For Christians caught in the crossfire between Islamist and “Islamophobic” hatred, the only choice is to take the Mercutio option, refusing to take sides in a heartless and headless feud and calling down a plague upon both hate-filled parties…

What is the world coming to? More specifically, what is my own country of England coming to? Earlier this month, London suffered the sickening sight of Islamist fanatics driving a van at high speed into civilians on London Bridge. Then, when the van crashed, the men ran to the nearby Borough Market and began slashing defenseless people to death with knives. Twelve days earlier, in Manchester, an Islamist suicide bomber killed twenty-two concert goers. According to the Manchester Evening News there was a 500% rise in “Islamophobic” attacks in Manchester in the days after the attack. And then, on June 19, an Englishman, in a copycat revenge attack for the London Bridge atrocity, drove a van into Muslims leaving a mosque in north London.

Responding to the surge in “Islamophobic” incidents in Manchester in the wake of the suicide bombing, the police insisted that they would tackle all “hate crimes” ruthlessly but they expected the surge in “Islamophobic” incidents to be only a temporary phenomenon while people remain angered by the bombing.

Call me a pessimist but I doubt that the rise in “Islamophobic” incidents is a temporary phenomenon, any more than the rise in Islamist terrorism is likely to be a temporary phenomenon. We can hope that this will be the case but we shouldn’t confuse healthy hope with hopelessly naïve wishful thinking, the latter of which is akin to burying our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

The problem is that hatred feeds on itself. More Islamist terrorism will mean more “Islamophobia”, a fear of terrorists being reasonable enough, which will itself lead to further radicalizing of the Islamic population, breeding a new generation of terrorists. Et cetera. Ad nauseam. Begging to differ with the Manchester police, we might not be facing a temporary phenomenon but rather a feeding frenzy of mutually destructive hatred.

The worst case scenario is almost unthinkable but nonetheless bears thinking about. It is this. It is the balkanization of culture into warring factions, based on ethnic or religious lines, akin to the situation in the old Yugoslavia. The worst case scenario is that England (and France and Germany) could go the same way as the Balkans, culminating in a bloodbath of ethnic cleansing, as we saw in Kosovo and Bosnia. This is becoming a nightmare possibility because the number of Muslims in England (and in France and Germany) has now reached, or is now reaching, the critical mass necessary to enable the formation of semi-autonomous caliphates practicing sharia law, i.e. a law unto themselves.

What, then, is to be done?

For Christians, the answer is simple enough. We are to obey the commandment to love our neighbours and even our enemies. We are not free, as Christians, to indulge in the “Islamophobic” eye-for-an-eye option, smiting the other man’s cheek because we refuse to turn our own. In any case, and let’s be blunt about this, the vast majority of indigenous Englishmen are no more Christian than are their Muslim neighbours. They worship no god except their hedonistic selves, though they might have a tribalist allegiance to “England” (whatever that might mean in their eyes). Choosing between the sort of Englishman who drives a van into Muslim worshippers and the sort of Muslim who drives a van into pedestrians is like choosing between Satan and the Devil. It’s a choice between two evils and is, therefore, no choice at all. In such circumstances, we should take the Mercutio option and call down a plague upon both their houses.

Mercutio, for those who don’t know, is a character in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet who gets caught in the crossfire, or actually the swordplay, between the two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues. As he lies dying, he calls down a plague on both houses, condemning the prideful hatred that had fed the feud. And yet Mercutio is part of the problem. As his name suggests, his mercurial temperament and hot-headedness lead him into the fight with the blood-lustful Tybalt from whom he receives his mortal wound. It is the aptly named Benvolio, whose name means “goodwill”, who is the would-be peacemaker in the scene. His words of meekness go unheeded with disastrous and deadly circumstances.

For Christians, therefore, caught in the crossfire between Islamist and “Islamophobic” hatred, the only choice is to take the Mercutio option, refusing to take sides in a heartless and headless feud and calling down a plague upon both hate-filled parties. We must do so, however, with the benevolence of Benvolio. We are called to practice the Cardinal Virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice, regardless of the provocation that hatred places in our path. We are called to the life of virtue, which is to say that we are called to become saints. If we succeed, we will become the candles of light and love in a world darkened by hatred. We will be the clear and present answer to the clear and present danger of mutually assured destruction. Never will Christianity seem so attractive to those caught in the coils of societal meltdown than when we are seen to be the practitioners of love in a world darkened by hatred. This is the challenge that Christians face in our hate-filled world. May we rise to the challenge.

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