The secular West is puzzled. Why would people wish to detonate explosives killing themselves and others? What is happening in their brains’ synaptic gaps? What went wrong in their education? Where were the programs to prevent them from being “radicalized”?
Secularists don’t have categories for metaphysical motives. They stand slack-jawed at a jihadist world. They are literally speechless. Who would have thought that a Darwinian movement which so effectively undermined the idea of an omnipotent "Designer" is now paralyzed by the depth and complexity of evil designs.
So some secularists fall back on their default fears, the devil they know. The real evil, they insist, is that old Judeo-Christian Western Civilization. Secularism vilifies its metaphysical underpinnings, from belief in a Creator distinguished from creatures; the fixing of binary genders; human law as given from a higher source and even the possibility of supernatural conversion of enemies into kin. If something tips the hat to the supernatural, it is unwelcome in the secularists’ material world.
The irony of course, is that we are seeing secularists being irrationally sympathetic to jihadis by trumpeting the fear of Judeo-Christian “Islamophobia”.
But is there evidence of systematic responses of Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox suicide bombers in Muslim neighbourhoods?
Are Jews regularly targeting Muslims for knife attacks in Molenbeek? There is no moral equivalence between the slurs and disdain that non-Muslims may express toward Muslims, and the urban blitzkriegs of takfiri jihadists against Western civilians.
So it is clear that secularism isn’t working. At least, anti-supernatural, Marxist materialism isn’t.
Many Christians like myself are thankful for the separation of Church and State, but a pluralistic public square doesn’t mean that it must be expunged of faith. Besides, the secularists have their own faith -- a faith in themselves, their reason and their autonomy. But that faith isn’t standing up very well to the evils of our age.
So are we left with paralysis and despair? Must we impotently watch as jihadis murder with coordination and precision? Must we only respond with blunt rage or bankrupt policy?
There is hope offered in, of all places, the history of Syria.
There was a man long ago who was ideologically sophisticated, religiously zealous, and logistically capable. He was the perfect jihadist. The story goes that, while expanding his campaign of removing infidels, this terrorist met Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth, on the road to Damascus.
And then the terrorist was a terrorist no more. Saul of Tarsus, the terrorist, became Saint Paul, the evangelist. He put down the sword, and offered a message of hope for a terrifying world.
And so there is a similar Syrian choice for secularists today. If they refuse to consider the possibility of the supernatural, they will only remain confused and lost in the face of the sword.