The Surprising Fruit of 9/11

Today is the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City. In the US, the event seemed to me to have an effect on the results of the 2004 election, but by the time of the 2008 election the impact had faded. And yet I would contend the long-term impact of the 9/11 attacks has been quite different from what “patriots” often figure.

On the morning that the planes crashed into the buildings, only one nation in the world had so-called “marriage equality” in that recognized partnerships between man and man, or woman and woman, were defined for legal purposes as the same as marriage between a man and a woman. And this was less than two years old. (How the Netherlands got from Abraham Kuyper to this in less than a hundred years is another story, which I wish I understood!) Today, Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia, Spain, Norway, and Sweden have been added to the ranks of so-called “marriage equality” countries in Europe, and the Republic of South Africa – once again making itself the odd country on the African continent – in Africa, and, in North America, all Canada and most of the New England states, and Iowa _ though in Iowa the decision was imposed unilaterally by a creative judicial interpretation and is vulnerable in the long run to the democratic political process.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc is often a fallacy, but in this case I suspect that the spread of same-sex marriage may actually be a consequence of the 9/11 event. Why? Because after 9/11 the West was trying to define what it was against – Islam, period? That didn’t seem fair? Terrorism? Terrorism is a tactic, motivated by something. “Islam-ism?” And at the same time the West had to think, however subconsciously, about what it stood for and what values it was trying to defend.

Unfortunately, the attack caught the West in the last stages of a transition, the second such in the West’s history. The first such transition was the one known as Late Antiquity, 180-622 AD, in which the Classical pagan Roman civilization was replaced by a “Christendom.” This was not entirely Constantine’s doing, nor was it entirely imposed by force, contrary to what is often said. The second such began in 1750 from “Christendom’ to a neo-pagan culture with some Christian heritage (just as “Christendom” had a classical heritage) the outlines of which are still not yet clear.

(I would make clear that though “Christendom” has passed, Christianity is very much alive and more of a worldwide religion than any religion has ever been before – some of its weakest areas are the areas that were parts of “Christendom.”)

So, what then were the values that were endangered by radical Islam? Now the values of Christianity do differ to a certain degree from Islamic values. Islam focuses on externals, for example. And, though Christianity did succeed ultimately to political and cultural power, it did so only after three hundred years of periodic persecution. Whereas Islam became a political-military entity under its very founder. (Try to name any other world missionary religion whose founder’s military tactics can be studied and commented on. Well, maybe Moses, but Judaism has barely sought dominion over one little spot in the Middle East!) All I can say is, if you’re going to start a religion, arranging for three hundred years of persecution at the beginning works wonders. For all the “Christendom”  and the power, the institutional memory of powerlessness and persecution lurks in the New Testament and in every Christian’s spiritual DNA.

But, I think, historic Christian culture, after 9/11, did not strike cultural leaders in the west as a. different enough from Islam, b. really in accordance with Western values as they are today. Does Sharia Law stone homosexuals and adulterers? Western Values, on the other hand, declare homosexuality to be morally right, adultery to be morally questionable but exempt from the reach of civil law, and premarital sexual relations to be the proper and valid way of searching for, courting, and testing a potential marriage partner. Now I myself may not approve of these things, but for those who do, they are an important part of the “freedoms” we are trying to defend against possible Islamist tyranny. And, after 9/11, the majority of Western people, who could no longer bring themselves to disapprove of these particular things, came more clearly to think of them as central elements of Western “freedom.” The logical next step, “marriage equality,” has been taken in a number of places – including Spain, precisely that country which was won back from Islam in the period 1085-1492. “Marriage equality”, therefore, has prospered, I think, as a result of the Islamist challenge, an effort of the West, being no longer “Christendom,” to define its values more consistently against that challenge.

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