The attacks are growing in frequency, happening nearly every week now, indeed, almost daily. Yesterday, in Bangladesh, a small band of terrorists entered into a public dining area and took 20 lives — people from all over the world:
Bangladeshi authorities said the 20 slain hostages included 11 males and nine females. The nationalities included nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian, two Bangladeshis and one U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin.
Some reports indicate that death became a condition of whether or not a hostage could quote from the Koran, and yet it is difficult to characterize these attacks as primarily religious when today — a day later — ISIS has unleashed hell in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad, with multiple bombs murdering over 100 and injuring nearly double that. As with last week’s attack in Istanbul, many among the dead, perhaps most, are Muslims.
In her column this week, Peggy Noonan has written about an apparent dearth of genius, an inability for anyone in power to bring any sort of creative, constructive thinking to bear on the myriad problems and true evils that are before us, threatening every nation, and every people. She says we are missing the “genius cluster” that has always arisen — “Providentially,” her friend suggests — when the world has needed it to.
Where are the geniuses who will figure out how to fight a hidden yet determined international band of beasts who are committed to death — and all too willing to “be jihad in-place” — bringing the ISIS principles to local places of business and coming to a playground near you?
What we are seeing in ISIS is what we have seen before in the death-serving ideologies of the 20th centuries; totalitarian extremism never loses its desire to destroy all that does not conform. The illness is always the same. What has changed, though, is the antibody with which the West has previously addressed this killer virus. Like the culture itself, the antibody has shifted; it no longer contains one essential component necessary to fight the evil that instigates human savagery on this level, that of a faith.
There are no “genius clusters” arising to deal with ISIS, because there are no geniuses in leadership willing to look into the medicine bag and say “we have run out of faith in anything beyond our own selves, our court systems and bureaucracies…”
Consider that when the Nazis were barreling through Europe, the majority of the western world professed – with no fear of ridicule or of giving insult, anywhere – a belief in something greater than itself. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were conventionally religious men of their times, not overly observant. But they were imbued with enough faith to recognize that some occasions called for more than rhetoric; some things called for enough humility to make a prayer of supplication, one calling on the Deity to guide, to bless, to sustain – to, as Lincoln said, have “firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”
Roosevelt led the nation in prayer on D-Day. In Britain, Churchill openly spoke of “a miracle of deliverance”: “A guiding hand interfered to make sure the allied forces were not annihilated at Dunkirk.”
Our post-Christian, post-faith Western leadership is no longer capable of making public prayer, or willing to credit heaven with anything but twinkling stars. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was told by his own government “we don’t do God” and President Obama, who once defined the notion of “sin” as being “out of alignment with my values” has not yet, in nearly 8 years, attempted to lead a nation in prayer.
This matters in the face of ISIS, especially in its revelation that its attempts to acquire power through fear are indiscriminate: they are murdering of all peoples, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or agnostic.
If this is true, one might ask, then why especially should the West reacquaint itself with the language of faith and supernaturalism?
The answer is simple: because what ISIS is doing is a true evil. Whether they are authentically committed to extreme Islamist principles or creating their own bastardized version of Islam in order to justify their works — which seems more likely given the number of Muslims ISIS kills — the evil they perpetrate is an offering to the supernatural powers of Hell, and it will need help from Heaven to defeat it.
Western culture has become staunchly secular, and believes itself to have figured everything out; there are no longer “things seen and unseen” and this is why, as former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has said, “we don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well.”
If a “genius cluster” is to emerge in our time, it will have to come forth from leaders who are courageous enough to withstand the predictable ridicule of their peers, acknowledge all they do not know about what is seen and unseen, and then ask Heaven for assistance. They’ll have to be bold enough to put aside service to the limited gods of secularism in order to petition and serve the unlimited God who is the All-in-All.
And this will have to be a collective effort — the Children of Abraham will have to do this together, with co-operative governments acknowledging something greater than themselves, and eschewing man-made wisdom for the wisdom of the One.
And then we will have to discern how to be the ready, “in-place,” supernatural response to the spreading sickness that is all around us, just waiting to strike from the shadows.
We must still offer prayers, of course. Prayers for the besieged people of Baghdad and Bangladesh must be offered, as they were for Orlando, as we have prayed for San Bernadino, as we have prayed for Paris. But we will have to urge the leadership to look beyond themselves, and to heaven, to find that “genius cluster” of the providential past.