"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
Attributed to Leon Trotsky, but perhaps apocryphal.
Yesterday, while driving home from Laramie after depositions, I listed to a Pritzer Military History Library podcast featuring a retired U.S. general regarding future wars. It was quite interesting, and the speaker was quite insightful Included in his comments was the quote above, made in regards to his view that a common failure on the part of the United States is to believe you can elect what wars you choose to be interested in and participate in. He's quite right. Indeed, the war with ISIL was at least partially referenced in his quote by suggestion, if not outright.
As I was traveling and haven't been following the news too closely I missed, until last night, that ISIL operatives in France had broken into the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy and killed, and by that we can say martyred Father Jacques Hamel, the pastor of that church, who was offering daily Mass for four people. They came in and slit his throat, took the church goers hostage, and tried to use them as a shield. The French police, as is typical for French police, shot and killed them.
These people, that is the ISIL operatives, are at war with you, assuming that you are not a completely observant radical Sunni. If you are Christian of any type, you are their enemy. For that matter, if you are a Muslim of any other stripe, you are their enemy as well.
It matters not that you have done nothing. You may feel that you are safe and secure loving everyone and wishing the best upon all humanity. It matters not. And you'd better wake up.
People are expressing shock and horror that they'd attack a Catholic church in France. But why wouldn't they? They've brutally murdered Christians all over the Middle East and torn down churches, and let's be frank, almost all, if in fact not all, of the indigenous Christians they've attacked have been Catholics or Orthodox of one or another various types, and while it sometimes surprises Protestants to learn this, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, disunited thought they may be, are so close to each other that they regard each other as valid and in the words of Pope Benedict, they are the two lungs of the body of Christ. The disagreement between them is not vast, even if real.
I note that as ISIL attacking Catholic and Orthodox churches is a significant event in ways that Westerners have a hard time grasping. It's the ISIL equivalent of the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor. It goes right to the heart of how they perceive us, our beliefs, and our strengths. It's an attack on all of us, as at the end of the day, as one Central American friend of mine who doesn't attend any church has noted, "we're all Catholic". Westerners live in a world which, as John Cardinal Newman recognized, has been so impacted by the Catholic Church that nearly everything about our world view, in one way or another, stems from that. In the Middle East the Orthodox stand a close second, but then they would, as the distinction between the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox is one that a person almost has to be Orthodox or Catholic to grasp, and even a lot of them don't grasp it.
In the minds of our enemies, and they are our enemies, as they have chosen to be your enemies, we are all Catholics. I am, of course, but in their minds, so are you. You are a "Crusader", in their view, and by using that definition they use a flawed history of that defensive effort in the West. We need to understand that as well. The Crusades, a term that didn't exist at the time they were conducted, were not an offensive war against the Muslim Middle East, but rather a defensive war against the advancing Turkish influenced Muslim offensive. They were not wholly successful long term, but overall, if we consider that they were part of the same history that saw Charles Martel arrest the Muslim advance just outside of Parish, we need to grasp what they're proposing to do.
They don't care if you go to Mass daily, weekly, or if you attend the Assembly of God church in the next town. They don't care if you go to church at all. They don't even really care if you aren't a Christian. They do care that you are not Sunni Muslim and that you have a world view that expresses a belief in the equality of all men, the equality of men and women, and the free exercise of free will, all Catholic concepts that the larger culture has adopted. If you believe in free speech, free exercise of religion, the dignity and worth of women, you are their enemy and you deserve to die. By striking out at a Catholic Church in France, they're striking directly at that, and they know it, even if you do not.
Well, you should.
And that you do, you have some choices to make, and one of those choices is whether you are going to recognize that there's a war on, and its of an existential nature so deep that it strikes right at the foundations of the world and what the world's people should be allowed to believe, or even if they have the right to believe anything.
As part of that, and particularly if you are French right now, you also have to decide if your personal beliefs have any foundation at all to them. France, amongst Western European nations, has been particularly troubled along these lines, but all Europe suffers from it today. You can decide that at the end of the day your values just boil down to it being nice to be nice to the nice, or you can really look at where they come from. If they come from nowhere, you are in real trouble, as they are then pretty meaningless. If you know where they come from, you should act on that, and indeed, it looks as though France has in fact started to.
I dare say, even though its a hugely unpopular concept in the West (not so much in the East) that it may also be time for Christian leaders, including members of that Faith that was just attacked, to realize that Christianity can have, and has had, a pretty muscular side to it in the past from time to time. The Crusades itself are an example of that. And of course Christ informed his apostles that those who did not own a sword should go out and by one. Christianity is of course truly a religions of peace, and founded by The Prince of Peace, but perhaps that doesn't mean that simply regarding all members of all religions as peaceful and our brothers is called for at all time. Christians have not tended to want to call a spade a spade in all circumstances in recent decades, and perhaps taking a look at this offshoot of Islam which has drawn the sword and calling it out for that may be in order, and by extension, calling up on all Muslims to make a choice.