Here is a letter by my editorial-adversary, David McLoughlin. He normally attacks the faith in the Bedford Bulletin, and keeps his political morosophy restricted to the Lynchburg, VA News & Advance. Last week, however, he stepped out side the box a bit and submitted this in Lynchburg. So, of course, I couldn’t allow the opportunity to pass. As of today, my response letter is still forthcoming.
Letter writers frequently refer to the U.S. as a “Christian nation” or declare our “exceptionalism” — neither of which is true. Our heritage is as much the result of accident as it is of our own determination. Consider just a couple of the “what ifs” of history and think how fragile the outcomes were and what might have been.
After Muhammad’s establishment of Islam, it spread rapidly across North Africa resulting in the Moors ruling Spain for 700 years. In 1492, the Moors were finally defeated at Granada and ultimately driven out. What if the Moors had won at Granada?
Soon thereafter Spain began its exploration of the New World which included both North and South America. If the Muslims rather than Christians had been in control, Islam, not Christianity, may have dominated the Americas. The Spanish influence from Mexico south is still recognizable today. Our largest minority will soon be Hispanic. While my pure speculation may be of interest only to those who recognize the fragility and accidental character of history, it does suggest that we ought not to be so smug and certain of the reasons that provide the foundation of our characteristics today. We are as much an accident of history as any other nation and, as such, should accept that our destiny might have been much different. The Middle East is the result of the English drawing lines in the sand after World War I, and we are still living with that disaster.
The U.S. is important today as much because of the rich resources we inherited and the two oceans and two friendly countries on our borders as for our own efforts. While it’s true we are predominately Christian by numbers, thankfully we are a secular nation by our Constitution. Could it have been different if the Muslims had won at Granada? Sure. Most U.S. Christians might have been Muslim just like they would have been Hindu if born in India. Imagine a Muslim Liberty University.
My point, of course, is that we are the product of our history as fragile as that is, and a more worldly view, as opposed to an ethnocentric myopia, would serve us well as we participate in a multicultural world.
If people dislike the U.S., it’s not because of our wealth, but because of our attitudes and actions toward people of other nations.
I am compelled to identify the latent comic relief in David McLoughlin’s, “History’s ‘what-ifs’ (Letters to the Editor, Wednesday, 03/10). Although his premises and conclusions had serious intentions, attempting to wed these produces some slapstick philosophy. While McLoughlin admited his “pure speculation” would likely impress only those who share his outlook, he imposed his criticisms and conclusions upon everyone.
The undercurrent of this letter is what’s known as metaphysical determinism. That is, a view of final reality that starts with a blind, undirected universe, consisting of only physical stuffs—like humans and nations. These stuffs move through history, controlled purely by fixed natural laws. Prior physical stuffs, working in accord with these fixed natural laws produce “fragile...accidental” features with no unifying, purposive beginning, meaning or end.
Mindful of this, consider McLoughlin’s central what-if: “What if the Moors had won Granada?”
If peoples and nations are simply material stuffs, aimlessly determined by impersonal natural law, then one could rightly ask, What do you mean, “What-if”? Does he mean, ‘What if’ natural law was temporarily suspended in order to bring about an alternate product to that which all the historical and physical antecedent causes had predetermined (I owe kudos to Steve for this line of criticism)? This is ironically similar to C. S. Lewis’ definition of miracles. Natural miracles, Mr. McLoughlin? Hilarious.
Historical “what-ifs” make sense only if there is an absolute-personality Who, knowing all possible choices, deliberates and governs according to His plan and purposes. Thankfully, there is. “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). McLoughlin’s “What-ifs” are intelligible only if the very Christianity he despises were true.
Secondly, he admitted that his observations were conjectural, but from these he goes on to insist, “we ought...we should.” These are moral terms. It is plain silliness to say that persons are the “accidental” outcome of blind historical and natural forces, and then speak of moral obligations. If McLoughlin’s correct, we may describe what “is” the case, but never prescribe what “ought” to be the case. Morality, Mr. McLoughlin? Uproarious.
Finally, McLoughlin presumes, on the one hand, that peoples’ choice of religion is sociologically determined. Nevertheless, even in making this claim, he, on the other hand, understands himself and his position free from such a morass, and thus culturally neutral. Sounds somewhat funny doesn’t it? Exactly.
McLoughlin, from his own culturally relative, predetermined social construct within a blind, impersonal historical flux, makes the moral demand that the rest of us, namely Christians, make the objective, personal, ethically meaningful choice to transcend our socially determined biases. Sidesplitting!
Only if Christianity is true, could McLoughlin’s request be performed.