What’s the biggest news story of our time? What has been the biggest story for the last decade and one-half?
Answer: the resurgence of Islam, and, in particular, the rapid spread of Islamic jihad.
But, with a few exceptions, you would never know it from reading the Catholic press. If you look through the list of titles published by Catholic book publishers, you will find few, if any, books on Islam. There may be a title or two about the Crusades, but if you search the “current events” lists of most Catholic book publishers, you will come up empty. Books dealing with the biggest story of our time are conspicuous by their absence.
How about Catholic magazines and newspapers? Surely, they are telling the story of what’s happening now? Well, yes, they are, but in a strangely truncated way. The Catholic media carry reports on the latest atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Taliban, but if you turn to the commentary or opinion section of your favorite Catholic periodical, the pickings are slim. For the last 15 years (using 9/11 as a base point), Catholic media have been almost completely devoid of analysis on Islamic terrorism.
We are told what is happening, but almost no one ventures to say why it is happening. Catholic periodicals tend to treat Islamic jihad against Christians and others as though it were some kind of natural disaster—not unlike a typhoon or a tsunami. Like a storm or an earthquake, jihad is presented as a random event that unaccountably strikes here rather than there. And, as with a natural disaster, the reporting tends to focus on relief efforts: we may not know how to prevent the storm of jihad, but we feel an obligation to do all we can to bring attention to the plight of its victims.
Moreover, as with a natural disaster, the jihad is only noted when it erupts in some spectacular form. It is not treated as an ongoing problem which has its source in a particular ideology which can be analyzed, criticized, and defended against. Consequently, there is a lacuna of serious and sustained comment on what is, arguably, the most important story of the twenty-first century.
That’s not to say that Catholic writers and bloggers can’t think of anything with which to fill the empty space. On the contrary, they can think of a million other topics to write about. Take for example, one popular Catholic online site which offers to present “the news of the world from a Catholic perspective.” Sure enough, it does present the news, including the news on Islam. But insofar as “perspective” means analyzing the meaning of events, there is very little perspective on Islamic violence. If the “trending stories” on the daily newsletter I receive from this site are any indication, most of the perspective is reserved for stories of the Ladies Home Journal variety. Here’s a sample of titles from a recent issue:
“A quest to build deeper friendships”
“How the Hays Code brought us the sensational screen kiss”
“10 pithy and potent quotes from Benedict XVI”
“The life-changing benefits of a good apology”
“Finding your daughter’s First Communion dress on a budget”
“How architecture affects your brain (reasons to spend more time at church or in a library)”
“A must-try French recipe: Cannelés de Bordeaux”
Some other recent stories include:
“My next tattoo”
“Eating through Mexico with Pope Francis”
“Learning to slow down and say no when anxiety hits”
“Scientists study the language of cats”
“Kobe Bryant formed and saved by his Catholic faith”
All well and good if this were still the 1950s and Islam were still a sleepy-time religion as it was in the days of King Farouk and the Shah of Iran. Such stories are the online equivalent of Cannelés de Bordeaux. They are comfort food for the mind. They reassure us that life will proceed as it always has. Of course, not all of the stories on Catholic media are of this nature. There is plenty of good, solid reporting and solid analysis on issues such as marriage, family, sexuality, religious liberty, same-sex “marriage,” and a host of other contemporary issues. Still, the scant attention paid to Islam leads the reader to conclude that nothing new and supremely dangerous has emerged on the world stage.
In other words, Catholic bloggers and journalists are still fighting yesterday’s battles without seeming to realize that we are in the midst of a new battle. Catholic writers are on top of the latest iterations of issues that have been with us for twenty years or more—secularism, relativism, the Sexual Revolution, abortion, gay rights, classroom indoctrination, religious liberty, Supreme Court decisions, media bias, and bioethical issues. These battles still need to be fought and, since we are losing most of them, they need to be fought even more vigorously. But that doesn’t let us off the hook of fighting the new battle that has been thrust upon us.
This new war is particularly insidious because much of it is being fought as a culture war. While focusing on the hot war of battlefield jihad, we tend to ignore the cold war of cultural jihad. Yet, at least in the West, it is the main front. And, ironically, the stealth jihadists have built on the victories of the secular and leftist culture warriors. For example, they benefit from the rules of political correctness laid down by their counterparts on the left. Thus, any attempt at analyzing or explaining Islam from a non-Islamic perspective is met with cries of “bigotry” and “Islamophobia.”
One of the chief aims of the Islamist culture warriors is to convince us that we must not draw any connection between violent jihad and Islam, and they have been remarkably successful in doing so. ….
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Further reading: Cultural Identity Theft