Sin, like virtue, has many manifestations. And so, when sinners fight, it is often possible to see fault on each side, as one type of selfishness battles another. Unfortunately, the sins and errors of men, though often incompatible with each other, will unite against their common enemy: Christ and the Church. A modern example of this is the so-called “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the post-Christian West.
The modern West, as it sees itself, stands for individual freedoms and human rights, equality, democracy, and for freedom of inquiry and technological advance. Whereas, from the West's perspective, Islamic fundamentalism stands for oppression, tyranny and ignorance.
But the Islamist sees things differently. He sees politically active Islam, at least potentially, as the means to harmony with God and between people through submission to God’s will. And human reason is one of the things that must also submit. He sees respect within families and orderly authority as guarantees of a successful society when in conjunction with Sharia law enforcing moral health. On the other hand, the West is perceived as devoted to sexual corruption, social disorder, impiety, and thus hypocrisy when it claims superiority.
But what does the Church say? Or, more to the point, what does Christ say through the Scriptures? With Islam and against the secular West we reject the idea that freedom means freedom from responsibility or freedom to sin (Gal. 5.13-15). And we also reject putting individual above the community (1 Cor. 5.1-6), ignoring or artificially undermining traditional gender roles (1 Cor. 11.2-16, 14.34-38), and allowing science or industry carte blanche (1 Cor. 6.12) in their manipulations of nature.
But against the Islamism, and with the West that we helped create, we reject the view that virtue can be coerced by all-encompassing law (Mt. 5.5, Rom. 8.3a, Gal. 3.21) and that women's lives must be utterly submerged as inferiors beneath an overwhelming and self-serving exercise of raw male power (Pr. 31.10-31). Similarly, we do not accept that the egalitarianism, liberty and respect for others consciences which underlie democracy are too risky to allow (cf. Gal. 3.28, 1 Co. 7.23, 8.7-13).
Instead, what the church is for is both liberty and moral order within society (Lev. 25.10, Mic. 4.4, Rom. 13.1-7), and both submission and sacrificial chivalry within the family (Eph. 5.22-29). And so we must be willing to criticise both the West's devotion to lust and the Islamist's devotion to coercive violence, while appealing to both sides to abandon their common illusion: that, with enough moral effort or the right social, economic or technological programme, humanity can solve its fundamental problems and establish near Utopian conditions on Earth. In other words, we must preach the Gospel, including the doctrine of Original Sin, and place our trust in God's grace, not human works.
Ironically, as we do this, even if we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15), both the secular West and radical Islam will probably still join in despising us. The Islamists pretend to blame us for the sins of the West, while the secular West often pretends to equate devout Christians with Islamic suicide bombers! And it is pretence or self deception. We should not be surprised. The World hates us, just as Jesus predicted. But “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 Jn 4.4). So, let us take courage and remember to pray for all those who are deceived.