As Newsweek puts it, "he grew up in possibly the most liberal, tolerant place in America, yet he was drawn to the most illiberal, intolerant sect in Islam, the Taliban." The "he" in this was John Walker, the twenty-year-old American captured, along with other Taliban fighters, after the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif. He told his parents that he was converting to Islam because it was a "gentle [and] peace-loving religion." Sound familiar? That's what everyone seems to be saying. Yet, he told Newsweek that he supported the September 11 attacks on America. In many ways, John Walker is the poster boy for how we have fooled ourselves about the challenge and threat that Islam poses to the West. Who can ever forget those first photos of John Walker? He looked like Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away: dirty, disheveled, sporting an improbably long beard. It was a long way from his upper-middle class upbringing in California's very tony Marin County. Or maybe not. While he was growing up, his parents, who named him after John Lennon -- there's your first clue -- avoided imposing any particular set of beliefs on Walker. Instead, they encouraged him to "choose his own spiritual path." Well, Islam might not have been what they had in mind. But that was the "alternative course" that Walker chose. At age 16, he converted to Islam. After he graduated from -- what else? -- an alternative high school, he persuaded his parents to send him to Yemen so that he could learn Arabic. From Yemen, it was off to an Islamic school, called a "madrasa," in Pakistan. Then, last April, he went off into the mountains. His parents had no idea where he was. That is, until his picture emerged in the international press. He had joined the Taliban, adopted the name Abdul Hamid, and fought against his own countrymen. Newspapers branded him a traitor, and President Bush called him a "poor fellow" who had been "misled." And that's true. Only not in the way that the president probably meant. Walker was first misled by the way Americans talk about religion. In what is sometimes called "civil religion," all religions are considered to be equal. Not just in legal terms, which is proper in a democracy, but also in validity and truth. Our culture, starting at the top, sends the message that all religions are essentially interchangeable and equally good for individuals and for society. But that's not true. And it brings us to the second way in which Walker was misled. Since September 11, many of our elites have bent over backwards to obscure, even hide, Islam's true nature. That's why people like Walker and his parents believe that Islam is a peaceful faith. That's why they bought into the utopian vision they had been sold. It's only later when you hear the extremist slogans that we realize the extent of the deception. While unfortunately it's too late for Walker, the question is whether our culture is willing to do what's necessary to make him just an isolated case. For the Walker case, you see, is really a metaphor for what happens if Americans buy into the politically correct talk about Islam being peace-loving. Christians have to be prepared to take the lead in setting the record straight. Because the challenge of Islam is serious enough without having to overcome self-deception as well. ========================== Colin Soloway, et al., "A Long, Strange Trip to the Taliban," Newsweek, 17 December 2001. Chuck Colson, When Night Fell on a Different World: How Now Shall We Live?.


Chuck Colson



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