Thursday, December 06, 2007

Received in Today's Mail: Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism by George Weigel

Today, I received in the mail a review copy of George Weigel's new book Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action (Doubleday: December 26, 2007; $18.95; Hardcover; 208 pages).
In his bold manifesto, Weigel [a Catholic theologian and Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center] calls all Americans to confront and recognize the religious passions that fuel Islamic Jihadism. Weigel claims that, in order to do this, we must begin to:

1) Realize that the great human questions, including the great questions of public life, are ultimately theological
2) Demonstrate acknowledgement that the greatest achievements of the West are works of spiritual grace
3) Retire the idea that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are the three Abrahamic faiths
4) Stop trying not to offend. Truth-telling is the essential prerequisite to genuine inter-religious dialogue
5) Try to bring about a non-violent regime change by engaging with the Iranian people, NOT their oppressors
Once I've read it, I'll post my review of Weigel's book. I'm sure this book is likely to be a topic of much discussion and disagreement within the Catholic blogosphere.

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At 12/06/2007 12:19 PM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...

Well, he goes against Vatican II and Popes JPII and Benedict XVI when he rejects Islam's connection to the Abrahamic faith. Indeed, all the earliest Christians understood this: they saw Islam as a heresy, not paganism. There is a modern innovation going on here, based upon the false premise: "they don't understand God the same as us, so it is not the same God." If this were true, neither would the God of Abraham be the God of the Christians, since Abraham clearly didn't know the Trinity and the Incarnation. Nor would Moses share the same God as the Christians because he clearly didn't know the Trinity.

But it is a rhetoric I have seen within a certain group of people who try to do to Islam what Chick and 19th century anti-Catholics did to Catholicism. Shame.

At 12/06/2007 12:36 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I'll be interested in reading Weigel's argument on that, Henry, and how he attempts to square his views with what the Church teaches.

At 12/06/2007 12:53 PM, Blogger Darwin said...

I'll be interested to hear your review.

It seems like the "not an Abrahamic faith" could well go over the edge, but it would depend very much what he actually means by that point in the text (rather than in the cover blurb).

Is would seem that there is distinction which he could be working from when speaking from the Catholic point of view in that we would see Judaism as fully true as far as it went, but incomplete, Christianity as fully true, and Islam as a corruption of truth. The question would be where he goes with that.

And, of course, there will be those who automatically agree with him because he is Weigel and those who automatically condemn him because he is Weigel. That's a given.

At 12/06/2007 2:24 PM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...


And then there are people who, like me, can find much he dislikes in Weigel's writings, but will not dismiss everything he says. I consistently try to tell people to look to the other, learn from the other, even if you disagree; while disagreement is important to continue to point out when it happens, so, too, are times of agreement or commonality, and indeed, those are what we should look for as ways to help build each other up (without, of course, ignoring true differences).

The reason why I picked up on the Islam part is because it is an issue I am concerned with a great deal, having seen many misrepresentations and attempts to throw it out entirely from the Abrahamic tradition as a starting point for a further, worse move (such as ignoring the basic principle of religious liberty for them).

At 12/06/2007 2:44 PM, Blogger Dale P. said...

Early Islam was probably more of a Christian heresy than the current versions we are dealing with in the modern world. But with the collection of and authority assigned to the ahadith, you are talking about an entirely different religion.

Islam is part of the Abrahamic root-stock, if you will, but it is the most divergent of the three. It could hardly be otherwise, though, given the religion's functional rejection of the Judeo-Christian revelation as corrupt/unreliable.

At 12/06/2007 4:27 PM, Blogger Tito said...


I like your explanation best.

I find it hard to believe that Islam is an Abrahamic faith, but Henry does have a valid point as far as what Moses thought of God (in a non-Trinitarian sense).

At 12/06/2007 4:28 PM, Blogger Tito said...

Oh, and George Weigel is one of my favorite authors that I read. I rarely find any of his work disagreeable.

At 12/06/2007 4:53 PM, Blogger Darwin said...


Pretty much all I've read of Weigel have been Witness to Hope and Letters To A Young Catholic, both of which I found to be outstanding.

I don't get the chance to read his column at all regularly, so I can't really speak to that.

Given what I have read of his, however, he strikes me as a devout and loyal Catholic. Some people I've run into do have a knee jerk reaction against him, however. (Not meaning you Henry, but I have seen people both "right" and "left" who do.)


The reason why I picked up on the Islam part is because it is an issue I am concerned with a great deal, having seen many misrepresentations and attempts to throw it out entirely from the Abrahamic tradition as a starting point for a further, worse move (such as ignoring the basic principle of religious liberty for them).

I can't say that I've ever seen this suggested, but it certainly would be a horrendously bad idea if it were. (Though given that non-Abrahamic religions are not currently denied religious liberty, I'm not entirely clear on the connection.)

At 12/07/2007 4:01 PM, Anonymous Donald R. McClarey said...

Islam is a Mohammedan faith in that it was dreamed up by Mohammed. Mohammed took elements from Judaism, Christianity, at least the Christianity of the heretical sects he was exposed to, and a healthy dollop from the pre-existing Arab paganism in which he was reared, and stirred the ingredients well with his imagination. If popes wish to be polite and refer to Islam as an "Abrahamic" faith, far be it from me to gainsay them, but Judaism and Christianity are products of revelations from God, while Islam is all the product of Mohammed.

As for religious liberty, of course adherents of Islam have full liberty to worship as they please here, thanks to the Founding Fathers and our Constitution. Hopefully sometime in the next thousand years Christians will enjoy the same liberty in all majority Islam nations.

At 12/09/2007 12:22 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

From the publisher:

Drawing on a quarter century of experience at the intersection of moral argument and public policy, he describes rigorously and clearly the threat posed by global jihadism: the religiously inspired ideology which teaches that it is the moral obligation of all Muslims to employ whatever means are necessary to compel the world’s submission to Islam. Exploring that ideology’s theological, social, cultural, and political roots, Weigel points a new direction for both public policy and interreligious dialogue, one that meets the challenge of jihadism forthrightly while creating the conditions for a less threatening, more mutually enriching encounter between Islam and the West.

I'm especially curious how he'll address this subject -- not to deny the threat of jihadist terrorism, but too many conservatives are quick to reduce Islam as a whole to that which is propagated by Al Qaeda -- making an enemy of all Muslims per se rather than Islamism as an ideology.

At 12/10/2007 1:10 AM, Anonymous Victor said...

too many conservatives are quick to reduce Islam as a whole to that which is propagated by Al Qaeda

Perhaps ...

Islam is obviously not Islamism, and Islamism (whether Salafi, Shiite millenial, Qutbist or other) isn't the belief of most Muslims. But I think a much-more-precise formulation can be made that is not self-evident nonsense.

But when faced with a choice between Islamism and the Jews, or Islamism and Christendom, most Muslims prefer Islamism and will support it, materially, rhetorically or otherwise.


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