What Kind of President Do Christians Want?

By Dr. Gary Scott Smith
December 13, 2007

In a recent radio interview I was asked the hypothetical question “If you had to choose between candidate A who did not profess to be a Christian but had extensive political experience and candidate B who was a devout Christian but only had limited political experience, who would you vote for?” I replied that I would consider both the experience and stated convictions of the two candidates, but I would also take into account the policies they advocated and the underlying philosophical basis for these policies.

As the 2008 presidential campaign continues to heat up, as both Republican and Democratic candidates discuss their personal faith and appeal to religious voters, and as Mitt Romney explains why his Mormonism should not disqualify him from serving as president, this question led me to reflect on what Christians are looking for in a potential president. I cannot speak for all Christians, of course, but for many of us several considerations stand out as especially important.

Christians want a president with outstanding character. Our presidents have never been saints. Even the ones best known for their character have had significant flaws. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Dwight Eisenhower all engaged in ethically questionable activities while president.

Nevertheless, sterling character is a very desirable quality. Christians value a president who is trustworthy and morally exemplary. Integrity, consistency, and keeping promises are all very important.

Christians also want a president who is devoted to prayer, Bible study, and public worship. These activities will enable him or her to develop a deep understanding of the Scriptures and a robust faith and to seek God’s guidance and strength. Moreover, by engaging in these activities, presidents provide a good role model for the American people.

Presidents face extraordinary challenges and make many critical decisions. Christians draw comfort from knowing that in addition to reading intelligence reports and soliciting the advice of the cabinet and Congress, a president also seeks God’s help and counsel in performing his role.

Christians desire a president who diligently studies the scripture and tries to apply biblical teaching to his philosophy of governing and policy decisions. Christians disagree significantly on how the teachings of scripture apply to many contemporary issues. Most of us agree, however, that biblical principles are relevant to current policy debates and want our nation’s leaders to try to implement policies that are consistent with scriptural injunctions and tenets. We especially want a president who supports policies that promote the welfare of all Americans and strives to insure that our nation treats all citizens fairly and equally. Although few of our presidents have had extensive theological or biblical education, many of them have tried to base their policies on their understanding of scriptural principles.

Because of the complexity of today’s world , many Christians focus on one particular political issue—preventing abortion, protecting marriage, safeguarding the environment, reducing poverty, eliminating hunger, fighting AIDS, decreasing crime and delinquency and helping those who are incarcerated readjust to society, ending sex trafficking, or insuring religious freedom. Concentrating on alleviating a particular social problem makes sense given our limited time, energy, money, and knowledge. Our life experience, opportunities, and the burden God lays on our hearts influence which problem we choose to combat. Many Christians, however, want a president who cares deeply about all these social ills and seeks to devise policies to help remedy them. Although we believe that congregations, voluntary organizations, mission agencies, and individuals have vital roles to play in assuaging these problems, we also believe that our government must wage war against them.

Finally, given God’s concern for all nations, not simply the United States, many Christians want a president who pursues policies designed to benefit the entire world. We desire a president who will make our nation an ambassador of peace, good will, justice, and compassion in the world. It would be refreshing to hear a president end his or her speeches not with “God bless America,” but with “God bless the world.” It would be wonderful to have a president who makes one of his chief priorities improving the well-being of the world’s sick and poor. Obviously, our government has limited resources and there is much we can and should do through the private sector to help these groups. But many Christians would like to see our political leaders use their political and moral capital to help reduce hunger, disease, and poverty.

It is unlikely that we will find a candidate in 2008 or in any other presidential election who meets all these qualifications. It is more unlikely we will ever find such a candidate if we do not challenge prospective presidents to think about these issues. In the meantime, these factors provide a good set of criteria for Christians to consider as they go to the polls.

Gary Scott Smith is a professor of history at Grove City College and the author of Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush (Oxford University Press, 2006).

The years ahead abound in great testings for the nations and their rulers. Therefore, let shepherds lead flocks; let rulers rule nations.

He whose head turns toward the dexter talon but holds the arrows with his left talon shall you set to rule the land; for so great shall be the burden that lies ahead that the one who will rule will tend to regret the day he sat on the throne.

And when the time comes for the chosen ruler to tackle the great burden, there should be no break found in the circle of stars that sorround the mighty bird; lest the ruler will fail, and the nation will suffer considerably.


On Wars...and Wars of Ideas

By Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Originally posted September 14, 2007
Ignatius Insight

All wars are first fought out—or, better, argued about--in the mind. Because they are in minds and not on battlefields these wars are not violent. They can even be friendly. Wars are not caused by wars. They are caused by ideas. Ideas as such are good. We could not eliminate ideas that cause wars if we wanted to, though we can understand why they can be wrong. But we understand this wrongness only with another idea. The adventure of the mind is to find out which ideas are true. The adventure goes on all the time. The mind also needs to find what is true in ideas that are false since no idea exists that does not contain some truth.

The ideas that cause wars are not initially conceived as militant, but as an understanding of reality. Even then, they do not cause conflict until put into effect and meet resistance, ultimately from other ideas. The purpose of war is to establish the truth or superiority of an idea. Ideas do not always win just because they are true. One suspects that true ideas often lose. This is why, behind ideas and their carrying out, lies divine providence, which can bring out the good that is found in what is otherwise evil. Evil is ultimately to be rejected and punished when chosen.

Any movement to "abolish war," however noble and high sounding, misses the point that wars are not simply external things to our souls. Even "defensive wars," that is, wars designed to keep a way of life from outside attacks, depends on thought, on the validity of ideas that inspire one's way of living. Defensive wars, in the proper sense, are the upholding of ideas that have a claim on truth against those who would deny them by force. Wars are not simply "caused" by ideas, but by wills that choose to carry them out in a concrete way. Without wills, ideas would never get out of the mind; yet within the mind, they present what can be willed. This is why ideas as such are, while clear to themselves, hidden from the world until they are first made known to the will, then chosen by some human person to be carried into effect.

We live in a tradition that has sought to eliminate wars not by solving intellectual issues, which is often considered hopeless, but by preventing ideas from taking political effect. We tend not to think ideas are really that important. We suspect that none are really true. Many think that the very claim to truth in ideas is the cause of all wars. We call this policy "tolerance" in which we deliberately keep ideas, untested, in the privacy of our minds, where they keep churning away. Ideas themselves have a dynamic potential. They are rightly never content just to stay inside of us. Our insides seek the light of day.

We will be at "peace," as it is called, if we tolerate everyone who disagrees with us, provided he returns the compliment. If there are those unwilling to do so, we think we can "defend" ourselves against them in order that we can discuss or dialogue about the differences. This is a noble effort. But what we cannot do is to fail to come to terms with ideas that claim to be true and seek to expand themselves into the world by means other than ideas. The solution to the problem is not to say that all ideas are fanatical or wrong. The solution is to take ideas seriously enough to state them properly and to have a philosophy that itself is sufficiently realistic to comprehend why error is attractive—again, almost always because it has some truth to it. The idea that there is no truth is itself an origin of war, an idea that denies that it too is an idea.

In the Washington Post for September 11, 2007, Anne Applebaum commented on what is purported to be Bin Laden's most recent pronouncement. Bin Laden talks about the superiority of his Islam because it has lower taxes and a higher individual morality than is prevalent in the West. Applebaum mentions the number of Germans who are being converted to Islam. In a letter to the September 2007 issue of Crisis magazine, a lady reported that she knew American women who were being converted to Islam because of the wimpiness and lack of manliness in Americans. I have seen the same said of converts in Britain.

Whatever be the fact of whether these were actually Bin Laden's words (and there is some doubt about this), I intend here, for the sake of argument at least, to assume they are his and represent, as they do, a sincerely held body of ideas, however widespread they are is always a subject of controversy. We cannot understand a man like Bin Laden in terms other than what he believes--not according to what our social science tells us about him.

The most salient and striking line of the document cited in Applebaum's essay is this: "Al-Qaeda's long-term goal is to convert Americans and other Westerners to its extreme version of Islam." Of course, Bin Laden, or whoever wrote this document, does not say that its own version of Islam is at all an "extreme." He is doing what his understanding of his faith tells him to do. He claims to be the authentic interpreter. He does not think that he is himself in any way an aberration.

In one sense, it is our problem (unless we agree with him) to figure out how to prevent Bin Laden from succeeding in his mission. This is what a defensive war is about, that not everyone shall be subject to such ideas now made aggressively manifest in the world. But the real issue is the need to confront the truth of the claim itself. This confrontation we are very reluctant to do because of our theories of toleration and ecumenism. As long as this dealing with ideas is not taken seriously, the claim will reappear again and again in history. This is not Islam's first manifestation of militancy. It has a mission to complete its ideas in the external order. It has a comprehensible vision of world rule. This need to confront ideas was essentially what the Pope sought to do in the Regensburg Lecture.

In the original report that I saw from ABC News (September 7), Bin Laden said that the two ways to end the present war are a) "to continue to escalate (on his side) the killing and fighting against you," or b) "to do away with the American democratic system of government." That Islam will change its ideas is not one of the options given for stopping the war. The first way is clearly an appeal to revulsion from seeing American and other troops killed on television. It is a shrewd recognition that his Islam, that has no significant military force, has great political and military shrewdness. What is not possible to defeat on the ground can be defeated in the minds of his enemies. He understands ideas, in other words, and the changeableness of democratic opinion. War is a means to achieve his end.

