Thursday, November 16, 2006

N.T. Wright, Evil, and Terrorism

I hope I am not boring my readers with yet more on N.T. Wright, but I have not adequately responded to Wright's understanding of evil. Wright states in his recent lecture, "the leaders of the western world have adopted an incredibly naive and shallow analysis of the problem of evil itself."

Wright believes it is naive because they "act as if they’d assumed that the world’s problems were basically solved, that all we needed was a bit more free trade and parliamentary-style democracy, and then any remaining pockets of evil would wither away." Wright believes that western leaders (i.e. Bush and Blair) believe we can legislate or annihilate the world's problems away.

This is not a flattering picture of American hawks to say the least. Speaking as a hawk myself, I fully understand the doctrine of original sin, and understand that humanity is fallen and will never attain perfection or harmony while sin reigns in this world. Yet at the same time, I do believe, that just as World War II rid the world of a fascist and evil dictator, we too can rid the world of the Islamofascist threat through war and the spread of democracy.

Is that a naive belief? I hardly think so. I don't pretend to think we will ever rid the world of all terrorists, but I do believe that the threat can be mostly eliminated and then controlled through intelligence operations and the spread of capitalism. Of course someone like Wright would probably be appalled that my solution is the spread of global capitalism, as that is currently represented by the "American Empire," Wright's unconvincingly thesis.

Wright believes that roots of terrorism "are more complex than politicians and the media often imply." Yet his explanation is the very one that I hear the most frequently in the American media at least, "Terrorism arises principally and obviously because individuals and groups sense themselves to be alienated from ordinary process, unable by any imaginable means to effect changes for which they long, locally or globally."

Wright even mocks those who believe terrorism can only be eradicated by killing them, by saying, "But the way to make sure that the causes of terror are diminished and if possible eliminated altogether is not – of course it is not! – to drop bombs on potential terrorists until they get the point. That is to fight one kind of terror with another, which of course not only keeps terror in circulation but tends to stir up more." It is all so clear to Wright, we are so foolish to believe that killing terrorists is the answer.

Strangely, but purposefully, I believe, Wright says "potential terrorists" rather than simply "terrorists." I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I suspect he believes American and British bombs are intentionally being dropped on innocents.

Then Wright gives us his answer to solving the terrorist problem--to talk to and understand the terrorists. We ought to, "work together, to talk together, to discover what makes people tick within worldviews quite unlike our own." If we can understand the terrorists' worldview, and they ours, we would be at peace. Now who is naive? I thought Wright said "evil is more radical and powerful than" bombing terrorists away, yet it is still simple enough to negotiate over?

Wright doesn't see terrorists as mass murderer's, but rather as freedom fighters--revolutionaries. In essence, he seems to view terrorists in a nuanced manner. The evil in their hearts is too complicated for the violent to comprehend, but simple enough for the disinterested observer to see right through.

Wright's understanding of evil is wholly inadequate. Yes, there is evil in the hearts of all humanity, but Wright seems to disregard the evidence demonstrating that there is more evil in the hearts of some.


ArdelCaneday said...

As much as I have admired N. T. Wright as a forward biblical scholar for several years, within the past few years I have been deeply disappointed by his forays into the political realm and into criticism of international policy, especially of British and American foreign policy with regard to defeating terrorists.

His worldview concerning terrorists is shockingly naive because it badly fails to account for the true source of Muslim contempt, hatred, hostility, and murder of non-Muslims and even of Muslims who are "too sympathetic" with the West. Lamentably, N. T. Wright has been dhimmi-ized as so many other Brits have been. Consequently, too much of Wright's recent work in biblical studies reflects his political agenda. His recent work in Paul's letters, unfortunately, has become a thinly veiled critique of Western imperialism led by President Bush and his puppet, Prime Minister Blair. Wright's misguided but noble sounding anti-imperialism seduces him into seeing anti-imperialism everywhere in Paul's letter to the Romans, for example. If ever anyone imposed onto the biblical text one's own interpretive paradigm, this surely is a vivid example. Does the apostle Paul have anything to say about the State? Yes, but nothing to the magnitude that Wright brings to the text and then claims he finds.

When our reading of the biblical text begins to sound like a commentary not on the text but on current affairs, we can be reasonably sure that we are engaging in misreading the Bible. I wish that N. T. Wright would have the courage to oppose the efforts of President Bush and of Prime Minister Blair without exploiting the apostle Paul to carry his political water for him.

ArdelCaneday said...

I should have finished the extension of my thought.

There is considerable irony in what N. T. Wright is now doing with the apostle Paul. Wright has largely built his career around rescuing the apostle Paul from being identified as Paul, the anti-Roman Catholic apostle. Yet, is he not guilty of committing the same kind of error in that he is converting the apostle Paul into the anti-Western imperialism apostle? If Protestants have inherited the Lutheranizing of Paul against Roman Catholic dogma, and thus the implicit linkage of the papacy with Pharisaism, is not N. T. Wright forging a new error by turning Paul into an anti-Western imperialism messenger with the implicit linkage of American and British endeavors to crush anti-Western terrorism with the tyranny of imperial Rome?