Nov. 15, 2012
I met Jacob for coffee this week. He didnt look a day older than when I first met him as a University of Virginia undergraduate fourteen years ago. Jacob was then a sharp Washington intern and I enjoyed hearing his familys story of coming to America. Jacobs parents are Christians who left India to come here seeking a better life for their children.
Jacob and I were headed to a Capitol Hill briefing on the threat of sharia law to Americas freedoms. He has returned from a two-year stint in Defense Studies at a graduate school in India. He has made himself an expert in jihadist ideology and its global transmission through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
I was keenly interested in how this young American would react to living in the country of his parents. He said that when his class went to hear Sec. of State Hillary Clinton when she made an appearance in India, his classmates found her condescending and ill-informed.
Indian students of national defense are upset that Americans can be so naive. Why has America lined up behind Pakistan when the official motto of the Pakistani Army is "Faith, Piety, and Jihad in the Way of Allah" ("Iman, Taqwa, Jihad-fi-Sabilillah")? Why is the U.S. showering billions in aid on the Pakistanis?
Well, the standard answer is that the Pakistanis have the nuclear bomb and we dont want to alienate them. But China and Russia also have nuclear weapons. So does India. We dont seem to feel it necessary to pay them off.
Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror, we explain. The Indians are too polite to laugh in our faces. Despite years of promises to the U.S., the ISI, Pakistan's equivalent to the CIA, continues to permit terrorist training camps to be run in Pakistan. From those camps, jihadists are sent throughout the world, including the U.S. Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who attempted to bomb Times Square in 2010, was trained in one such location.
Surely, Pakistanis were helpful in tracking down Osama bin Laden, werent they? They let him lounge with his wives a mile outside the gates of their West Point for years. If they knew this, they were treacherous. If they did not know this, they were spectacularly incompetent. In either case, we are wasting our money.
It should be no mystery which case was true. A few weeks after our helos had lifted off, with the body of bin Laden wrapped to sleep with the sturgeons, the Pakistani regime arrested the man who helped us finger the mastermind of 9/11. So much for Pakistani friendship.
Jacob thinks we Americans could learn a lot from Indians. They have a lot more experience with jihad than we do. (Like a thousand years!)
Jacob and I move on to other topics. Hes a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity. Although it is not widely known in the West, Orthodox Christians strongly believe the Apostle Thomas traveled to India as a missionary as early as A.D. 52. There, he founded a church which has survived to this day. I tell him that I was brought to faith in Christ by reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the heroic Russian Orthodox writer, so I will always have a soft spot for our Orthodox brethren.
Also, I pointed out the important scene in the movie Luther. When young Martin is studying for his doctorate, his professor recites the Latin maxim: Extra ecclesia non salus est. Outside the [Roman Catholic] Church, there is no salvation. Immediately, Brother Martin objects: What about the Eastern Church? Even then, he recognized the kinship he had with Christians outside the communion of the Catholic Church. As a Lutheran, I could hardly fail to appreciate that scene. It may have been a pivotal moment in the Reformation.
I asked Jacob how he coped with the multitude of India's languages. He explained that while he picked up some Hindi and Tamil from his classmates, they were eager to practice their English with him. It actually gave him an opening to discuss Christianity with them.
As the noted literary critic E.D. Hirsch wrote in Cultural Literacy, the only way you can understand English is to read the Bible. Thats because English contains hundreds of biblical allusionsthe widows mite, the extra mile, the good shepherd, the widow and the unjust judge, becoming a Jonah, the camel and the eye of the needle, just for starters. Hirsch was not a Christian, but he recognized the central role the Bible has played in the development of our English language.
One of the tragedies of the education establishment going even beyond the erroneous court rulings against Bible readings is that our national literacy has declined seriously since the 1960s. Hirsch was concerned about the disparate impact of this decline on minority students, in particular.
I mentioned to Jacob my greatest joy: My almost four-year old grandson has been attending a Lutheran pre-school. His first lesson was God made me. He is now memorizing Bible verses. Mine for him will be this: Gods Word Stands Forever.
My grandson is the only white child in his class. The rest of the school is comprised of immigrant and minority children. When you hear him recite the names of his playmates, you realize that America is changing. Yes, thank God, America is changing. In certain ways, she is becoming more deeply Christian. It is considered politically incorrect to state this, but the majority of America's immigrants identify themselves as Christians and have enriched American culture through their unique contributions.
As we leave for our meeting, Jacob helps me with my tangled trench coat. Its a gracious gesture from the young to the old from this Son of Thomas. If we have the wit, and the faith, we will thank God for young Americans like Jacob.