Image from U.S. Government website
May 4th was the day for sentencing Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, who admitted his involvement in the conspiracy that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Moussaoui’s conspiracy is easy to identify and easy to reject. Ironically, more subtle “conspiracies” can sometimes be more dangerous. The “new reality” of terrorism is intensified by a “conspiracy” of philosophies and programs that alienate people from the larger community on one hand while disarming that community on the other.
The emergence of diversity and pluralism as good things is an example. Contrary to popular opinion, diversity and pluralism are usually problems– not solutions. Every society– every community– wrestles with the challenge of pulling people together against forces that would drive them apart.
In Western society, the pursuit of prosperity has been the most prominent factor in drawing people together for centuries. It worked so well because it was aided by a particularly Christian synthesis of tolerance in the pursuit of truth.
The gradual demise of that synthesis, however, has betrayed the weakness of increased prosperity as incentive to good behavior. “More stuff” fails when “stuff” becomes scarce. More importantly, “more stuff” doesn’t satisfy the deep human need for meaning.
For that, people must turn elsewhere– and those “elsewheres” are often sharply critical of Western decadence.
Couple those critiques with government fiats that cut short debate and impose secular values against the public conscience and you have centrifugal forces that start to rip social bonds. Terrorism becomes a greater and greater possibility from more and more directions.
The solution begins with renewed attention to the universals that challenge all humanity. What is the nature of ultimate reality, history, humanity, good and evil, the cosmos, the good life, and knowledge itself?
In the meantime, the very last thing needed to halt the social disintegration inherent in pluralism and diversity is more of the same– more of the same programs and philosophies that trap individuals into enclaves of narrow grievances, appetites, and preferences.
God’s program for overcoming the fragmentation inherent in pluralism and diversity is grace– not the fake grace that speaks so casually about differing “values,” but rather real grace that inspires a particular set of values called “virtue.”
The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch and “when he arrived … [he] saw the evidence of the grace of God.” Reading between the lines, Barnabas saw a community existing where no community would have been expected– a community of mixed races, cultures, and classes being pulled together by grace that was greater than the sociological forces that ordinarily would have driven them apart.