C. S. Lewis -- Logical to Hearts and Politics
November 24, 2009
British scholar and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis taught the world about love and pain. Following the death of his wife, Joy Gresham, an American writer, after a long battle with cancer, he immortalized these words and spoke for all of us who have suffered a loving loss: "We can’t have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That’s the deal."
Yet it is his work in Mere Christianity that takes on a new life in the logic of understanding the U.S. fight against terrorism.
Lewis writes that being a Christian does not necessarily mean that other religions do not contain at least some element of truth - but he says Christians differ from other religions in one important way - namely that Christians believe Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong.
Lewis writes that this distinction is similar to the logic of arithmetic - that there is only one right answer to a sum and every other answer is wrong. Yet he points out that some wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.
That is a point that can easily be applied in the war on terror.
Conservatives argue the war on terror has been going on since 1983 when car bomb attacks against the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut (killing 241 servicemen) and against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (killing 63) were launched and came to a crescendo in the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania (killing 2,740 Americans and 236 foreigners).
Conservatives generally believe we should fight this war with our military and believe terrorists are combatants who want to do harm to the United States and have no Constitutional rights.
Liberals tend to believe many of our problems regarding terrorism were brought about by longstanding American policies and that the fight should be waged in the criminal justice system - providing terrorists with all the legal rights afforded common ordinary criminals.
Whichever position is correct, Democrats and Republicans are now engaged in the political process of the war - and are spending much time arguing about the semantics of the process to determine whether it is a military or criminal matter.
President Obama is not helping matters as he painfully decides on troop levels and what the long-term war strategy in Afghanistan will be. As a candidate, President Obama told voters the Afghanistan war should be our priority - and he did follow through on this position last February when he approved a significant deployment of troops.
Things now seem different, and the war on terror has taken a back seat to health care, the economy, and increased government spending. In fact, the Obama administration will not use the term "war on terror" - although the President does appear to be on the brink of making a decision on Afghan troop strength.
What is on the table is a request from Commanding General Stanley McChrystal for an additional 40,000 troops to fight the surging Taliban militants - who appear to be on the verge of wearing down the U.S. fighting force - as well as the country’s resolve - in Afghanistan.
Now we are wrestling with the latest terror attack - the shooting rampage by U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan - an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent - who murdered 13 people (12 soldiers and one civilian) at the military base in Fort Hood, Texas.
Many government officials (including the FBI) initially refused to acknowledge that this rampage was an act of terror - let alone call it a piece of the overall war on terror.
The terrorist suspect allegedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" - the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer - before firing more than 100 rounds at the defenseless soldiers. Some are now bracing for further suicide bombing style attacks from Al-Qaeda operatives - or their followers - as the terror group infiltrates the U.S. to carry out more acts of violence.
C. S. Lewis argued there is only one correct answer to the question of which religion is right and which religions are wrong.
The question that is now being asked about the war on terror is -- is there a war on terror? To this question, too, there can only be one correct answer.