The second solution is simply to do away with the American system of government. Again, he is suggesting that the Americans themselves do away with it as an immoral form of rule. It is this form of government with its political will that Ben Ladin evidently sees as his most immediate and perhaps last opposition to his conquest of the world in the name of Allah. He must still deal with Russia, the Chinese, and the Hindus, of course, but this will be much simpler if his immediate objective since 9/11 is rendered ineffective or even converted. However outlandish this view may look to us, it has a certain feasibility to it if we grant that religious ideas assumed to be true and never really combated intellectually retain their force of moving souls.

Bin Laden does not invite us to join "extremist" Islam. Rather he says simply, "I invite you to embrace Islam." This is an "invitation," though obviously behind it is the record of those who have been defeated by Islamic armies and the almost totally closed societies that have resulted. Whenever a people become Muslim, by whatever means, they dwell in a kind of peace and worship of Allah that is the purpose of Islam in the world. This is the purpose that Bin Laden claims to be is pursuing. When we interpret him as being motivated by power or fanaticism, we miss the force and meaning of his presence. It is the power of an idea that claims to be true. It is this "peace," as he says, to which we are "invited."

Bin Laden adds, as a kind of amusing reference to our mortgage rates, that: "There are no taxes in Islam, but rather there is a limited Zakaat [alms] totaling 2.5%." The implication of this latter figure is that Islam does not levy taxes on its citizens to fight the war as we do. Its fighters are doing so out of moral and religious purposes. They are not "hired" guns or bound by our "rules of war." They are pursuing a religious goal and are considered heroes if they kill enemies, or seen as martyrs if they kill themselves in pursuing their holy cause.

This report is said to have begun with the words "praise to Allah and his law of retaliation, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and the killer is killed." It is a happy world. But again it is a claim to be acting correctly in the pursuit of Bin Laden's goal. This law of retaliation is an ancient law, in existence before Islam. It is sometimes a principle of survival. What is significant is that it is itself seen to be a praise of Allah to practice it. The Greek and Christian alternatives are naturally passed over in silence. He does not have to answer to them, because they have found no way intellectually to make him to do so. Again this principle is a justification for the violence that we see in Islam, one that flows from certain theological and philosophical principles. The praise of Allah can make violence against the enemies just if Allah wills it, as he evidently does. The question that really must be faced is just who is this Allah who can be praised in this way?

The brunt of Applebaum's analysis is that "militant Islam " is the problem. Her worry is not so much the intellectual and moral attraction of Islam in the modern world but that of the millions of Muslims in the world, some few are terrorists with relatively little relation to "moderate Islam." The problem becomes a security problem because of the conversion of westerners to Islam, out of whom a few will be convinced to follow the terrorist agenda, as has already happened. The thesis is that someone with an Irish or Italian name who becomes a Muslim is far more dangerous than a Muslim with the name Mohammed, as the latter can be more easily spotted by security. No doubt, this is a legitimate concern.

But the significance of the Ben Ladin letter, taken at face value, is not so much the danger of a few convert terrorists. It is the confident appeal to the truth of Islam itself. Islam has no hesitation in telling the world to become Muslim. I suppose we can say the Bush concept of the war is universally to encourage Muslims to become "democratic." This too is a war of ideas. It is based on the idea that only a few Muslims are terrorists. The idea is that there is an understanding of Islam that is not terrorist. Bin Laden, no doubt, thinks his understanding is the only one and the correct one.

Much has been written on why so-called "non-terrorists" do not stand up for their view of Islam. This standing up would presumably have the immediate political purpose of calming the turbulence. Whether it can be shown that Bin Laden is wrong from within Islamic ideas itself is a question of ideas. The broader question remains, however, "What is Islam?" It is a claim to a certain view of God, man, and the world that purports to be true. When Bin Laden invites us to be Muslim, he is not just being brash or fanatical, I think. We underestimate the power of this idea if we do not see that it is what lies behind the movements in the external order stemming from it. Wars on the ground will continue as long as ideas are left unattended to because of the belief that they are just ideas.


Martyrs and Suicide Bombers

By Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Originally posted August 24, 2005
Ignatius Insight

After the London subway bombings, the father of Mohammed Atta, the lead suicide pilot in the World Trade Center destruction, denounced as traitors those fellow Muslims who condemned these "terrorist" bombings. He would encourage more attacks. Indeed, he would donate five thousand dollars (such is the apparent cost of such acts) to carry out another such bombing. That is how much, he thought, it would take to finance another London attack, another "volunteer" to kill others by killing himself.

Suicide Bombers Treated As Martyrs

A July 30th report in the London Spectator depicted the in absentia funeral in Pakistan of one of the London suicide bombers, Shehzad Tenweer. The Koran was read; a large crowd was present. Tanweer was popularly considered a "martyr" for his "heroic" act that killed seven people. It is this topic that I wish to discuss — the notion that a "suicide bomber" is a "martyr," a hero, to be imitated and encouraged, while those who oppose such actions, even if they are Muslim, are condemned.

In his recent address to Muslim leaders in Cologne Benedict XVI, seeking some common ground between Muslims and Christians, remarked, "I am certain that I echo your own thought when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of terrorism. Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world.... Terrorism of any kind is a perversion and cruel decision which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines that very foundations of all civil society." Presumably, suicide bombings are a sub-set of "terrorism," itself an abstract word that avoids the explanation of "by whom?" and "for what purpose?"

The question is, does this "common ground" exist and what is its basis? Clearly, no common ground exists between the positive promotion of and the absolute condemnation of suicide bombing. Either it is right or wrong. If it is wrong, any organization or movement promoting it as a matter of principle and policy cannot be a valid religion or philosophy, no matter how earnest or sincere its proponents may be. Are those Muslims who do have "common ground" with Christians and Jews in condemning suicide bombings – say on the basis of "rights" or natural law or reason – also thought to be "heretics" by accepted Muslim standards? Ought "suicide bombing" to be encouraged under any conceivable circumstances?

This claim of the moral approval of suicide bombing, clearly found within uncomfortably large segments of Islam, is surely the point of many Muslims calling a suicide bomber a "martyr." Historically, a martyr was not and could not be a "suicide." Even Socrates at his trial had to explain why his acceptance of death at the hands of the State, even his self-administration of the death penalty, was not a suicide. Nor was Christ’s crucifixion a voluntary suicide. In fact, a martyr is the exact opposite of a suicide bomber. A martyr is someone who upholds – by his being unjustly killed – the Socratic principle that it is never right to do wrong, even to oneself, no less to others.

More bluntly, a suicide bomber, by any objective standard, cannot be a martyr, though he may be the cause of the martyrdom of others. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have said that such deeds can never be justified by reason or religion, even when some religions or sects evidently do so justify them. A line is drawn in the sand. To approve and foster suicide bombing is to make something intrinsically evil to appear as good. This position has serious implications. Positive advocacy of suicide bombing, not to mention terrorist bombing that does not include suicide, indicates that the teaching of persons or groups holding the doctrine supporting it cannot be true.

Muslim Ambivalence?

Italian journalist Sandro Magistro, in a long essay, charted the connection between the leaders of Muslim groups in Germany, with headquarters in Cologne and Munich, to the Muslim Brotherhood with Egyptian and Syrian connections. Indeed, we know that at least some of the World Trade Center attacks were originally planned in Germany. "In 1994, a frequent visitor of the mosque in Munich, Mahmoud Abouhalima, was given a life sentence in the United States for having organized, one year before, the car bomb attack on the World Trade Center in New York. But it was only after the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, that investigations into the connections between terrorism and the radical Islamic circle in Germany intensified."

A BBC report (August 21), in a Panorama debate about whether the British Muslim community refuses to look at the extremists among them, cites the leading British Muslim politician, Sir Iqbal Sacranie. He "condemns suicide bombings by British Muslims anywhere and said there was no difference between the life of a Palestinian and the life of a Jew and that all life was sacred." But just to confuse things, "in a separate interview, a senior spokesman for one of the MCB’s (Muslim Council of Britain) main affiliates, the Muslim Association of Britain, appeared to condone the glorification of suicide bombers." Numerous Muslim sources can be cited as approving this latter view.

Led by Prime Minister Blair and President Bush, Western leaders, both religious and political, have sought valiantly to maintain the separation between "peaceful" Muslims and "terrorism." Implicitly this distinction implies that only "peaceful" Muslims are "really" Muslims, if this liberal and theological distinction is correct. Unfortunately, the "terrorists" themselves do claim with considerable historical and doctrinal evidence, on Koranic grounds, that they are in fact the true interpreters of Islam. In one sense, it is "illiberal" not to take them at their word. One of the problems with understanding Islam is that it has no final authority within itself to decide which of these two interpretations is valid. For every fatwa that pronounces suicide bombing wrong, another from another equally credible source pronounces it valid. This situation is perhaps why Blair and others are more and more insisting that Muslims, so that they can be held accountable, stand up and be counted in public as rejecting "terrorism" not only as a practice but as inherent in Islamic sources.

The test of Pius XII was Nazism. The test of John Paul II was Communism and absolutist liberalism. The test of Benedict XVI, for better or for worse, is Islam – and this in the context whether or not the absolutist liberal theory can tame it. But Islam, unlike Nazism and Communism and likewise unlike many academic analyses of it, is not primarily understood in terms of Western (often German) philosophical or social movements. Indeed, attempts to understand what is going on by these categories is more likely to obscure the truth than to clarify it.

By its record and its own theological presuppositions, Islam itself does not have and does not seek to have a regime of neutrality or tolerance. Its civil polities now and historically unite Islam and the state in various configurations. What Islam practices for non-Muslims within areas it politically controls, as Bat Ye’or has graphically shown in Eurabia, is a theory and practice of subservience. Jews and Christians may be given a special place of subservience, sometimes called tolerance, but it is still subservience. The Copts in Egypt are perhaps the longest lasting example of this (see First Things, March, 2005, 47-50). The persecution of Christians in Sudan is the most graphic example.

