Rod Dreher is concerned about certain trends in law enforcement . He quotes Reul Marc Gerecht saying:
For the FBI, religion remains a much too sensitive subject, much more so than the threatening ideologies of yesteryear. Imagine if Maj. Hasan had been an officer during the Cold War, regularly expressing his sympathy for the Soviet Union and American criminality against the working man. Imagine him writing to a KGB front organization espousing socialist solidarity. The major would have been surrounded by counterintelligence officers.
Dreher goes on to say:
We Americans, religious and secular both, have powerful fundamental views about religion that put radical Islam in a certain context, one that prevents us from understanding how unlike other American religious expressions it is — and how much of a threat it is to the civil order. If you think of radical Islam not as a religion, but as a hostile ideology (e.g., communism), its nature becomes clearer.
Dreher is broadly correct here. The issue is not so much one of political correctness and over-sensitivity, but rather that Americans are used to an environment in which religion has been profoundly culturally neutered. Bloom puts it well [emphasis mine]:
Hobbes and Locke, and the American Founders following them, intended to palliate extreme beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, which led to civil strife. The members of sects had to obey the laws and be loyal to the Constitution; if they did so, others had to leave them alone, however distasteful their beliefs might be. In order to make this arrangement work, there was a conscious, if covert, effort to weaken religious beliefs, partly by assigning — as a result of great epistemological effort — religion to the realm of opinion as opposed to knowledge .
Many observers neglect the fact that the United States government is unusually tolerant of religious sentiment by the standards of secular governments that lack established churches. Our “wall of separation” is nothing compared to that in France, in Germany or, until a couple of years ago and possibly even now, in Turkey. There are few places in the world, and there were even fewer prior to the current wave of Americanization, where religion is viewed so comfortably as a private affair. Concerns about “moralistic therapeutic deism” miss the point — MTD is not a terrifying new movement that has leapt out of a closet and is now poisoning our children; it’s as old as America, the culmination of a long tradition of the secular authorities tolerating religion so long as it is not threatening and religion adapting to this climate by becoming non-threatening.
One can hardly blame the FBI for failing to take Hasan’s religion seriously. Unlike the vast majority of nations, America has had no significant history of religious violence or fanaticism since its founding. Radical political ideologies, on the other hand, are a great deal more familiar. Our country was founded by ideologues (yes, I only partially accept Charles Beard’s Marxist interpretation of the Constitution) and continues to produce large numbers of them to this day.
I strongly suspect that the compromise whereby religion agreed to be politically and culturally neutered in return for state tolerance is beginning to show some cracks. Should this occur, it will be bad for public order but from a Nietzschean (Dionysian) perspective the cultural effects may be salutary. Can we really expect the American volksgeist to become more passionate and less practical? Unclear, but I imagine that if stricter separation of church and state appears on the horizon, it will be a result not of the increasing secularization of our society, but rather of religion becoming a more serious threat to the political order.
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