Today, we face a political/religious challenge, Islam, in which, avoiding hard truths, exposes us to a real and present danger.
I am not disposed toward the soothingly facile idea embodied in the popular expression, “Let’s agree to disagree.” That trite phrase, intended to avoid confrontation, generally has the effect of delaying, or defeating entirely, any attempt to uncover the truth or error at the root of the question under disagreement. Indeed, agreeing to disagree is what allowed slavery to continue in America for three quarters of a century after the Constitution was ratified. And, it remains a favorite concept of politicians who seek to advance their own agendas behind the screen of an alleged “bipartisanship.”
Such shallow diplomacy is embedded in the contemporary exaltation of tolerance as the primary virtue necessary for life in a civil society. It is sham wisdom grounded in the hope that acceptance of each other’s perception of reality will produce peaceful co-existence (“Whatever works for you!”). What it actually produces is the lie of relativism, which holds that all opinions and cultural practices are equally true and good.
Not confronting difficult questions is destructive of civilization. The American Civil War shows how not dealing with the critical issue of human rights led to national disaster. In more recent times, agreeing to disagree over the intentions and behavior of the Nazis, during the years before World War II, led to conflict on a global scale. Only the clear-sightedness and courage of Winston Churchill, who exposed Hitler’s perverted philosophy and ultimate goals when others chose to look away in appeasement, prepared Britain for war, and kept Germany from conquering Europe.
Religion is an area in which agreeing to disagree is the default position. It’s one of two extremely touchy subjects which social prudence counsels never to discuss (the other being politics). And I can’t deny that, throughout most of our history, the standard American formula for religious concord—You go to your church, and I’ll go to mine!—has largely succeeded in avoiding the extremes of European-style, sectarian strife which the Founding Fathers were so intent on keeping from our shores.
Today, however, we face a political/religious challenge in which, avoiding hard truths, exposes us to a real and present danger. That is the challenge of Islam. We may agree to disagree about what portion of the Muslim population is sympathetic to Islamist extremism. But, anyone who fails to acknowledge the reality that violence is being carried out daily in the name of Allah and the Qur’an is not in disagreement, but rather in a pathological state of denial.