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Posted March 24, 2004

Book: Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche
Author: Shadia B. Drury
Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, England, pp. 209

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Drury regards the political problems of the modern world to be thoroughly Biblical. In the politics of the 21st century, we find two equally arrogant and self-righteous civilizations confronting one another. Each is convinced that it is on the side of God, truth, and justice, while its enemy is allied with Satan, wickedness, and barbarism. The language of diplomacy and compromise has been replaced by the language of jihad or the struggle against the cosmic forces of evil. Life is radicalized; and all choices are polarized. Politics properly understood is eclipsed. Drury urges us to transcend the Biblical view of the world. Instead, she argues in favor of a genuinely liberal, secular, and pluralistic understanding of politics.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The statistics that indicate that more people in America and around the world have converted to Islam since September 11 are troubling. It reveals that Islam has some of the resilience of the Christianity: it refuses to be tarnished by its crimes. If Muslims succeed in adopting the posture of victims, if they succeed in presenting themselves as the oppressed people of God, rather than the aggressors, then the United States may emerge as the world tyrant and global bully. By utilizing the powerful biblical imagery, Muslims may win the war of propaganda.

One does not have to succumb to the appeal of biblical imagery to find the prospect of a single superpower pushing its weight around the globe reprehensible. Unless the United States starts to use it power wisely, it will lose the cultural war. But it will not be the only loser. Israel will also be a loser and so will Jews around the world. As long as American foreign policy remains unchanged, as long as its corporate institutions remain rapacious, the anti-globalization forces will unite with the anit-Semitic forces to elect more and more immoderate politicians in Europe and elsewhere. The United States can turn the tide only if it is willing to abandon the biblical rhetoric of good and evil in favor of a secular rhetoric of diplomacy and compromise. But this is not likely as long as the current administration is in power.

In conclusion, the perspectival approach makes it possible to transcend the biblical horizon. It makes it possible to abandon the naivete of dualism as well as the cynicism of realpolitik. The perspectival approach reveals that each of the protagonists has a legitimate case to make against the other. Neither is without fault; and neither has the whole truth on its side. Each is in quest of a distinctive ideal, which is not compatible with the ideal of the other. And even though I have little sympathy for the Islamic way of life, I believe that a world in which only one flower is allowed to bloom the liberal flower is pitiful. But worst of all, the current globalizing forces promote nihilism, despondency and despair and these are the breeding ground of senseless terror.

When people believe that their ideals are the only ones of any merit, and when they are determined to use the power of the state to inflict their ideals on others, they become fanatical killers. It is highly ironic that the ideal of surrender, the feminine and passive ideal, has been the source of so much aggression. Unhappily for the world, we can expect more of its self-righteous brutality in its Christian, Muslim, and Judaic manifestations. The so-called war on terrorism has all the fanaticism of a religious war, coupled with the deadly weapons of a technological age. Those who believe that civilization is barbarism with technical skill are not far off the mark. More often than not, it is barbarism with technical skill and a clear conscience.

Table of Contents:

Part I Metaphysics of Terror

1. The apologetic argument

2. Was Jesus moderate?

3. Sin as unbelief

4. Hell and damnation

5. Is Heaven for sadists?

6. How glad are the glad tidings?

7. The angst of salvation

8. The ransom for sin

9. Conclusion



Part II Politics of Terror

1. Treachery with a clear conscience

2. Augustinian chic

3. Political realism with a twist

4. Christian arrogance

5. Christian militancy

6. Against Christianity in politics



Part III Ethic of Love

1. The morality of Jesus

2. Sins of thought

3. A tragic ethos

4. Inner state of siege

5. More than a hint of asceticism



Part IV Psychology of Terror

1. Neurosis of the West

2. Guilt, original sin, and expiation

3. A garrison within

4. The Moses of Freud: a criticism

5. A Promethean revolt

6. Romanticizing evil



Part V Terror, Ideals, and Civilizations

1. Beyond naivete and cynicism

2. A clash of civilization?

3. Terrorism from Samson to Atta

4. Transcending the biblical horizon