The Final Goal

The first step in dealing with any movements or religion is to know what it is, what it holds about itself. Often, to be sure, a difference can be found between what one says he holds and what he holds to act on or practice. But not a few thinkers, like Hitler or Lenin, did tell us what they held and what they intended to do before they went ahead and did it. No one believed them until after they did what they told us that they intended to do.

In this sense, Mohammed and Islam itself, in word and action, do tell us what they have done and what they intend to do, if they could. One can say with little doubt that Europe today was intended by Islamic warriors to be Muslim. Europe, as Africa and the Middle East, was invaded for that purpose. And this purpose was conceived to be a religious purpose; the armies were fulfilling a mission. This goal is still held to be the purpose of the Muslim factions called "terrorists." The only reason Europe is not Muslim today is that Muslim armies were defeated by hard-fought military action in France and Austria. Many Islamic thinkers do not admit that any area that was taken back from Muslim control (Spain, for instance) is still not theirs. There is no legitimate "taking back," something that makes the Spanish elections after their own recent "terrorist" bombings doubly ironical.

Moreover, most of the world that is officially Muslim today is Muslim because of long strings of military victories and conquests which have remained to form, in one way or another, present Islamic configurations. This situation is simply a fact, whatever we make of it. Terrorist actions today are generally formulated in terms either of winning back former Muslim lands (Spain, Israel, Balkans) or pursuing the Muslim goal of peace by which is meant the whole world under Muslim law. This rule indeed would be a kind of "peace" with all external opposition eliminated.

The present Islamic division between the "world of war" (non-Muslim lands) and the "world of peace" would be eliminated. No doubt, the unexpected rise of a visibly militant Islam in recent decades is the result of certain Muslim theoreticians who see the West as morally weak and degenerate, unwilling or unable to resist a concentrated attack, inspired by suicide bombers. The fact that no reputable Muslim army is capable of fighting well-equipped troops, as the two Iraq wars show, does not mean no war exists. Rather it means that we have an unlimited or unrestricted war that is fought with unconventional weapons.

The only thing really new today is that Islam, if patient, might well take over Europe and other areas through a combination of self-inflicted and rapid population decline among European peoples paralleled to continued rapid increase of Muslim birthrates in this area. This latter drama should be of especial interest to Catholics who once doubted the relevance of Humanae Vitae. In this light, it now appears as one of the most important documents of the twentieth century. In this sense, it is conceivable that Islam may not succeed precisely because it did not follow the "peaceful" population route but provoked the one power capable of using systematic force against it. But it remains to be seen whether a long-term political will to oppose the "terrorist" agenda can be sustained in democracies. The terrorists themselves seem sufficiently sophisticated to realize that the war is one not just of armies but of ideas and nightly news.

Little can be done about any dangerous threat until this clarity about its nature is forthcoming. And even when its reality is recognized — I think of the Munich agreements or the control of Eastern by the Soviets after World War II — will and decision to do something about it must follow intelligence, assuming it is accurate. A German publisher has famously described contemporary Europe as a continent that completely lacks courage to face what threatens it. The vaunted European "diplomacy" to use "other" means than force, as in the case of trying to convince Iran not to produce nuclear weapons is simply not effective.

The Horror of Terrorist "Martrydom"

Perhaps nothing has needed clarification more at every level from theological to political to medical and commonsensical than the difference between suicide bombing and martyrdom. It seems almost obscene to see them linked together as manifestations of the same thing. We should begin by affirming that the Muslim apologists and those who follow them do hold that suicide bombing is "martyrdom." It is an act chosen to further their destiny with Allah by killing themselves and others in a "cause" of furthering Muslim goals that are at the same time political and theological. Whatever we think of this view, it is held either actively or in sympathy by a large part of the Muslim world. Though there are those who do, few within the Muslim world itself voice much effective criticism of this association of suicide and martyrdom.

It is well and good for us cynically to think, using our own uncomprehending categories, that for the various Bin Ladens of this world this suicide bombing is just a form of "realpolitik," with no religious overtone. We might reinforce our view by noting that few Al Qaeda leaders themselves have been suicide bombers, though not a few have been shot by various military and police forces, both of Muslim governments and by the American army. Suicide bombing is definitely an instrument of war, but that does not, in theological terms, prevent it also from being something like an act of devotion, a martyrdom. Wars can be "holy."

One thing is quite clear – and this is found even in Aristotle – that if a man is willing to give up his life to attack or kill someone else, it is very difficult and often impossible to stop him. Groups or institutions such as the Secret Service and Scotland Yard are in part designed to prevent the killing of politicians and their families from such suicide bombers. A number of American presidents have been killed by men who did not care for their own lives. But rarely was their motive religious. This power of the man who cares not for his life means, in practice, that if we know someone is on a suicide-bombing mission, he must be stopped or killed first if innocent people are to be protected. The only alternative is to let it happen because this killing is what the terrorist intends to do and will do, as we see in hundreds and hundreds of instances. I recently came across a website that listed, with times and places, 2400 acts of terrorism since 9/11 in various parts of the world. These were from Muslim sources involving the killing of others (but not all suicide bombings, of course).

The Islamic suicide bomber does not think that those who are killed in their "mission" are "innocent." Subjectively, they understand that they are killing "enemies" of Allah even if those killed are women, children, elderly, or just passers-by. This is a radically erroneous conscience, of course, but it seems to exist. Suicide bombing is rarely random. Someone orders it to happen; someone obeys the orders. The purpose of suicide bombers is precisely, by carrying out orders, to help to extend Islam to its "rightful" immediate or long-term dimensions, the conquest of the world for Allah. This great "cause," nutty as it may sound to us, is evidently what gives nobility and dignity to such acts of what the rest of us call "terrorism."

The Erroneous, Deadly Conscience

As I wrote immediately after 9/11 (www.tcrnews.com, 15 September 2001), even on the principles of Catholic moral thought which says that a truly erroneous conscience must be obeyed (Veritatis Splendor, 57-64), it is possible that the suicide bombers went to heaven along with those they killed, if we can assume they were true religious believers and following their consciences with no chance within their culture or personal history of correcting themselves. This view does not make the act right or eliminate its consequences, but it takes seriously what some Muslims evidently hold.

In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II spent a considerable time discussing the notion of martyrdom. Ironically, that 1993 encyclical was not written with the suicide bombers in mind, though they were already active. The notion of dying for one’s faith is an ancient and noble one. It attests to things more important than life. Sometimes, in the course of too many human lives, the only choice they had was between dying or doing evil. To choose to stay alive and renounce one’s beliefs or understanding of virtue meant implicitly a denial of the principle at stake. The only way to uphold the principle in fact would be to accept death, but it was not one’s choice to die as such, hence not suicide. The traditions of St. Stephen and Thomas More, following Christ, was to forgive, but not condone, those who carried out the death sentence, both the executioners and those morally responsible for ordering it.

"Charity, in conformity with the radical demands of the Gospel, can lead the believer to the supreme witness of martyrdom," wrote John Paul II (Veritatis Splendor, 89). He went on: "The relationship between faith and morality shines forth with all its brilliance in the unconditional respect due to the insistent demands of the personal dignity of every man, demands protected by those moral norms which prohibit without exception actions which are intrinsically evil" (90). Among such actions, the document points out (80), is "voluntary suicide." But "suicide bombing" is something more than just "voluntary suicide." Back in the Vietnam War, we had instances of Buddhist monks burning themselves to death in protest against something or other. Though the act was bad enough in itself, those monks did not intend to take anyone else with them.

The whole point of the contemporary suicide bomber is precisely to "take someone else with him." And who are these "someones"? They can be soldiers – usually in areas where obvious distinctions of combatants and non-combatants is deliberately obscured. But they can be and often are passengers in buses or airliners, or shoppers in markets, or just about anyone. The bombing is of the innocent is precisely to make publicity and cause civil unrest and even retribution against some outside "cause."

If the analysis presented here is generally valid, the major conclusion is that any group, religion, philosophy, or world-view that positively advocates and carries out this practice of suicide bombing cannot be true. What is at stake is not merely a distinction between two divergent groups within one religion, but the very possibility of any truth existing in that part of the religion that advocates suicide bombing as "martyrdom" in its religious "cause.


On the Term "Islamo-Fascism"

By Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Originally posted August 15, 2006


The war in which we are currently engaged confuses us, in part because many will not admit it is a war. We do not know what to call it. Nor do we know what to call the self-declared enemy who has been attacking us in one form or another for some twenty-five years, ever more visibly and dangerously since 9/11, 2001, with subsequent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Spain, London, Bombay, Bali, Paris, Lebanon, and Israel.

There are those who insist that it is not a "war" at all but perhaps, at best, a police issue -- no big problem. Others contend that it is a result of American or Western expansionism so that its cure is simply for us to return to our frontiers and be content with what we have. If we do this withdrawal, every threat will immediately cease at this point. In another view it is due to poverty and oppression, even though most of the perpetrators of the war are quite rich. Yet another interpretation is that this turmoil stems from a very small minority with no relation to national or religious origins, a kind of floating international brigade of bandits, like the Mafia, out for their own profit and glory. The variants on these themes are almost infinite.

What names should we use that will accurately define and designate the cause? Calling things by their right names is the first requirement of reality; refusing to do so, the first cause of confusion, if not defeat. At first, we were told that the war is against something called "terrorism." Its perpetrators were logically called "terrorists." It was considered "hate-language" to call them anything else. However, we find listed on no map a place called "Terroritoria," where said "terrorists" otherwise dwell in peace plotting our demise. It has no capital, no military uniform for its mostly invisible troops, no rules of combat. In this designation, some difficult ensues when we try to identify or designate a group that just wants to "terrorize" others, as if that is an explanation. Some may like to travel or to fish for pleasure; they like "terror" for terror's sake, just a question of taste.

Of course, this membership in a supposed organization called "Terror International" is not what the known "terrorists" claim for themselves. They look on this designation with contempt since it misses the whole nature of what they think that they are doing. But the term "terrorism" seems temporarily useful because it avoids the politics of naming more carefully just who these actual men (and women) are who carry out these, to us, seemingly senseless bombings. Are they so "senseless" after all? That is, do they have their own rationale and are we intellectually willing to face what it is?

All along, as a chief tactic of the "terrorists," we have had "suicide bombers." "Suicide bombing" is, thus far, the main delivery system of the "terrorists." It is remarkably effective in creating immediate chaos. We have almost forgotten how used we have become to this utterly corrupt practice that undermines, and seeks to undermine, the very basis of any possible civilization opposed to it. Those who practice "suicide bombing" (it is a once in a lifetime occupation, to be sure) call themselves "martyrs." They are, when successful, treated as heroes by other "terrorists" and their admirers. Thus, the same action is called in one political zone "terrorism," while, in another, it is called "martyrdom." What do words mean?

To perform this switch of meaning, of course, the "terrorists" had also to call the "victims" of "suicide bombers," not innocent objects of terrorism, as we call them, but guilty opponents of the cause for which "terrorism" really stands, its religious mission in the world. Even when people of one's own religion are killed, they are said, theologically, like the "suicide bombers" themselves, to have been done a favor in reaching heaven more quickly.

So what language do we use to speak of this horrendous situation? We also hear used the word "Islamicist," or "Islamism." We hear "Jihadists," or holy warriors. We are struck with the fierceness with which the "terrorists" themselves reject being called "fascists" or, what they also are, "terrorists." They sense that the term, "Islamo-fascism," or any of its variants, undermines or disparages what, in their own minds, is the legitimacy or morality of their "cause." We have here an issue that forces us to consider the very roots of the "terrorists'" understanding of their own motivations.

The fact that almost all the "terrorists," no matter their country of birth, have Muslim origins, moreover, brings us up against our own ecumenical or liberal theories, which do not allow us to "profile" or stigmatize or even accuse of bad motives those who do carry out the killings. The argument sometimes goes: All religions are "peaceful." Islam is a religion. Therefore, Islam is peaceful. This is not an historical syllogism that explains the actual record of the expansion of Islam from its beginning in Arabia till its reaching Tours in the eighth century and Vienna in the sixteenth. Nor does it explain the violence and law used within Muslim states to prevent any expression of faith or philosophy that does not conform to their own understanding of the Koran. This earlier expansion was almost exclusively by military conquest, often extremely brutal, against Christian, Persian, Hindu, or other lands.


More recently, the term "Islamo-fascism" has been coined in an effort to describe the source and nature of "terrorism." I want to examine the appropriateness of this term, as I think it serves to get at the core of the problem. Is "Islamo-fascism" really accurate for what the reality is? Initially, the term obviously is not a product of Islamic thinkers thinking of themselves, though some more recent Muslim thinkers have studied the Marxists and the fascists. No Imam in Iran or Egypt, however, suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night and shouts, "That's it! I am an Islamo-fascist; why did I not think of that before?" No pious youth in Mecca reads the Collected Works of Benito Mussolini and muses to himself, "Yes, this is what Mohammed was about in the Koran."

Rather the term comes from Western politicians and writers. They are desperately seeking a word or expression that they can use, one that avoids suggesting that the war in fact has religious roots, as the people who are doing the attacking claim it does. To say that war has "religious" roots violates a code, a constitutional principle. Wars are political not religious. Therefore, their explanation must be political, must arise from modern political science. Hobbes, "where are you when we need you?" Religion cannot be a serious motivation, especially over the centuries. We must look elsewhere. Only social "science" can explain this phenomenon.

"Fascism," in this context, thus becomes a handy term. We thought that we were rid of that menace after World War II, of course. Compared to Marxism and Nazism, it was, in fact, the mildest of the ideologies of our recent time. Many of its features, originally designed for other situations, can appear to apply to what is going on in our "terrorist"-infected world. This happy analytic result, it is said, justifies us in joining "Islam" and "fascism" together in a way that apparently absolves most of Islam of anything to do with the problem or any responsibility for Muslims doing anything about it. At the same time, it demonstrates the usefulness of western political science in understanding modern movements. If science cannot understand something, it cannot be understood, goes the accepted wisdom.

If for no other reason than the sake of clarity, let us think our way further through this murky issue of what to call what we are dealing with. We have to call it something because it is something. It will not "go away" peacefully any time soon. Aristotle indicated that the first issue in political things is to describe accurately the nature of a regime under scrutiny. What exactly is it? This seemingly simple explanatory effort can itself be quite dangerous, quite personally dangerous, as Muslims who question their own roots soon find out. Many powerful, even many weak, governments do not like to be called what they scientifically are. Moreover, a distinction can be found between what some political thing is and what we are allowed to call it because of our own philosophical or political positions. The political control of language, as George Orwell suggested, is itself an instrument of tyranny. Moreover, such a thing as political philosophy exists even apart from any actual regime and what it allows us to call it.

We should by now be used to totalitarian regimes insisting on calling themselves "republics" or "democracies" and punishing anyone who refuses to accept a government's own definition of itself. Today, the accurate use of language, apparently something guaranteed in our amendments, is a minefield. We have something like "hate crimes" whose effect is in fact to prevent us from naming exactly what we are dealing with. Philosophy in these circumstances is driven underground. The phenomenon of philosophy being driven underground was, as Leo Strauss once remarked, a major issue within medieval Islamic philosophy.


The Washington Times recently (August 12, 2006) published a useful and insightful editorial, "It's Fascism," that I will use to comment on this nomenclature. First, the editorial points out the gradual change in President Bush's designation of the enemy. He, with Mr. Blair, began using the word "terrorist," but more recently he has used the designation "fascist." "Is this a legitimate use?" the editorial asks. Fascism, it continues, is a "political philosophy" that exalts a group or nation over the individual. It could also imply a religion. Fascism promoted central rule, subordinated individuals to "political leadership." The term thus can legitimately be used to designate those responsible for the recent "terrorist" understandings of themselves.

The editorial identifies groups like "al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas" and other organizations as "fascist," that is, they operate in effect on these principles. "Non-Muslims" are regarded as "a lesser breed of expendable or contemptible dhimmis and infidels." Social and economic restrictions are placed on every group that does not conform to the ruling power. The editorial says, "this is not mainstream Islam.... It is a corruption of the faith."

Evidently, The Washington Times was among the first to use the designation "Islamofascism." It was related to a German-born Muslim scholar, Kalid Duran, in an interview about his book, An Introduction to Islam for Jews, in The Washington Times. In spite of Muslim organization protests, the editorial maintained that its use of the term was simply an accurate description of what, with proper distinctions, these people did. "Islamofascism speaks for itself. It is a real phenomenon." It is not illegal, immoral, or even impolite to call it what, judging from its actions, it is.

The question I ask, in the light of this case for the use of the term "Islamofascism," is this: does this term clarify or obscure the issue? Let me propose a thought process. Recently, a friend told me of reading a report from London about how one of the "terrorists" designated to blow up a transatlantic flight was to be accompanied by his wife and child. The explosive was to be in the baby's bottle. The man was willing to blow up himself, his wife, and his young child in the cause for which these ten or so planes were to be destroyed by similar methods.

Now this proposal, in itself, strikes us as simply horrendous, insane, mad. Moreover, let us suppose that the plot was not detected and was successful. Within the course of several hours, analogous to the relative success of 9/11, ten planes with a total of, say, two or three thousand passengers flying from London to New York had been destroyed. What would the reaction of this news been in Tehran or Cairo or other Muslim capitals? I would like to be wrong on this, but judging from previous instances, I greatly fear that, in too many cases, there would have been cheering, not horror. This heinous act would have been interpreted -- not by all but by many -- as a stunning success and a blow at the great Satan. We would probably have heard from the President of Iran or Osama ben Laden himself or someone of that level that more was in store, that the final day of reckoning is nearer.

What do these speculations have to do with the term "Islamofascism?" When 9/11 first happened, I recall commenting on this very issue, this time in the case of the young men who plotted, planned, and carried out the destruction of the World Trade Center. What, in their own minds, did they think they were doing? Did they think they were executing an "Islamofascist" plot? Hardly. Did they think they were in it for money? Surely not. They were in it for the glory that comes from what they saw to be the "brave" act of destroying the symbol of the great emery, his communication center. This act would go down in sacred history as the first step. Other successes would surely follow.

What was in it for them? Exactly what their religion said was in it. They were doing the work of Allah. The world could not know peace until it was subjugated to his rule as laid down in the holy book. The advance had been stymied for hundreds of years, set back, but now a new, glorious opportunity arose. Young men, willing to die, flocked to the cause. There is a sense of purpose, the reestablishment of the Caliphate, the subjugation and elimination of the enemies, the Christians, the Jews, the Hindus, the Chinese. Not all would be eliminated, of course. It is a religion of peace. All would be "converted," except perhaps for a few insignificant ones. This is why Islam is in the world.

But, one might protest, are there no rules about means? And Islam is said to want to achieve these world goals "peacefully." My only point in following this question of the use of the word "Islamofascism" is that it does not describe what these men think they are doing. Nor does it help that some thus far ineffective Muslim apologists do not think that the term describes what the religion means. It is what these men think and evidently practice. What has to take place, in response, is some more adequate confrontation with the incoherence of this claim to world-subjection to Allah as an inner-worldly political mission powered by a quasi-mystical devotion to its cause. In this sense, in the minds of the ones carrying out the attacks, it is religious, not ideological, in origin.

A somewhat bewildered American President and British Prime Minister have understood, whereas many politicians have not, that there is a real war and a real enemy. They have been prudent in their use of language, catering to differing usages both in western democracies and in the Muslim world. Their general approach has been to seek to isolate the "terrorists" from the rest of the Muslim world. This world itself has been caught up for centuries in a stagnant and almost totally controlled system usually under the power of a military that has served to sit on top of those religious radicals who would tear up the world. What the President thus has sought to do is finally to allow and encourage what he considers to be the great majority of Muslim citizens to be able to participate in a culture that is not dominated by such motives that burst forth frequently from within Islam to employ terror.

Just as The Washington Times proposes "Islamofascism" to describe what these missionary groups do to further their cause, so the President proposes "democracy" as the alternative way of life that would both mitigate the fanaticism and allow the majority to escape into their own self-ruling states. One drawback of this solution is often the internal moral condition of the democracies themselves. The "terrorists" never tire of pointing to this inner corruption that often manifests itself within our own souls. So there is a kind of war on two fronts that comes forth from thinking about "Islamofascism" -- that envisioned by the "terrorists" themselves and that of the alternative they see in us which justifies, in their own minds, their violent ways.

Words, I am sure, have to be themselves used "wisely." It is not always easy to describe or hear what we actually are. The root causes of "suicide bombers" and the attacks of the "terrorists" are not primarily in western political philosophy. The "suicide bombers," while they sometimes learn to use sophisticated weapons, have shown the folly of much discussion about nuclear weapons -- the weapons are not the problem, but who has them. Moreover, as 9/11 showed, modern civilization is so complex than even the simplest acts like flying a plane into a building are as lethal as anything we can conceive. No one doubts, however, that these "terrorists" would use more sophisticated means if they could manage it.

In the meantime, one or two potential terrorists have made everyone of us take our shoes off or empty our bottles before we fly anywhere in the world. The cost of their even trying unsuccessfully to blow us up is itself astronomical. The first question remains, not "How do we protect themselves from their threats?" We must ask that, of course. But the first question has to be, "Why in the first place do they still want to threaten and, yes, conquer us?" I suspect we cannot answer this latter question primarily for reasons within our own political philosophy.

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University.

The Enneagram: Psychic Babble

By Mary Jo Anderson
Global Watch

No fad has swept through Catholic seminaries and retreat centers in recent years with as much fervor as has the Enneagram.* Teaching the Enneagram, variously billed as “the mirror of the soul” and “a map to the psyche,” has become the new profession of former priests, who offer it as a spiritual guide and an aid to pastoral practice. Welcomed in some dioceses, reviled in others, the Enneagram is a growing source of controversy among Catholic professionals in the fields of education, counseling, and priestly formation.

Shrouded in an ancient, semimysterious past, the Enneagram Theory of Personality is often compared to the better-known Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. What most Catholics do not know is that the Enneagram has its origins in the occult, specifically in alchemy, Sufi mysticism, whirling dervishes, astrology, Hindu mantras, and the occult Kabbala. Catholic defenders of the Enneagram, anxious to shed any relationship with the occult, point to similar teachings in early Greek geometry, Pythagorean seals, the Desert Fathers, Christian Mystics, and Scripture. As one trainer explained, "What is good we may appropriate for Christianity, just as we did with the thought of Aristotle."

What's Your Type?

The Enneagram's proponents claim that it is superior to all other systems of personality theory. Extolled as a psychological tool for self-discovery, the Enneagram typology is employed in business and management training, family counseling, education, and a myriad of self-help groups. Study of the Enneagram has exploded-hundreds of books and tapes, dozens of schools, countless seminars and retreats are available to the public. Each teacher or "master" gives his or her school a particular flavor. Leaving aside the intricacies of the different teachings and the squabbles among factions, a basic outline of the Enneagram provides a framework for an examination of the theory and its application. Greek for nine (ennea) letters (gramma), "Enneagram" stands for both the symbol and the typology that has grown up around it. The symbol, which some call the "Face of God," consists of a circle enclosing an equilateral triangle and two incomplete triangles that meet in nine points along the circle's circumference. The typology is based on the nine points, each of which is ascribed a particular personality trait or style of character. How those styles are labeled-either as positive (reformer, helper) or negative (self-righteous, manipulator)-depends on your school of thought.

Enneagram theorists assume that everyone responds to the world from within the fixations of their type. The goal of Enneagram practitioners is to achieve liberation from the ego limitations determined by one's placement on the circle. The discovery of one's location, one's point-on-the-circle, say believers, also is the discovery of an inner dynamic that indicates the direction of change leading to freedom from "brokenness." Once you have determined your type or number, principally by "auto-diagnosis" with the aid of a teacher, you'll soon understand why your behavior follows certain patterns. Equally intriguing, of course, is that you also may solve the mystery of your spouse's stubbornness or your pastor's love of tradition.

Thus, in theory, the Enneagram provides tools that enable you to relate to others more effectively. By detaching yourself from your point on the circle and moving toward the center, you gain the enlightened perspective of truth in the round. Once capable of seeing reality from the center-that is, detached from the deficiencies of your type-you rediscover the "divine within," unified now with the whole of reality. Enneagram gurus caution that few reach this lofty goal; most content themselves with a lifetime of movement toward the center. For example, one Enneagram theory identifies the following nine personality types, each with a "root sin" and "wings" or tendencies toward those types on either side of their primary fixation.

Subscribers to Enneagram theory concede that at the identifying stage, it is critical that one be honest and not attempt to choose a type, but recognize what one is. “Why prefer one personality over another when all are equally dysfunctional? Who'd prefer leukemia to lupus? The goal is to become healthy," commented Jack Labanauskas, copublisher of the Enneagram Monthly magazine. Admitting that self-description often leads to wrong typecasting, many teachers advise working with others who know you, and taking multiple classes until you are confident you have arrived at your correct identification.

After a correct diagnosis, the objective is to dismantle the fixation by seeking its redemption in a corresponding virtue. Thus an anger-fixated 1 seeks tranquillity, while the greed-dominated thinker, type 5, is counseled to learn to love, and so forth.

It was in an ancient text (a medieval grimoaire) about the Chaldean seal (enneagram) where I first came across this diagram which, for the Chaldeans was a magical figure….

The enormous appeal of this typology is the belief that one gains a guilt-free blueprint to the soul: "What's wrong with me? Why do I always do this?" In response, the Enneagram comforts its believers with the teaching that we are not responsible for our behavior patterns. Having arrived in this plaoe &127;hole-before the world inflicted its trauma upon us-we became determined at our respective points along the circle, perhaps as three- or four-year-olds. Trapped in this type, the personality has an excuse for everything, "Well, what did you expect-after all, I am a 3."

Roots of an Occult Practice

As the popularity of the Enneagram grows, so does the concern that this bogus New Age practice is being more widely accepted among Catholics. That's the opinion of Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., of the University of Dallas. Pacwa is best known for his witty and intelligent debunking of the New Age movement. "I was one of the first teachers of the Enneagram in this country," he reports, "and I learned it in Chicago from Father Bob Ochs. I taught it to Father Richard Rohr in his kitchen! Now he is an Enneagram expert with books and tapes, hopping across the country giving workshops."

Pacwa's book, Catholics and the New Age Movement, devotes a chapter to the Enneagram, "Occult Roots of the Enneagram." An enigmatic Greek Armenian, George Gurdjieff, born in Russia about 1870, is generally acknowledged as the bearer of the enneagram to the West. His autobiography relates his travels through Central Asia, Tibet, and India. Gurdjieff's wanderings led him to Nasqshbandi Sufis and their claim to be "Masters of Wisdom," where an inner circle of enlightened masters teach these ancient truths, orally, to selected student-seekers. The esoteric teachings that characterize their beliefs were revealed to men by spirits called "Transformed Ones." Gurdjieff gathered a band of believers and in Moscow they established The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Fleeing to Paris and on to New York following the Bolshevik Revolution, Gurdjieff set up shop, teaching "Esoteric Christianity."

A catalog of the beliefs of Gurdjieff's Esoteric Christianity includes the head, heart, and gut division of man, which must be kept in balance by spiritual dances (based on enneagram dynamics) ensuring that one remain spiritually awake. Most importantly, the essence of man is the material of the universe-a divine essence. According to Margaret Anderson, author of The Unknown Gurdjieff, few people are able to shed their ego-the personality style adopted at age three-in order to release their essence, entrapped by the personality. The spiritual exercises taught by Gurdjieff were designed to effect that transformation. Gurdjieff's zeal for the enneagram lay in its power to reveal to men the cosmic process-the natural ordering of the universe-as he believed the enneagram reflected the numerical order of the universe itself. The symbol's numbering also fascinated mathematician Peter Ouspensky, who became a Gurdjieff disciple. The mathematical fact that 1 divided by 7 results in the repeating, nonterminating decimal .142857, without the digits 3, 6, or 9, while dividing 3, 6, or 9 into 1 results in self-repeating decimals was believed by Ouspensky to be the mathematical map of a harmonic universe-a divine inner order of all things. Gurdjieff and Ouspensky revered the enneagram to such a degree that they taught "Only what a man is able to put in the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand." Gurdjieff's work evolved into the "Fourth Way," which is a method of achieving inner perfection in ordinary life, rather than withdrawing from the world as do the yogi, fakir, and monks. The goal of Fourth Way practitioners is an accelerated transformation, returning to pure essence.

Gurdjieff, though he described the enneagram as the ultimate arbiter of truth, is not credited as the source of the Enneagram personality typing system. That claim is held by Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo's Enneagrammatic theory of "Protoanalysis" is recognized as the first systematic application of the enneagram to personality theory. His lifelong study spans three continents and brought him a United Nations award. Ichazo's initial encounter with the ancient symbol reads like mythology:

In 1943 I inherited my grandfather's library from my uncle Julio, who was a lawyer and a philosopher. It was in an ancient text (a medieval grimoaire) about the Chaldean seal (enneagram) where I first came across this diagram which, for the Chaldeans was a magical figure…In 1949 I started reading he work of Ouspensky, and in 1950 in Buenos Aires I was invited to a closed study group ofTheosophists, esoteric Rosicrucians and Martinists, where I participated in long discussions about the work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Here is where I first pointed out to this group that all the ideas proposed by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky could be traced to certain forms of Gnosticism and to specific doctrines of the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Manichaeans.

During his twenties, Ichazo traveled through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir to study with the Sufi's before returning home to craft his new theories. Ichazo's work in Trialectics, described as the logical laws of the "process of becoming," was complete by 1960. It became the principle behind Ichazo's Protoanalysis, which is a method "to acquire the supreme Good of enlightenment and unity with the Divine." Throughout South America groups formed to investigate this new synthesis of psychology, philosophy, and religion, and by 1969 in Santiago, Chile, Ichazo presented his teachings on Protoanaylsis and the doctrine of "Fixations" at the Institute of Applied Psychology. Soon thereafter, an American group of students, including Claudio Naranjo, traveled to Arica, Chile, for a ten-month study with Ichazo and his method of analysis. Ichazo moved his base to New York by 1971, founding the Arica Institute. Since that time Arica schools have opened worldwide. Arica claims to teach the deepest states of Protoanalysis, or the nine Divine Gnoses. The Arica school represents the founding of modern enneagrammatic practice, and is one of its two main branches. Its followers hint it is the only uncorrupted Enneagram teaching available.

Arica training and rituals include: Black Earth of Perfect Harmony Ceremony; Chua Ka; Psychocalisthenics, and The Nine Ways of Zhikr. A description of The Nine Ways of Zhikr is instructive: To Zhikr is to repeat the name of God. In the Arica Zhikr, Toham Kum Rah, the internal mantrum of the Divine, is repeated to specific patterns of music, movements, and breathing to produce a state of mystical, ecstacy and union with the Divine."

The Catholic Connection

Claudio Naranjo, a Fulbright scholar who studied with Ichazo in Chile, generally is credited with beginning the other branch of Enneagram teaching. Naranjo, a medical doctor and psychoanalyst, conducted research in psychopharmacology and taught psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A Guggenheim Fellow at the Institute for Personality and Research at UC Berkley, Naranjo left academia after his first visit with Ichazo in the late 1960s. Known for integrating Western psychotherapy with Eastern spirituality, he persuaded more than forty friends and followers to join him in his year's sojourn to Chile.

Upon Naranjo's return to California following his apprenticeship in Chile, a notice was posted at the Jesuit seminary in Berkley inviting interested persons to attend an introduction to the Enneagram given by Claudio Naranjo, M.D. Two of those who attended Naranjo's seminar were Helen Palmer and Bob Ochs, S. J. Celebrities of the Enneagram world Oscar Ichazo (top left) first to apply the enneagram to personality theory; Dr. Claudio Naranjo (top right) known for integrating Western psychotherapy with Eastern spirituality; Richard Riso (bottom left), a former Jesuit priest, worries that the Enneagram will become just another new age system; Fr. Richard Rohr (bottom right) founder/director of a retreat center popular among dissident Catholics.

Like dropping a pebble in a pond, so has the Enneagram spread since that first Berkley seminar. Palmer, a psychologist and a leading Enneagram teacher and writer, acknowledges a Catholic upbringing, but, according to her assistant, incorporates “facets and traditions from all the great religions." Fr. Ochs moved on to Chicago, where he taught the Enneagram to confreres and seminarians, including Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., and Fr. Pat O'Leary. Fr. Jerry Hair taught the Enneagram at retreat houses. Fr. Colin Maloney taught at the Jesuit theologate in Toronto, passing the Enneagram on to Tad Dunn, who trained novices. Fr. Richard Riso, too, was among the early students of the Enneagram. Pacwa remembers:

It was like a plague! Deacons and seminary candidates were required to be typed before entering seminary. It was pseudo-spirituality. We were encouraged at Enneagram workshops to use hallucinogenic drugs to achieve the altered states we were told we would later learn to reach on our own without the use of drugs. This pseudo-spirituality teaches that what you see in altered states of consciousness is the reality, our unaltered state is illusory. Pacwa is quick to point out that most teachers at parish centers, retreat houses, and workshops are unaware of the occult roots of the Enneagram. "Many, many good people and pastors have become entangled in this. They were brought the Enneagram by someone they trusted, so it's taught at parish retreats and workshops-they have no idea what this is." Pacwa's revelation has been unwelcome in some locales, while other dioceses have called on him to combat the system's popularity. Stressing the Gnostic theology at work in the Enneagram and all its offshoots, Pacwa further attacks the use of the system in psychology: "For pastoral counseling, the Enneagram is neither theologically correct nor psychologically effective." Nevertheless, the Enneagram continues to be widely taught in official Catholic settings, most recently by former priest, Pat Aspell, at the 1997 National Conference of Catholic Deacons.

The Rohr Connection

Popular retreat master Fr. Richard Rohr penned Discovering the Enneagram: Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey. Rohr's particular twist attaches a "root sin" to each fixation, and uses religious language for many of his explanations. Our root sin, in his scheme, is the obsession that defines all our choices, the friends we make, the jobs we take. This root sin is the source of our energy-the backside of our virtue.

Rohr is founder and director of the Albuquerque Center for Contemplation and Action, a gathering place for heterodox, dissident teachers. Visitors to Rohr's center include: Matthew Fox, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Joan Chittister, Daniel Berrigan, Edwina Gately, and Bishop Raymond Luker. Rohr retreated for a month of contemplation to the cottage of his late mentor, Thomas Merton, before withdrawing from New Jerusalem, a lay community he founded, in order to establish his Center for Contemplation and Action. Pacwa points out that the Enneagram pioneers were lapsed Catholics. "Gurdjieff left the seminary as a teenager. His parents wanted him to be an Orthodox priest; his own interests were in science." Gurdjieff's book, Meetings With Remarkable Men, recounts his fascination with the occult, including telepathy and astrology. He simply wandered off into Central Asia in order to follow his occult interests. Living with the Naqshbandis he learned that faith arose "from understanding…the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced." This claim is clearly opposed to Christian teaching: faith is a gift, freely given, independent of understanding.

Oscar Ichazo, Pacwa explains, "at age six became disillusioned with the Catholic Church because its teachings contradicted what he learned through an occultic out-of-body experience. He rejected what his Jesuit teachers told him of heaven and hell, claiming to have been there and learned more than Christ and the Church." According to Pacwa's research, Ichazo now declares he is a "master" in touch with previous esoteric masters, including the dead.

Bad Theology and Poor Pastoral Practice

Pacwa has said in summary, "The Enneagram is a combination of bad theology and poor pastoral practice, for which reasons I now criticize it. In the end, I quit teaching it because it didn't work. I noticed I was always mistyping people. Fr. Ochs quit teaching it. It is not science. It is not a new psychological development." The major objection from the scientific quarter is that no definitive proof exists for there being only nine personality types; a construct of Ichazo's that Pacwa maintains is based on Sufi numerology. "After taking the course on the Enneaoram, I searched for more information. . . . Ouspensky and other Gurdjieff disciples described cosmic interpretations, or used it to describe scientific experiments. None of them describes nine personality types." Indeed, even a cursory examination of the leading Enneagram books demonstrates a lack of basic consensus.

Among the leaders in the Enneagram world is the former Jesuit priest, Don Richard Riso. Riso is founder of The Enneagram Institute, located in New York with affiliations in Paris, Tokyo, and Zurich. Riso trademarked the phrase describing the Enneagram as "The Bridge Between Psychology and Spirituality." Interestingly, Riso worries about unscrupulous use of the Enneagram "bastardizing it to make it a function of our own egos, of our emotional needs, of our financial gains . . . [T]he Enneagram is much more powerful within an authentic spiritual community, led by a genuine spiritual teacher."

That said, it is ironic that a primary concern of Riso's has been to remove the mysticism and Sufi spirituality as the primary identification of the Enneagram, concentrating instead on research. He frets, "Without precision and clarity, the Enneagram is reduced to being simply another 'New Age' system." His fear is borne out in the Enneagram advertisements promising dating based on your number, or Tarot readings based on your type.

Dr. Theodore Millon (left) expressed reservations as to the Enneagram’s theoretical model, and compared it to the Rorschact test—an intuitive tool. Says Millon: “It may be art, but it is not science.” Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. (right): “The Enneagram is a combination of bad theology and poor pastoral practice…In the end, I quit teaching it because it didn’t work.”

Copublisher of the Enneagram Monthly, Jack Labanauskas was careful to point out for Crisis that the Enneagram is neutral; that just as fire can keep you warm or burn your house down, so the Enneagram is for good or evil. Citing Claudio Naranjo's new book, with an endorsement from Dr. Theodore Millon, professor of psychiatry at Harvard and professor of psychology at University of Miami, Labanauskas believes there is a growing acceptance of the Enneagram within the medical profession. This might not be so.

Pacwa reduces the problem of the Enneagram to its foundation: "We humans cannot save ourselves…Salvation is a free gift of God's grace which no human can earn."

Although Millon remeobered being asked by his publisher to write a blurb for the Naranjo book, he was clear that he was not endorsing the Enneagram system; rather, he was praising Naranjo as the "brilliant, intuitive clinician that he is." Millon explained further, "A thinking process is not the framework of the Enneagram. Naranjo is insightful; he is a keen observer." Millon expressed reservations as to the Enneagram's theoretical model, and compared it to the Rorschach test-an intuitive tool. "It may be art, but it is not science."

Millon offered an explanation for the Enneagram trend: "Life is chaotic. Chaos causes fear. People who need to create order are drawn to a model that explains it all. They are attracted to a fanciful, appealing schemata that neatly divides the world into categories. Once charismatic types come on the scene to give these schema purpose and direction, it gives them comfort. Spatially constructed templates are not equal to a scientific mode. It's not all that different from astrology."

Suggesting that the Enneagram is devoid of any spiritual content until paired with the spiritual discipline of one's own choosing, Labanauskas, too, resisted the characterization of the Enneagram as occult. A former Catholic alter boy, he recounts that as a teenager he developed an interest in graphology. He read The Tibetan Book of the Dead at nineteen. Transcendental meditation followed at twenty; he moved on to numerology and Tarot during the 1960s and 1970s. Labanauskas also practiced Chinese medicine in Italy before immigrating to New York, where he studied with a Tibetan group. It seems clear that for many in pursuit of "a higher consciousness" that no activity, save for witchcraft, is understood as occult.

Labanauskas, Riso, and others are earnest, warm, and intelligent men. They are, perhaps, the result of poor catechesis and the confused implementation of Vatican II. The striking factor present in all who talked of their involvement with the Enneagram is a deep spiritual hunger. The desire to be in union with God and to be whole is their preeminent goal. A disconcerting number of Catholics, even priests, who are enamored with the Enneagram are unclear on the doctrinal beliefs of Catholicism. Many fervently await a union of world religions, which they believe will initiate an era of true peace. Redemption, to most of them, means a return to a state of full knowledge from which we came. They are not reluctant to identify with Gnosticism; some suggest Gnostic teachings were unfairly suppressed by a patriarchal Church.

Pacwa reduces the problem of the Enneagram to its foundation: "We humans cannot save ourselves…Salvation is a free gift of God's grace which no human can earn." Neither is he convinced that the Enneagram can be purged of its occult roots or ever be acceptable for Christian use. In his experience, everyone who shared their excitement with the Enneagram also practiced one or more of the following: Zen, transcendental meditation, numerology, tarot, or astrology. Mixing these practices with Christianity is really no different than Santerria, where voodoo is awkwardly combined with certain aspects of Catholicism. Pacwa is unequivocal in his warning: "No Jesuit from my class, except myself, who took the Enneagram teaching is still a Jesuit today. All have left the priesthood."


Urbi Et Orbi Message of Pope Benedict XVI

Christmas 2007
Libreria Editrice Vaticana

“A holy day has dawned upon us.
Come you nations and adore the Lord.
Today a great light has come upon the earth.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters! “A holy day has dawned upon us.” A day of great hope: today the Saviour of mankind is born. The birth of a child normally brings a light of hope to those who are waiting anxiously. When Jesus was born in the stable at Bethlehem, a “great light” appeared on earth; a great hope entered the hearts of those who awaited him: in the words of today’s Christmas liturgy, “lux magna”. Admittedly it was not “great” in the manner of this world, because the first to see it were only Mary, Joseph and some shepherds, then the Magi, the old man Simeon, the prophetess Anna: those whom God had chosen. Yet, in the shadows and silence of that holy night, a great and inextinguishable light shone forth for every man; the great hope that brings happiness entered into the world: “the Word was made flesh and we saw his glory” (Jn 1:14).

“God is light”, says Saint John, “and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). In the Book of Genesis we read that when the universe was created, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Gen 1:2-3). The creative Word of God is Light, the source of life. All things were made through the Logos, not one thing had its being but through him (cf. Jn 1:3). That is why all creatures are fundamentally good and bear within themselves the stamp of God, a spark of his light. Nevertheless, when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, the Light himself came into the world: in the words of the Creed, “God from God, Light from Light”. In Jesus, God assumed what he was not, while remaining what he was: “omnipotence entered an infant’s body and did not cease to govern the universe” (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 184, No. 1 on Christmas). The Creator of man became man in order to bring peace to the world. For this reason, during Christmas night, the hosts of angels sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves” (Lk 2:14).

“Today a great light has come upon the earth”. The Light of Christ is the bearer of peace. At Midnight Mass, the Eucharistic liturgy begins with this very chant: “Today true peace has come down to us from heaven” (Entrance Antiphon). Indeed, it is only the “great” light manifested in Christ that can give “true” peace to men: that is why every generation is called to welcome it, to welcome the God who in Bethlehem became one of us.

This is Christmas – the historical event and the mystery of love, which for more than two thousand years has spoken to men and women of every era and every place. It is the holy day on which the “great light” of Christ shines forth, bearing peace! Certainly, if we are to recognize it, if we are to receive it, faith is needed and humility is needed. The humility of Mary, who believed in the word of the Lord and, bending low over the manger, was the first to adore the fruit of her womb; the humility of Joseph, the just man, who had the courage of faith and preferred to obey God rather than to protect his own reputation; the humility of the shepherds, the poor and anonymous shepherds, who received the proclamation of the heavenly messenger and hastened towards the stable, where they found the new-born child and worshipped him, full of astonishment, praising God (cf. Lk 2:15-20). The little ones, the poor in spirit: they are the key figures of Christmas, in the past and in the present; they have always been the key figures of God’s history, the indefatigable builders of his Kingdom of justice, love and peace.

In the silence of that night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born and lovingly welcomed. And now, on this Christmas Day, when the joyful news of his saving birth continues to resound, who is ready to open the doors of his heart to the holy child? Men and women of this modern age, Christ comes also to us bringing his light, he comes also to us granting peace! But who is watching, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a vigilant, praying heart? Who is waiting for the dawn of the new day, keeping alight the flame of faith? Who has time to listen to his word and to become enfolded and entranced by his love? Yes! His message of peace is for everyone; he comes to offer himself to all people as sure hope for salvation.

Finally, may the light of Christ, which comes to enlighten every human being, shine forth and bring consolation to those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war; to those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend against human dignity. It is the most vulnerable members of society – women, children, the elderly – who are so often the victims of brutal armed conflicts, terrorism and violence of every kind, which inflict such terrible sufferings on entire populations. At the same time, ethnic, religious and political tensions, instability, rivalry, disagreements, and all forms of injustice and discrimination are destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations. Throughout the world the number of migrants, refugees and evacuees is also increasing because of frequent natural disasters, often caused by alarming environmental upheavals.

On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate; to the tortured regions of Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia; to the whole of the Middle East – especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to the Balkans and to many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten. May the Child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions. To the thirst for meaning and value so characteristic of today’s world, to the search for prosperity and peace that marks the lives of all mankind, to the hopes of the poor: Christ – true God and true Man – responds with his Nativity. Neither individuals nor nations should be afraid to recognize and welcome him: with Him “a shining light” brightens the horizon of humanity; in him “a holy day” dawns that knows no sunset. May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace!

“Come you nations and adore the Lord.” With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, with the Magi and the countless host of humble worshippers of the new-born Child, who down the centuries have welcomed the mystery of Christmas, let us too, brothers and sisters from every continent, allow the light of this day to spread everywhere: may it enter our hearts, may it brighten and warm our homes, may it bring serenity and hope to our cities, and may it give peace to the world. This is my earnest wish for you who are listening. A wish that grows into a humble and trustful prayer to the Child Jesus, that his light will dispel all darkness from your lives and fill you with love and peace. May the Lord, who has made his merciful face to shine in Christ, fill you with his happiness and make you messengers of his goodness. Happy Christmas!


Are Truth, Faith, & Tolerance Compatible?

By Cardinal Ratzinger
Ignatius Insight

Jesus Christ is the only savior, says Christianity. "Can this absolute claim still be maintained today?" That’s the question addressed by the Vatican’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his new book, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions.

When, in 2000, the Catholic Church reiterated its teaching about Jesus in its declaration Dominus Iesus, "a cry of outrage arose from modern society," notes Ratzinger, "but also from great non-Christian cultures such as that of India: this was said to be a document of intolerance and of religious arrogance that should have no place in the world of today." Ratzinger argues that the Church’s teaching is not intolerant but true.

How can Christianity insist it is true in the face of other religions and philosophies making competing claims? Do truth and tolerance inevitably conflict with each other? Does respect for others mean all religions are equally true? Does the diversity of religions prove there’s no such thing as religious truth? Or do all religions ultimately teach the same thing? Are all religions capable of saving their adherents?

Truth and Tolerance is Ratzinger’s careful answers to these important questions.

