Katy Perry Talks About Evil
I love Dr. Seuss, but in the real world, joining hands and singing a musical number is not an effective strategy against evil. Just over a year ago, Omar Mateen, claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, gunned down 49 people at an Orlando night club. It was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. And in Europe, there have been terror attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, and London. Only one word describes the sort of carnage being perpetrated by radical Islamists: “Evil.” These attacks, which deliberately targeted innocents, all in the name of God, are among the vilest crimes imaginable. And it only makes it more troubling that these attacks continue to take place in a time when the West is least equipped with the moral framework necessary to describe them, much less respond to them. I’m thinking of cringe-worthy responses by celebrities like singer Katy Perry, who said on a talk show after the Manchester bombing that “the greatest thing we could do is just unite and love on each other, and like, no barriers, no borders…we all need to just co-exist.” Jodi Picoult one-upped Perry when she took to Twitter and compared the attack to Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” “When terror attacks happen,” she wrote, “I think of the Whos…singing after Xmas is ruined. It isn’t fear/hate that changes [the Grinch], it’s love.” No, I’m not kidding, she really said that. It should be unnecessary to say this, but as one commentator noted, Islamic terrorists don’t carry out attacks because someone was mean to them. They do it because they’ve embraced a deadly ideology that teaches mass-murder is the will of God. Another distressing response was a television spot produced by a Kuwaiti mobile phone company. The commercial, which aired during Ramadan, depicted a suicide bomber in an explosive vest being confronted by his many victims, who urge him to “bomb violence with mercy.” Charred and caked with blood, the procession of men, women, and children, led by an Emirati pop star, pursue the bomber, chanting in Arabic, “We will counter their attacks of hatred with songs of love, from now until happiness.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that entertainers in the Middle East are trying to undermine terrorism. But we should also admit that this mawkish ad is right in line with the West’s least effective responses. The creators of both seem to imagine that all the world needs now is love, sweet love. But what they’re selling isn’t really love at all. It’s just sentimentality. Anyone who understands the supernatural and apocalyptic claims of radical Islam should see that calling terrorists to “bomb violence with mercy” is futile. Not to mention, Islam—particularly in its radical expressions—has no grounding for mercy in the first place. It’s a very different worldview than Christianity, where mercy is grounded in God’s character, and the life of Jesus Chris, God the son. I remember at the Colson Center’s 2014 Wilberforce Award dinner, Canon Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad,” told us that he once invited ISIS leaders to dinner. While this Christian minister knows what true love in the face of evil looks like, he’s not naïve. Which is why he withdrew the invitation after ISIS informed him they would come to dinner…in order to cut off his head. In the end, love does more than call terrorists to “just like, coexist.” True love steps between murderers and victims, names evil for what it is, fights for justice for those whose blood “cries out to God from the ground,” and prays that killers would learn to call their own acts what they really are. Evil is evil, but the secular West, with its atrophied moral vocabulary, refuses to recognize or name evil when it shows up. I can think of few better illustrations than this that ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.