America Alone

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After September 11, 2001, you may recall that many members of the press were going around asking plaintively, “Why do they hate us?” Some journalists seemed to imply that if we could just be a little nicer, a little more “tolerant,” the jihadists would opt for a group hug instead of terrorism.

I’m pretty sure those pundits and reporters would not have expected—or liked—the answer that Mark Steyn gives in his excellent new book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. As Steyn sees it, one major reason the Islamo-fascists hate us is not that our beliefs are inimical to theirs, but that more and more of us believe in nothing at all beyond self-indulgence. And they look down on us for this—but they are also learning how to use it to their advantage.

As Steyn points out, and as my colleague Roberto Rivera has written, an important factor in radical Islam’s spread is simply a matter of demographics. Native Europeans, addicted to an affluent and self-centered lifestyle, are not having babies, and radical Muslims are. But there’s more to it than that. Observing the rapid growth of radical Islam in Europe, Steyn writes, “If you’re a teenager in most European cities these days, you’ve a choice between two competing identities—a robust confident Islamic identity or a tentative post-nationalist cringingly apologetic European identity.”

Radical Islam is not luring Europeans away from a solid belief system; it’s providing many of them with the first real belief system they have ever had. It’s filling a void for people who have nothing else to believe in or hold on to.

Secularists in Europe—and in America as well—do not understand this. As Steyn writes, “One reason why the developed world has a difficult job grappling with the Islamist threat is that it doesn’t take religion seriously. It condescends to it.” That condescension makes secularists unable to see what’s going on right under their noses.

It’s similar to the situation that’s been going on in our prisons for years now, which I’ve talked about several times on “BreakPoint.” Prisoners all share one thing: a need for something to fill the emptiness in their lives. We have seen this in the thousands of prisons we work in. Radical Islamists know this, and they have made a point of targeting prisoners for conversion. Their brand of religion offers people that sense of belonging, of something worth living and dying for, that people need—the very thing that postmodern secular societies do not offer. And that’s a big part of what makes radical Islam so dangerous.

As Steyn put it in a recent interview for our “BreakPoint” website, “[Radical] Islam is a weak enemy, and its strength is determined by what it’s pushing against.” The problem is that Europe and, increasingly, America are putting up very little resistance. If Christians won’t stand up for our worldview, and secularists won’t stand up for anything, one day we may have no one but ourselves to blame for the triumph of radical Islam. The greatest offense against aggressive Islam is a strong, vibrant Christian faith, which, of course, comes right down to you and me.

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From BreakPoint®, January 3, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries