Political and ideological vacuums are just as real and just as potentially dangerous as those found in nature. When you have a resurgent, revitalised and hyper-confident Islam pitted against a moribund, comatose and purposeless West, guess who is going to come out on top?
When you have a hyper-spiritual political ideology known as Islam pitted against a secular, hedonistic and apathetic West, there is simply no contest. This is the iceberg versus the Titanic all over again. Or for sporting fans, this is a replay of the crushing 6-0 6-0 1988 French Open final victory of Steffi Graf over Natasha Zvereva (Natasha who?).
A demoralised, secularised, entertainment-mad and utterly aimless culture such as the West has not the slightest ability to take on the purpose-driven life of the devout Muslim who believes history is going somewhere, he is on the winning side, and Allah approves of all his blood-letting.
No wonder people keep on being “shocked” at every new Islamic outrage. They are utterly clueless as to how dead they are and how alive the jihadists are. The other side is on a mission, while all we can do is try to keep up with the Kardashians.
Sorry, but we are all toast in such a scenario. And the Islamists know it. That is why they are winning all over the place. And that is why we are losing all over the place. A culture full of self-absorbed zombies is simply no match for a diabolically energised political and religious ideology bent on world conquest.
Let me speak to each in turn, utilising two important articles which have just appeared. Australian expert on Islam, Dr Mark Durie, has penned a very significant piece, alerting us to what we are really up against, and dismantling the confused thinking of most Western commentators.
He focuses on a particularly bad – but thoroughly representative – piece by Australian commentator Janet Daley. She manages to regurgitate most of the myths about Islam and terrorism, so Durie offers a much-needed corrective. Let me offer some choice cuts from his invaluable piece:
The first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own, is to describe it in its own terms. ISIS does not subscribe to the Geneva Convention. Its actions and strategies are based upon medieval Islamic laws of jihad, which make no use of the modern Western concept of ‘civilian’.
They do, however, refer to the category of disbelievers (mushrik or kafir). ISIS believes that killing disbelievers is a moral act, in accordance, for example, with Sura 9:5 of the Qur’an, which states :‘Fight and kill the idolators (mushrik) wherever you find them’.
[There are] a series of verses in the Qur’an in which Jews are criticised for desiring life (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8). According to the Qur’an, loving life is a characteristic of infidels (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) because it causes them to disregard the importance of the next life. The taunt much used by jihadis, ‘We love death like you love life’, implies that jihadis are bound for paradise while their enemies are hell-bound.
The point of these statements is that Muslims are willing to fight to the death, while their infidel enemies will turn back in battle. This is not about reverence for life, but about who has the will to win. This has nothing to do with nihilism, which is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to, and no purpose in living. In fact ISIS fighters have strong and clear loyalties and values, alien though they may be to those of Europe.
ISIS is not playing by a Western-style negotiating rule book. It is following Muhammad’s instructions to his followers to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword. Bin Ladin has explained that the West’s rejection of this framework is the whole reason for its conflict with what he calls ‘the authority of Islam’:
“Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue; one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice, and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam:  either willing submission [conversion]; or  payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or  the sword, for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.” (The Al Qaeda Reader)
It may seem unimaginable to European elites that ISIS is fighting for the goal of the surrender or conversion of Europe, but ISIS is thinking in time frames which extend to centuries, and their forebears conquered vast territories using such tactics. A final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of military raids.
While killing is currently the main mode of ISIS’ attacks inside the West, if they could they would use other tactics as well, such as taking booty and slaves or destroying infrastructure, as they have been doing in Syria and Iraq.
So what should be done?
Like so many other revivalist Islamic groups, ISIS believes that it will be successful if it stays faithful to its divinely-mandated goals and tactics. It believes the nations of Europe are morally corrupt, weak infidels who love life too much to fight a battle to the death with stern Muslim soldiers who have set their hearts on paradise. It believes Europe stands on the wrong side of history.
To combat this ideology it is necessary for Europe to prove ISIS wrong on all counts. It must show strength, not weakness. It must have confidence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival. It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders. It must act like someone who intends to win an interminably long war against an implacable foe.
There is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrophe. It could, long ago, have challenged the Islamic view of history which idolised jihad and its intended outcome, the dhimma. It could have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance. It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace. This lost opportunity is what Bat Ye’or referred to in a prescient 1993 interview as the ‘relativization of religion, a self-critical view of the history of Islamic imperialism’. Instead the elites of Europe embarked on decades of religiously illiterate appeasement and denialism.
American commentator Doug Wilson has also just penned a terrific, well-written piece, highlighting the impotency of the West and the danger of Islam. He too is well worth quoting from:
Suicidal ennui: when the best lack all conviction, and are therefore no match for the invading hordes of those who are full of passionate intensity. “What’s that tiresome noise at the gates? Somebody send Sadie to go see.”
The massacre in Paris has brought two things, already obvious, into high relief once again. We are observing, in slow motion, a collision between two very diseased cultures. The diseases are quite different but seem, in some respects, to be made for each other. One disease is listless and the other aggressive. One has no organizing principle, no arche, and the other has the wrong organizing principle. One is idolatrous and polytheistic and the other is idolatrous and monotheistic. One believes that no gods should be honored in the public square while the other believes that only one should be, but that is a false one. One used to be Christian, and must become Christian again, while the other must become Christian.
A demoralised, self-loathing and trivial pursuit mad West is no match for all this of course:
Our elites are not defending the West, but they are defending their notions of what the West ought to be. They are defending their ideals about the West, which is actually a hollow shell of what the West once was. Not only are they doing so, they are doing so against overwhelming odds. Their ideal, a cosmopolitan and multicultural secular state, is in fact under siege, and they are defending that “diversity ideal” against the forces arrayed against it. This is tough because what is arrayed against their secularism is God’s Grand Reductio.
For those who are committed to the naked public square God has raised up a rod of chastisement — radical jihadis who insist that Allah is god of the public square, and in that very same square, Muhammad is his prophet. These jihadis believe in Allah all day every day. They believe in him whether they pick up a knife and fork, or whether they pick up a rifle. If you tell me they shouldn’t believe in Allah that way, I quite agree with you. But if you think that such hard idolaters are going to be fought off by a civilization of lotus eaters, then you want something that has not yet happened in this world.
The secularists meanwhile are certainly refusing to stand up against this Islamist threat in any effective way, but they are trying to stand up to the threat posed to their precious system. This is why Islamists can go on a killing spree in Paris, and the tolerance police come out in force . . . to make sure nobody says anything rude about Islam on the Internet.
So what we are seeing is a collision between two diseased cultures. The disease of Islam is a fanatical desire to impose dhimmitude onto the West. The disease of the West is an impotent and lame desire to include everybody in a group hug photo without having a clue how many suicide bombers are crowding into their happy picture.
There are certainly practical things to do on a practical level in response to this attack. Some of them would be lawful and some of them not. Some of the responses are obligatory, some prudent, and others just stupid. But whatever is done, all the responses will be utterly and completely ineffectual apart from an invocation of Jesus Christ, Lord of the nations. We do not just need a revival in the church — although we do need that, as faithful Christians have long known. We also need a revival in the West, and by this I do not mean a generic revival of some vague spirituality gas. I mean a self-conscious abandonment of our moribund secularism, and a sincere and heartfelt confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ.