Universities pride themselves on their commitment to diversity. Diversity in reality is a mere shibboleth. Universities prefer their campuses to look like a Benetton advertisement of a previous era, but there is no commitment to intellectual diversity. If there were, the likelihood of finding a Christian on a liberal arts faculty would not be near zero.
It was not always this way, especially in the field of political theory. Scholars once were unhesitant to judge political systems and ideologies in terms of their ability to embody and disseminate the values of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
A Christian scholar would not hesitate to condemn Marxism for its atheism, and in so doing discuss the importance of the integrative value of religion to a sociopolitical system or the emergence of democracy from a unique form of tolerant American Protestantism.
In contrast to the absurd idea that all cultures are equal, Christian scholars would argue that some cultures are obviously superior to others, and a culture grounded in the values of the Judeo-Christian ethic and the rule of law is superior to one that is not.
Beyond that, Christians believe that there is evil in the world, and sometimes amid the convoluted and hackneyed academic clichés that purport to explain violence, it would be reality affirming to be reminded that evil exists.
In the wake of the blood spilled in the streets of Paris, these academic clichés are once again being propagated. In the liberal university, human behavior is explained as largely a response to social forces. Individual responsibility is not part of the equation. Moral judgments are absent.
The usual allusions to alienation, deprivation, and the problems confronting a people who are socially marginalized are now being used to explain—and implicitly to justify—the violence from Paris that reached out from the television screen and lacerated our senses.
The bitter reality of these sophisticated-sounding explanations is that they explain very little. From riots to revolution, these concepts barely rise to the level of association let alone causality. At best, they sometimes show a rather modest correlation with some form of violence. Moreover, they are often merely asserted, seldom measured.
There is perceived alienation and there is violence; therefore, alienation causes violence.
The idea that the violence might grow out of a distorted ideology rooted in evil is beyond both the comprehension and the lexicon of the purveyors of social forces as alleged causal mechanisms.
Real intellectual diversity would have produced scholars who would have thought of the wanton bloodshed in Paris as an act of evil and analyzed what is the impetus for evil. What are its cultural, ideological, and religious roots?
Of course, this kind of thinking would be suffocated in a university that pays lip service to diversity but relishes intellectual conformity and prohibits explanations that might give offense to some intellectually challenged eighteen-year-old.
So, maybe it is time to forget the academic theories that sound sophisticated but are empirically questionable, and think about evil.
Sound absurd? I am not invoking the devil. I am invoking cultural socialization, for once you realize that what you see in Paris is no different from what you see in Jerusalem, Iraq, Syria, Africa, and wherever there is an Islamic battle flag fluttering over carnage, then you understand that there is a thread of evil that wends its way through all of this.
Evil will not be eradicated with job opportunities, access to social mobility, or the litany of long-failed liberal solutions. People whose need for belonging is smelted in the crucible of bloodshed are not going to follow the peddlers of economic relief, but they will eagerly follow the dispensers of hate and carnage.
The Paris murderers where not drawn from the poor. The radical Muslim terrorists that bombed London were second generation Muslims that came from successful families. The 9/11 terrorists were drawn from middle class, educated people who had taken advantage of opportunities in the West.
There is a sickness in the human condition. It is in our DNA. We are the only species that does not kill just to eat, but one that kills for emotional and ideological reasons. Even those who would never think of killing find fascination in celluloid fantasies depicting those who do.
This sickness can find justification and mobilization in ideology. Once a so-called just cause gives unrestrained moral license, then there is nothing to inhibit the ensuing bloodshed.
The threat of evil is all around us. It is found wherever people are taught that their vision of social justice excuses them from the basic notions of civility and from any restraint on behavior. It is found when people are given moral license because they are on a mission from God, and therefore, killing is nothing less than a blood sacrifice to their deity in order for him to bring about a desired kingdom of heaven on earth.
Even though our president will not say it, there is such a thing as radical Islam. We live in a time when a version of Islam has mutated into the killings that daily tear at our senses. While this is not true of all of Muslims, and it is not the Islam of our neighbors, it is a force whose existence we can no longer deny. It is evil.
Evil will persist as long as there is not a competing ideology that mobilizes people toward good. Evil can be defeated on the battlefield but that would require a political will that commits us to the kind of devastation we were capable of exercising in World War II and of which we are no longer capable.
Defeating radical Islam militarily is important, but equally important is a revival of belief systems that give people something to live for rather than die for. And that is why having people in our educational system that raise the moral issues traditionally embodied in political philosophy and its basis in the Judeo-Christian ethic is vital to our understanding of events like Paris and to our very survival.