I'm not particularly addressing America's relationship with the Islamic world at all. That's because, as I said, I don't think the Story is about America (or Islam for that matter). I think it's about Christ and the Church. For me, things matter as they are related to that central drama. One of the patterns I note in the biblical revelation of Christ's Church is the pattern I described yesterday: that the Assyrian is ultimately a rod in the hand of God. He may think he's calling the shots, but actually it's God. So I think the wise approach is to "seek first His Kingdon and His righteousness" rather than spend the bulk of our energy looking for ways to hold on to our sin while still cleverly manipulating politics, science, technology, etc. in order to stave off the consequences of our rejection of God. It seems obvious to me that the post-Christian West is deeply engaged in the latter process and that the result will simply be to make our final self-inflicted judgement (all such dooms are self-inflicted) more complicated and terrible.
However, I also believe that God is rich in mercy and that repentence is possible at any time. I have no particular crystal ball that allows me to see the future with respect to Islam and the West. But we do have a bit of revelation concerning the Church and it gives me hope. I am not as confident as some of my readers that the world is doomed to an Islamic future in saecula saeculorum. That is not to say it is not a source of great evil. It is simply to say that I'm not ready to simply throw in the sponge and say the power of the Christ who conquers death is helpless against the onslaught of Islam. Part of my reason for thinking this is theological: Islam does not seem to me to fit the bill for the final apostasy and the nature of Antichrist. We are, to be sure, absolutely guaranteed that the Church faces a "final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh." (CCC 675).
The question I find myself asking, in light of biblical revelation, is this: which side of the conflict between the post-Christian West and the Foaming Bronze Age Fanatic Islamosphere is far more likely to give us "the lawless one ... the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Say what you will about Islam, but I don't see it producing that figure in a million years, whereas the West is ripe to give birth to him right now.
That's not to say I *prefer* the Foaming Bronze Age Thugs to win. It's to say that, in my heart, I cannot believe that they will. I think Scripture is true and that the coming of Christ will take place in a world that is apostate and (mark this) seriously ready to deify man, not in a world that never heard the gospel and which regards the deification of man with horror. That description fits the decadent West a lot better than than the Islamic East, so I retain a confidence, if you can call it that, that the winners of this particular "civilizational struggle" will be the post-Christian West, whose cultural and technological masters are laboring even now to create fresh sins that cry out to heaven and terrors that will dwarf Islam's crimes as continue on our post-Christian path toward "the supreme religious deception ... of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh."
When that will come, we don't know. *That* it will come is guaranteed by the word of God. And for my money, it seems much more like to come from a Decadent West triumphant over Islam than from Radical Islam triumphant over the West.
To which I have a number of theological and prudential objections to this, not the least of the latter being that arguing that our culture is far more likely to produce the eschatological embodiment of evil than Islam strikes me as a de facto argument that we are, at the end of the day, more evil than our current crop of enemies. IIRC, didn't the New Oxford Review write something to the effect that the Caliphate might perhaps be preferable to our current state of affairs because of the absence of gay marriage?
While the evils of the Islamic world are not the evils of the West (post-Christian or otherwise) no more than our evils are synonymous with those that occur in Africa or China, to rank ours as being so superior to them strikes me as exceedingly wrong-headed. And while I realize that Mark regards the entire politically active pro-life movement as nothing more than a sham because he has soured on the GOP over the war in Iraq, he might want to take note of the sacrifices that millions of people have made for that movement in order to turn back the clock. And if I might be permitted to champion Europe against the general gloom and doom that characterizes the future of the Continent not as the beginning of shar'iah eternal but rather as part of a necessary if unfortunately bloody catalyst needed to help Europe rediscover its Christian heritage. The West de-Christianized itself in less than a century, the argument that such a de-Christianization is irreversible strikes me as being less than a sure assumption. Mark also fails to recognize that the main levers of socio-cultural power in the post-Christian West are far more degenerate than they are tyrannical. If they cannot even mount a coherent defense against the Jihad, I fail to see how they are likely to be enslaving the planet any time soon. The vision of the future received by St. John has many possible lines of interpretation, but I have never seen any exegesis to the effect that the rule of the Antichrist will be a passive affair.
One thing I will take issue with in particular is this one:
I think Scripture is true and that the coming of Christ will take place in a world that is apostate and (mark this) seriously ready to deify man, not in a world that never heard the gospel and which regards the deification of man with horror. That description fits the decadent West a lot better than than the Islamic East, so I retain a confidence, if you can call it that, that the winners of this particular "civilizational struggle" will be the post-Christian West, whose cultural and technological masters are laboring even now to create fresh sins that cry out to heaven and terrors that will dwarf Islam's crimes as continue on our post-Christian path toward "the supreme religious deception ... of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh."
The vicious death cult currently practiced by proponents of suicide bombing, let alone the sick cults of personality that exist around Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi strike me as just as much a deification of man as anything the transhumanists, libertines, or libertarians that I suspect are the focus of much of Mark's ire in the West ever cooked up. Same goes for those that existed around Hitler, Stalin, or Chairman Mao that we see repeated miniature form by Kim Jong Il. Depending on how far back you want to go, there has been shortage of men willing play god and people willing to follow them to the most brutal ends imaginable. All of these views were evil, but they all managed to come to a conclusion without being eschatological.
One of my fundamental problems with Mark's whole conceptual framework for the war on terrorism is that he is incapable of understanding it outside of Rome vs. Carthage. For him, it's always a "heads they win, tails we lose." While this is certainly true in the sense that evil will always be with us short of the eschaton, to argue that there is never a preferable outcome in secular conflicts because we lack perfection is not only wrong-headed but unscriptural. To fall back on outcome that I suspect Mark will agree with, I do not believe that because of manifold sins practiced by the United States during the 1940s (and were these sins all that better than those we practice now? Or were they merely a different flavor of the same poison?) meant that there was no real difference in whether or not we or the Nazis prevailed? I certainly don't think so then, and I would argue that the same is true now.
After all, being a Molinist after Dave Armstrong who helped to convert me, I believe that we live in the best of all possible worlds.