ISIS: So Whose Fault Is It?

It’s a very common and ancient human reaction whenever bad, tragic, and painful things happen, to quickly try to uncover the “why” behind them. It is a defense mechanism that we employ with the idea that if we can isolate the “why” then we can prevent the bad thing from happening again and spare ourselves future pain.  This approach is frequently helpful, and it has brought us many good things from penicillin, to airbags, to the criminal justice system.   Indeed, humans are smart creatures.

But, when it comes to isolating the “why” behind Paris, Beirut, a downed airliner, and a rising radical Islamist regime, it is not so simple.  The scope of this one is beyond purely human reasoning, and it is beyond quick and conventional solutions.

I will briefly survey merely a handful of the many facets of “blame” and “fixes” of this situation as it appears to be unfolding.

Blaming Belgium:   If only more leads had been followed.  If only someone had arrested more people.  If only the intelligence apparatus of several Western Nations had been on top of this, then this could have all been prevented.

But, not really.  The state security forces of our era are impressive, but they are not God.  Only He sees every action, and only He reads every human heart, and the more that a secular state tries to do that, even in the well-intentioned push for public safety, the more quickly freedom is eroded into a police state.   Perhaps this is the moment for the state to recognize, in all humility, its limitations rather than rapidly reaching to further expand its power.

Blaming the Refugees:  yes, it’s true, bad people slip in with the good. And if we sealed off every border everywhere, then for sure we would strain out a few of the threats.

But, who can blame a lot of innocent people for fleeing a region that has become so destabilized?  If several nations that have the infrastructure and capacity to assist them turn them all away in a panic, then we have neglected our duty to assist the vulnerable, in the name of trying to protect the vulnerable.  Sounds a bit contradictory.

Besides: borders are no longer defined by geography.  A nation can block a road to be sure.  But it’s impossible to block the electronic web that binds us all these days.  For every radical that is kept on the “other” side of the fence, ten more will be grown behind it.

Blaming Islam:  I am not an expert on Islam, but it does seem to me that Islam itself is largely incapable, in its current form, of dealing with its radical elements.  It lacks any formalized, central, hierarchical structure that can pronounce on a broad, public scale, what is and is not acceptable to the practice of the muslim faith.  There is no muslim pope to draw a parallel.

Others have suggested after previous waves of Islamist terrorist attacks that the time has come for Islam to engage in a period of serious self examination to see if some changes are in order so that this scourge of violent radicalism can be brought to an end.  Perhaps there is truth in that, but it seems unlikely to happen. And, if it does, it will take a few generations, and no one from the outside can force them to do it. I would place that one largely out of our hands.

Blaming A Lack of Military Response:   Nation states are certainly obligated to utilize military means in a conflict if doing so is the best way to protect innocent citizens from harm, and if all other means have proven inadequate.

In that spirit, France quickly unleashed an armed assault on some key ISIS strongholds (like Belgium, apparently?).   Which really is the difficulty- how do you bomb people who don’t have a base?

The military response is helpful, but it is temporary because there are always going to be more people to bomb.  Still, it’s a tool and historically it has had positive results, therefore it is not to be dismissed lightly.  But, it, too, has serious limitations as a solution to anything.

Blaming the Secular West:   this would be my top choice, actually, and I rail on the secular and decadent climate of our culture all the time.  There is no doubt it is a factor in this whole nightmare, and these attackers frequently cite it as a reason.  For them, the West is full of decadent, spoiled, sexually crazed, and god-less people.  And the more secular we become, the more militant they will get.

All that said, it should be strongly noted that Jesus himself, who was by most accounts a God-fearing and perfect person, was put to death.  So even if the West were perfectly upright, someone would still attack us.

Which actually brings me to the one “blame” and also “solution” that I think needs to be seriously considered right now.

The blame would be evil.  In Christian (and Jewish) theology, we do live in a fallen world.  In a fallen world, people turn away from reason, truth, goodness, and beauty and they commit sin and evil.  That is what caused all of this.  And for anyone who reads the Scriptures, it should not be surprising.  Sad, to be sure.  Heinous, true.  But, not really new.  Sin has been with us since the beginning.

I have not heard one head of state or public official, so far, citing this as a reason in any bold sort of way.  Which only goes to show how flat our vision has become as we instantly look to ourselves as both the cause and solution to all of our problems.

Only God can solve this one, and that is why he gave laws, and sent His Son.

This would be the time for Europe (and America) to become MORE not less religious.  This would be the time for France to drop its failed policy of forcing a naked public square on people of faith, banning crucifixes and head scarves alike.  Because the only way to confront evil is to turn whole-heartedly to the one who has the power to vanquish it, especially when it becomes more and more clear that we cannot do it, as mere humans, all by ourselves.

Europe has lost its faith.  America is not far behind.  But things like this do have the power to stir it up again in its best form.

And only after the once-Christian continent has again hit its knees in prayer will it be the time to consider all the other earthly solutions (like airstrikes) that are indeed at our disposal so that they can be used properly.  But a continent full of secularists will only make limited solutions into gods, and that will make the war escalate every time.

Jesus is Lord.  And He is truly eager to fight this battle with us and for us. And it’s not so much a battle against a particular group, or even a religion, as it is the age-old battle against sin and the darkness of every human heart.  But He will only help us if we allow Him to.



About Father Nathan Reesman

On Twitter: @FatherReesman Father Nathan Reesman is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, ordained in 2006. He is the Shared Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, and also of Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, both in West Bend, Wisconsin. Father Reesman is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, obtaining his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science in the year 2000. He completed his seminary studies at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 2006, obtaining a Masters of Divinity. Father Reesman completed post-graduate studies at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, obtaining a Doctor of Ministry in 2019.
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