George Weigel’s newest book focuses on theological roots of Islamic terrorism, gives possible solutiCATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
CNA had an opportunity to talk with George Weigel about his latest book and discuss the current dialogue with Islam.
CNA had an opportunity to talk with Weigel about his book and discuss the current dialogue with Islam.
Q. Why did you write Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism?
A. In a sense the book began with my reflections on Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg Lecture, which identified two serious and linked problems with global impact: faith detached from reason (as in jihadist terrorism, which is based on the irrational notion that God commands the killing of innocents), and a loss-of-faith in reason (which leaves the western world incapable of defending its commitments to religious freedom, tolerance, and civility in the face of the jihadist challenge).
I was also stuck by the fact that, more than half a decade after 9/11, Americans still couldn't "name" the enemy in this new kind of war in which we found ourselves — and still wouldn't face the theological roots of Islamist terrorism. So I decided to do something about all of this, adding a number of policy prescriptions that I hope will draw bipartisan support.
Q. Can you summarize the main points in your argument?
Q. Your book paints a rather stark picture of the challenge of jihadism. Is there any good news to report?
A. There's no sense in fooling ourselves about the gravity of this threat. At the same time, we should understand that fighting the war against jihadism successfully — and this is fundamentally a war of ideas — can be an occasion of national renewal. Making compelling arguments in favor of the free society will reconnect us with the great ideas on which our liberties rest. Putting faith and reason into conversation will strengthen the unity of our diverse society. Defending religious freedom, and supporting those Muslim reformers who seek to make an Islamic case for tolerance and pluralism, reminds us that American civil society is built on truths about the dignity of human life. Energy policies that defund jihadism by reducing our reliance on petroleum as a transportation fuel can ignite entrepreneurial energies, revitalize the American auto industry, and help the environment. Rational homeland security policies can make us safer and less beholden to political correctness.
Q. What do you make of the recent "Letter of 138," entitled "A Common Word Between Us and You," addressed by Muslim leaders to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders?
A. I hope it creates the occasion for a deepened conversation between Catholicism and Islam, but I'm also afraid that the "138" are trying to change the subject — a tactic in which they're being aided by some craven Christians.
The Pope has made very clear that the Church is interested primarily in talking about two things: religious freedom, and the separation of political and religious authority in the state. As the Pope said in his Christmas address to the Curia in December 2006, these are achievements of the Enlightenment that the Catholic Church worked hard to assimilate, finally doing so at Vatican II.Unless Muslims can find Islamic warrants for religious freedom and the civil society, aggressive Islamists and jihadists will remain a danger to the world and to their fellow Muslims. That means talking about the things the Pope put on the agenda, not drifting off into platitudes. In my book, I discuss at some length a process of "retrieval and development: by which ancient religious traditions can "grow" their understanding of their roles in modern society. That's what the Catholic Church did from Leo XIII through John Paul II. And that's what the Islamic world must do today: for its sake, and everyone else's.
Catholic News Agency. "George Weigel’s newest book focuses on theological roots of Islamic terrorism, gives possible solutions." CNA (January 10, 2008).
Reprinted with permission of Catholic News Agency. Founded in continued response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization,” the Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world.
George Weigel, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. Weigel is the author or editor of eighteen books, including Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (2005), The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God (2005), Letters to a Young Catholic: The Art of Mentoring (2004), The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (2002), and The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored (2001).
George Weigel's major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Collins, 1999) was published to international acclaim in 1999, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, and German. The 2001 documentary film based on the book won numerous prizes. George Weigel is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated to more than fifty newspapers around the United States.
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