A religious response to evil ideologies

A religious response to evil ideologies

John Rego

John Rego was born into a large family in Indooroopilly, Brisbane. Upon graduating with a First-Class degree in Music from the Queensland Conservatorium, he headed overseas. During the past decade, he has studied and worked in the USA and Europe, having been associated with The Juilliard School of Music, Oxford University, The Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and Princeton University, where he is a music research fellow and piano lecturer.

The British and Australian Prime Ministers spoke in July of an "evil ideology" which was in urgent need of immediate and organised confrontation. More specifically, they were speaking about radicalised Islam and how it was spawning suicide bombers such as those who targeted London in July.

In the 20th century, Europe faced two grotesquely evil ideologies: Nazism and Communism. Both of these assumed political forms, resulted in widespread suffering, and distorted the lives of millions of people for much of the century. Communism, like radical Islam, not only engaged in politics but also initiated guerrilla organisations in many countries across the globe. In time, implosion precipitated by civil unrest was inevitable as many societies rebelled against the imposition of Communist doctrine.

Just as Communism had the Soviet Union and its sponsored insurgents present in Africa and South America, however, so too radicalised Islam has the Taliban in Afghanistan which in turn supports such globally operational groups as al-Que'da.

Communism goaded revolution and civil war in such places as Cuba and Angola, just as radical Islam encouraged revolution in Iran and the current anarchy in Iraq. Different variables, but an all-too-familiar equ- ation.

In his final book, Memory and Identity, Pope John Paul II wrote about challenging the evil ideologies of the last century: "Evil and good co-exist, as illustrated in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13). So, even if evil exists alongside good, good perseveres beside evil and grows from the same soil, namely, human nature. This has not been destroyed, and has not become totally corrupt, despite original sin. Nature has retained its capacity for good".

It is easy to despise those who assault us, and, to portray them as evil-doers almost as if they are of another distinct genus. A fundamental message of Jesus, however, was to help us identify the common face of man, to realise that good is intrinsic to every human person and that evil is also a part of the human condition.

Thus, any evil ideology must be understood in its context: the divided heart of man which, though created good, selects evil. In responding to evil ideologies we thus confront the central notion of human redemption: liberation from the evil that dwells inside the human for which the Holy Spirit must be our guide.

Pope John Paul II pointed to St Faustina and the message of God's Divine Mercy as having the capability of counteracting evil ideologies. This is in contrast to the amor sui, i.e., self- love to the point of contempt for God, the primordial sin of Genesis. His Holiness wrote: "The only way to overcome the dimension of original sin is through ... love for God to the point of contempt for self."

Interior corruption

An evil ideology is a formulation of an interior corruption whereby the human person redefines what is good and evil according to his own beliefs and experiences. The greater the internal deception, the greater the external manifestation of evil. This once more indicates the context in which the human heart is corrupted - by injustice, hatred, deceit, and violence. Evil begets evil, and becomes self-generating when used as a method of retort.

The origin of the Arabic word "Islam,'"which forms a governing precept for a Muslim, pertains to the notion of obeying and following the commands of God. Islam in practice and structure is somewhat comparable to Protestant communities in that there is no central teacher like that which is found in our Pope. There is only the Holy Book and the various "schools" of interpretation.

An imam (Islamic cleric, literally, teacher) is not a pastor with responsibilities for shepherding a community nor an intercessor with God like a Catholic priest. He bears greater resemblance to a Protestant minister or, more particularly, a Jewish rabbi - authoritative interpreters and guides in the application of holy laws.

In such a fluid environment there is always the danger of an individual convincing himself, and others, that what is in reality a personal interpretation - his own projection of self- love - is God's will. A very human interpretation in this situation can be fuelled by all the hatred, resentment, and rebellion that dwell in a person's heart.

The Qu'ran can thus be used as a justification for hate for the unenlightened but obedient Muslim which becomes the very opposite of what Islam itself is supposed to represent.

When bitterness and hatred burn intensely in the human heart, the power of self-love becomes overwhelming. God subsequently becomes another "instrument" to use for destructive purposes.

Only a more intimate encounter with a merciful and compassionate God can transform the hearts and minds of those who would perpetrate such atrocious evil in the name of God.

In other words, the response to ideological evil must be a truly religious one, which discovers, proclaims, and encounters God as merciful and compassionate, words, incidentally, which are common to most faiths and certainly at the very core of Christianity.

The most effective antidote to this evil ideology can only come from people with faith in God who seek to listen to the Holy Spirit and respond humbly. The importance of organised religion in this process cannot be understated, and it will be interesting to see and hear the response of our own leaders to this new and pressing challenge.

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