traditional values by many cultures, and have contributed to the blowback of Islamic rage... When Planned Parenthood International opens clinics in non-Western countries and dispenses contraceptives to unmarried girls, many see it as an assault on prevailing religious and traditional values. When human rights groups use their interpretation of international law to pressure non-Western countries to overturn laws against abortion or to liberalize laws regarding homosexuality, the traditional sensibilities of many of the world's people are violated.
D'Sousa explains why their version of "innocents" is not the same as ours:
Even attacks on civilians in America are justified, bin Laden argues, because in a democracy the citizens are not detached from the actions of their government. The basic idea of democracy is that the people are the government. As bin Laden puts it, "it is a fundamental principle of democracy that the people choose their leaders, and as such approve and are party to the action of their leaders." The American people are ultimately accountable, he contends, because "they chose their government, and voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes."
So where am I going with this? I cannot influence the war effort. I cannot bring about a "theocracy" that reflects Catholic values -- and don't think it's possible with our Constitution. Thus I am left with a government bound to defend depravity and an implacable foe. What does a woman do?
I intend to make this Lent an intense one, in order to find direction in this difficult time. I mentioned Elena's blog and she has loads of materials on the French revolution, another time when the Church had no viable options. Blood everywhere, mixed with tears and prayers.
I ask you, dear readers to put together a little plan for Lent -- reading materials, prayer time, and much supplication for guidance. I'm reminded of the words of Cardinal Ratzinger who said:
Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures. Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Church’s history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intensive struggle against evil and bring good into the world -- that let God in.
Remember, women are the icon of this very Church that may be so transformed in our lifetimes. Without undue drama, I know that the age of woman -- humble, faithful, life-giving -- is upon us and we need to be courageous. "Be not afraid," but have your lamps trimmed and ready. Let's prepare for a great Lent.