Ratzinger confronts head-on the claim that Christianity has imposed European culture on other peoples. "Christianity … originated, not in Europe, but in the Near East, in the geographical point at which the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe come into contact," he writes.

Yes, Christianity has a European element. But above all it has a perennial message that comes from God, not from any human culture, argues Ratzinger. While Christians have sometimes pushed their cultures on other peoples, as have non-Christians, Christianity itself is alien to no authentically human culture. Its very nature as a free response to God’s gift of himself in Jesus Christ, means that Christianity must propose itself to culture, not impose itself.

The issues of truth and diversity in religion are also tackled by Ratzinger. Some people relegate religion to the realm of feelings and taste. As people’s feelings and tastes vary, so, too, do their religious ideas and practices. Ratzinger responds by presenting what he calls "the inevitability of the question of truth."

Other people argue that all religions essentially affirm the same things. Truth and Tolerance points to fundamental, non-negotiable differences among religions, as well as certain common elements.

Ratzinger distinguishes two main forms of religion. On the one hand, there is a kind of mysticism in which one seeks to merge into or become identical with everything, in an all-embracing, impersonal unity. Many Eastern religions and the New Age movement are religions of that sort. On the other hand, there is "a personal understanding of God," in which one is united in love with a personal God and yet remains distinct from him. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are examples of the latter kind of religion.

A first-rate theologian, as well as a church leader, Ratzinger also assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the three main contemporary approaches to a "theology of religions": exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism.

Exclusivism holds that only those who explicitly accept Christ and the Christian message can be saved. Inclusivism is the view that non-Christian religions implicitly contain Christian truth and therefore that their adherents are "anonymous Christians." Pluralism holds that there are many valid ways to God among the various religions.

At the heart of the discussion about the diversity of religions, contends Ratzinger, is the identity of Jesus Christ. Is the he the sole savior, prefigured by other religious leaders perhaps but nonetheless unique? Is he one among many religious figures who bring salvation? Is he the one true God in human flesh, rather an avatar or one among many different manifestations of the divine?

Christianity has always held that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is definitive, argues Ratzinger. The divinity of Jesus is "the real dividing line in the history of religions," which makes sense of "two other fundamental concepts of the Christian faith, which have become unmentionable nowadays: conversion and mission."

Relativism, which Ratzinger calls "the central problem for faith in our time," lurks behind most modern mistakes about faith and morality. The net result is a deep skepticism about whether anything is true or can be known to be true.

Christianity can help modern thought overcome its relativism and skepticism by presenting the One who is the truth, Jesus Christ, the one who sets people free by their coming to know, understand and love the truth. Ratzinger explains how tolerance, reason and freedom are not only compatible with truth, but ultimately depend upon it.

With respect to the difficult subject of things interreligious, Ratzinger strongly supports interreligious dialogue, so long as it isn’t understood as assuming all points of view are and must be, in the end, equally valid. About interreligious prayer—understood as prayer together by Christians and non-Christians, with widely different religious views—he is more skeptical. He distinguishes multireligious prayer, where different religious groups come together but pray separate from one another, and interreligious prayer.

Ratzinger doubts whether reasonable conditions for interreligious prayer can generally be met. Still, he lays out careful criteria for such prayer, which include agreement about the nature of God, and the nature and subject of prayer, as well circumstances that don’t lend themselves to misunderstanding such common prayer as relativism or a denial of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith.

Truth and Tolerance is a book for anyone interested in how Christianity, world religions, faith, truth, and freedom fit together.

Excerpts from Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (footnotes have been removed).


The position that Christianity assigns itself in the history of religions is one that was basically expressed long ago: it sees in Christ the only real salvation of man and, thus, his final salvation. In accordance with this, two attitudes are possible (to it seems) with regard to other religions: one may address them as being provisional and, in this respect, as preparatory to Christianity and, thus, in a certain sense attribute to them a positive value, insofar as they allow themselves to be regarded as precursors. They can of course also be understood as insufficient, anti-Christian, contrary to the truth, as leading people to believe they are saved without ever truly being able to offer salvation. The first of these attitudes was shown by Christ himself with respect of the Old Testament. That this may also, in a way, be done with regard to all other religions has been clearly shown and emphasized only in recent times. We may in fact perfectly well say that the story of the covenant with Noah (Gen 8:20-9:17) establishes that there is a kernel of truth hidden in the mythical religions: it is in the regular "dying away and coming into existence" of the cosmos that the God who is faithful, who stands in a covenant relationship not merely with Abraham and his people, but with all men, exercises his providential rule. And did not the Magi find their way to Christ (even if they did so only by a round-about way, by way of Jerusalem, and by the Scriptures of the Old Testament) by means of the star, that is, by means of their "superstition", by their religious beliefs and practices (Mt 2:1-23)? Did not their religion, then, kneel before Christ, as it were, in their persons, recognizing itself as provisional, or rather as proceeding toward Christ?


The dominant impression of most people today is that all religions, with a varied multiplicity of forms and manifestations, in the end are and mean one and the same thing; which is something everyone can see, except for them. The man of today will for the most part scarcely respond with an abrupt No to a particular religion’s claim to be true; he will simply relativize that claim by saying "There are many religions." And behind his response will probably be the opinion, in some form or other, that beneath varying forms they are in essence all the same; each person has his own.


To me, the concept of Christianity without religion is contradictory and illusory. Faith has to express itself as a religion and through religion, though of course it cannot be reduced to religion. The tradition of these two concepts should be studied anew with this consideration in mind. For Thomas Aquinas, for instance, "religion" is a subdivision of the virtue of righteousness and is, as such, necessary, but it is of course quite different from the "infused virtue" of faith. It seems to me that a postulate of the first order of any carefully differentiated theology of religions would be the precise clarification of the concepts of faith and religion, which are mostly used so as to pass vaguely into each other, and both are equally used in generalized fashion. Thus, people talk of "faiths" in the plural and intend thereby to designate all religions, although the idea of faith is by no means present in all religions, is certainly not constitutive element for all of them, and—insofar, as it does occur—means very different things in them. The broadening of the concept of religion as an overall designation for the relationship of man to the transcendent, on the other hand, has only happened in the second part of the modern period. Such a clarification is urgently needed, especially for Christianity to have a proper understanding of itself and for the way it relates to other world religions.


Can or must a man simply make the best of the religion that happens to fall to his share, in the form in which it is actually practiced around him? Or must he not, whatever happens, be one who seeks, who strives to purify his conscience and, thus, move toward—at the very least—the purer forms of his own religion? If we cannot assume as given such an inner attitude of moving onward, if we do not have to assume it, then the anthropological basis for mission disappears. The apostles, and the early Christian congregations as a whole, were only able to see in Jesus their Savior because they were looking for the "hope of Israel"—because they did not simply regard the inherited religious forms of their environment as being sufficient in themselves but were waiting and seeking people with open hearts. The Church of the Gentiles could develop only because there were "Godfearers", people who went beyond their traditional religion and looked for something greater. This dynamic imparted to "religion" is also in a certain sense the case—this is what is true about what Barth and Bonhoeffer say—with Christianity itself. It is not simply a network of institutions and ideas we have to hand on but a seeking ever in faith for faith’s inmost depth, for the real encounter with Christ. In that way—to say it again—in Judaism the "poor of Israel" developed; in that way they would have to develop, again and again, within the Church; and in that way they can and they should develop in other religions: it is the dynamic of the conscience and of the silent presence of God in it that is leading religions toward one another and guiding people onto the path to God, not the canonizing of what already exists, so that people are excused from any deeper searching.


Anyone entering the Church has to be aware that he is entering a separate, active cultural entity with her own many-layered intercultural character that has grown up in the course of history. Without a certain exodus, a breaking off with one’s life in all its aspects, one cannot become a Christian. Faith is no private path to God; it leads into the people of God and into its history. God has linked himself to a history, which is now also his history and which we cannot simply erase. Christ remains man to eternity, retains a body to eternity; but being a man, having a body, includes having a history and a culture, this particular history with its culture, whether we like it or not. We cannot repeat the process of the Incarnation at will, in the sense of repeatedly taking Christ's flesh away from him, so to speak, and offering him some other flesh instead. Christ remains the same, even according to his body. But he is drawing us to him. That means that because the people of God is, not just a single cultural entity, but is gathered together from all peoples, therefore the first cultural identity, rising again from the break that was made, has its place therein; and not only that, but it is needed in order to allow the Incarnation of Christ, of the Word, to attain its whole fullness. The tension of many active entities within a single entity is an essential part of the unfinished drama of the Son’s Incarnation. This is the real inner dynamic of history, and of course it stands always beneath the sign of the Cross; that is to say that it must always be struggling against the opposing weight of shutting off, of isolation and refusal.

We must also bid farewell to the dream of the absolute autonomy of reason and of its self-sufficiency. Human reason needs a hint from the great religious traditions of mankind. It will certainly look at the individual traditions in a critical light. The pathology of religion is the most dangerous sickness of the human spirit. It exists within the religions, yet it exists also precisely where religion as such is rejected and relative goods are assigned an absolute value: the atheistic systems of modern times are the most frightful examples of passionate religious enthusiasm alienated from its proper identity, and that means a sickness of the human spirit that may be mortal. When the existence of God is denied, freedom is, not enhanced, but deprived of its basis and thus distorted. When the purest and most profound religious traditions are set aside, man is separating himself from his truth; he is living contrary to that truth, and he loses his freedom. Nor can philosophical ethics be simply autonomous. It cannot dispense with the concept of God or dispense with the concept of a truth of being that is of an ethical nature. If there is no truth about man, then he has no freedom. Only the truth makes us free.