A Bad Faith Attempt to Put Faith to Use in Defense of Liberal Democracy

Oct. 21 2021

In their recent book, Faith, Nationalism, and the Future of Liberal Democracy, four scholars—an American Jew, an American Christian, and two German Lutherans—seek to address, from a religious perspective, what is ailing liberal democracies in Europe an America. Their common mission, writes Daniel Johnson in his review, is “to save their faiths from being co-opted by illiberal nationalists who are hell-bent on undermining liberal democracy. But, Johnson points out, they err in ignoring the close relationship between liberalism and nationalism in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and their assessment of the present is equally flawed:

The present authors . . . see nationalism as a kind of opioid epidemic of the masses and faith, as interpreted by liberal theologians, as a possible remedy. Liberal democracy, they believe, is being threatened as never before, not by external forces such as Chinese Communism or Islamist terrorism, but by a nationalist assault from within. Western civilization is not a phrase that would occur to any of these authors to use, but insofar as they do assume that the West still shares Judeo-Christian values, they see the supreme test of those values in our response to the migration crisis in Europe and America. It is by rejecting any politics that treats refugees and other migrants as “the Other” that biblical faith proves its authenticity.

In Central Europe, where borders had been moved many times over the years, refugees were a familiar sight; Muslim refugees, however, were not. They were unwelcome to many people, not merely on grounds of prejudice, but also of prudence: having observed the multicultural experiments conducted by their neighbors in Western Europe and North America, these culturally homogeneous nations were in no hurry to emulate them.

By refusing to engage directly with the arguments of their foes, are [the authors] not guilty of “othering” the ordinary people who may be susceptible to those arguments? What we have here, then, is a classic case of what Jean-Paul Sartre called mauvaise foi: “bad faith.” Professors Elcott, Anderson, Cremer, and Haarmann profess to have combined to write a manifesto for a liberal fight-back to reclaim the Judeo-Christian legacy from the clutches of religious reactionaries. But they are deceiving themselves. They have not done the intellectual heavy lifting required to refute their opponents. Nor do they take Muslims seriously enough to consider whether they too might have some responsibility for their fate.

So this volume . . . is an example of the very failing that it was written to address: “demonizing opponents by ‘othering’ them.” Faith leaders will gain no traction with the faithful by ignoring their fears and belittling their feelings.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Immigration, liberal democracy, Nationalism, Religion and politics


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria