Clash Course

Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism
A Call to Action
George Weigel
Doubleday, $18.95, 195 pp.

George Weigel offers this book as a guide to the war on jihadism for a bipartisan “Coalition of Those Who Understand.” Weigel believes that American prosecution of the war against terrorism has been hobbled by unclear thinking and failure of nerve on the part of the American people. The book is divided into, not chapters, but “lessons,” through which Weigel hopes to instruct us on what we should have learned since 9/11.

Lesson 1 for those who don’t yet understand is that the conflict is, at root, theological. Ideas have consequences, and the jihadists have gotten hold of a particularly noxious ideology with its roots in Islam. Although the enemy is jihadism, not Islam as such, lesson 2 is an analysis of the defects inherent in Islam that lend themselves to a jihadist interpretation. The question for us, Weigel writes, is whether St. John Damascene was right when he said that Islam was a heresy that combined defective Christologies with bad ideas from pagan Arab tribal religions. Weigel does not directly answer this question, but he does argue that any attempt to talk about the “three Abrahamic faiths” should be retired. “Islamic supersessionism has a built-in tendency to set in motion a dynamic of conflict with Judaism and Christianity that is not ‘required’ vis-à-vis Islam by the deep theological structure of Judaism and Christianity.” Among other defects, Islam lacks the “beauty of spiritual and moral wrestling with a...

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About the Author

William T. Cavanaugh is professor of theology at DePaul University.