Sen Sasse: This Is About Who We Are

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  1. I’m not sure this is about freedom. Nor am I convinced that Americans are committed to liberty — look at what’s happening at U.S. universities (young people aren’t the most representative but they certainly would be a sector of the population, you’d think, that promotes freedom). I think this is part of the millennium long struggle between the West and Christendom which started with the Crusades and extended down to WWII (at least). The U.S. is at the tail end of this story. Doesn’t mean the U.S. is Christian. It does mean that Muslims view the West as Christian. How could then not when Bill Murray does a Christmas special for Netflix. The birth of our savior is simply part of the furniture of our culture. Bull’s eye.

    • Darryl,

      Should we not do, as you have done in analyzing “Christian America,” distinguish between our principles and our sociology? Those Millennials who have been taught that freedom is the absolute right of self-expression—political Narcissism—do not seem to be committed to the classical liberal (in the older sense of the word) view of freedom but Sen Sasse is certainly right that our national creeds (e.g., the Declaration and the Constitution) are committed to the older view of liberty.

      Isn’t it because of the collapse of Christendom that the catechesis that Sen Sasse offers here is so refreshing and important? As he says, theology is too important to be left to the state.

      • Scott, on principles and sociology, we are having a discussion about American identity. Ben thinks America is defined by a “creed.” That’s one way of understanding America but it’s actually not friendly to freedom — depending on how you define it. It sounds like a church. To be a citizen you have to affirm the creed. I don’t see anything wrong with the creed — though lots of neo-Cals and theonomists do because there’s no God in that creed — but is that America? Can you be a Communist and be a citizen? Some say yes. Some say no.

        Isn’t the real question one of law-abiding citizens. You are free to believe whatever creed you want, but you have to obey the law (and not kill other people).

        So my point is I see limits in defining America as a creed or with making freedom dogma.

        • Darryl,

          Isn’t the senator using the term “creed” in a broad sense? Don’t Americans, as citizens, commit themselves to believing certain things, e.g., the existence of unalienable rights etc? When immigrants become citizens of the republic, they are catechized in these principles and in the history of the republic, and they must make a profession of faith of sorts. If they will not profess that they adopt these principles and if they will not renounce loyalty to other civil principalities, they are not eligible for citizenship. That seems like a civil credo.

          • Scott, one view of freedom — Machen’s for instance — means freedom for all points of view. Conceivably, then, you could be a monarchist and a citizen of the U.S., especially if you are born here. Naturalized citizens are a different matter.

            I guess the odd aspect of this is that the U.S. requires so little of citizens and then we want the U.S. to require more than that. I understand the discomfort of terrorists. But I’m not sure freedom is why they hate us. Freedom has actually meant liberty for people who dissent from the U.S. government, right? Can you really turn freedom into a creed?

            What’s wrong with simply saying we want people to obey the law?

            • Darryl,

              A person might be a monarchist but he cannot advocate the violent overthrow of the republic nor can he plot in a Mosque (Islamic Study Center), as happened in Boston, to murder fellow citizens in the name of Allah or toward the imposition of Sharia through terror.

              I agree with Machen that a wide-range of “points of view” should be tolerated. I remember when the ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie.


              Perhaps we disagree about what the US requires of citizens? I’m not sure. It does not seem unreasonable to expect fellow citizens to be committed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and to live within the confines of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I see civil citizenship as a natural covenant/contract we make with one another in order to live together. We cede some of natural liberties (e.g., the punishment of crime) to the civil order in which we live together. For that to work, there must be some commonality. If there is none (the point toward which we seem to be moving rapidly) then that social compact breaks down.

              Is “the law” (i.e., legislative actions) all there is to a society? Someone has to make the laws on some basis, don’t they? Aren’t our civil creeds that basis, aren’t they prior to and fundamental to “the laws” and the standard by which we test laws enacted by legislatures? Justice Marshall thought so when he instituted judicial review.

      • Ben Sasse is incredibly misinformed about the motivation of these attackers. He ought to read Dying to Win by Robert Pape. His sloganeering about freedom is ridiculous. As a Senator, he has no reason to be ignorant on the subject.

  2. Senator: We (the United States) will win this battle [@3:37] ?
    Senator “tell the truth about the enemy we face”
    Senator: “combat with the truth “about who we are, what we stand for, and by being clear about those who would try to kill us because we believe in freedom”

    Nuanced approach? Isn’t the problem that ‘we’ have been way too ‘nuanced’

    Appreciate the firstthings link by Mark above:
    “As someone who grew up in the Muslim world, I want to conclude by saying that we too need to reform our ways. In recent decades, Evangelicals have contributed to the invisibility of Christian presence and witness in Muslim lands. We have caved in to real and imagined threats from radical groups. Instead of openly challenging the criminalization of Christian missions and evangelism in Muslim contexts, we have engaged in undercover and underhand missions. As Evangelicals, we must remain watchful and -prayerful, lest radical Islam radicalize us into redefining our ¬witness and values out of fear and hatred. The fight is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and we cannot win by resorting to the same weapons the enemy wields. We are called to use superior arms, called to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation and to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:14–17).”

  3. Sasse said that these attacks were motivated by hatred of freedom in the opening and again at the end of the video. That is cartoonish. Robert Pape’s book looks at hundreds of suicide attacks in order to determine what the motivates these types of attacks. He finds that the stated reason is more correlated with suicide attack than lung cancer is correlated with heavy smoking. It isn’t hatred of freedom.

    I’m not sure if my comment posts in the right spot, apologies if it doesn’t.

    • That’s true, yet a lot of people hate freedom. It does not necessarily explain the motivation for why people are willing to die to attack Americans or others. If you aren’t interested in reading the book, here’s a lecture by Pape where the motivations of terrorists are methodically considered:
      His methodology admittedly has some weakness, yet I think the evidence is solid. It certainly isn’t what Sasse claims.

    • I actually don’t care about suicide terrorism, nor do I think most Americans do since it’s statistically unlikely to affect them. I suspect most Americans and Westerners care about Muslim colonization: immigrating and then displacing the natives through demographics and marginalization of less-cohesive and morally-confused Westerners.

      Suicide attacks work if you allow suicide attackers in.

      Ben Sasse’s video was a typical … response to this incident and he was better off not saying anything now since these sorts of attacks have been going on for 20 years at least. At the end of the day, I DON’T support the right of Muslims to worship in this country as they want because the data shows they believe it’s right to oppress the kuffar and extract jizya from him.

    • “I actually don’t care about suicide terrorism, nor do I think most Americans do since it’s statistically unlikely to affect them.”

      Did you sleep in all day last 9/11? I think people very much care about suicide terrorism, whether it is rational or not.

      I don’t think most people are concerned about Muslim colonization yet, or at all. If Muslims weren’t involved in suicide bombings, I would bet that a slim majority would be fine with their immigration here.

      I don’t get the idea that nationalists are strong defenders of property rights, and in light of that, it makes sense that you don’t agree with freedom of religion.

  4. Similar to my all-day slumber on 9/11, you have apparently not heard of Muslim-only sharia’ah zones in the West, particularly in Europe, or of Dearbornistan, or of the Nestorian Church of the East that ranged from the Pacific to the Atlantic across Eurasia and North Africa that disappeared around the siege of Constantinople. Or of any Christians communities in the Middle East that have been ethnically cleansed. If Muslims did not practice jihad – suicide forms or not – against non-Muslims, perhaps people would want them here. But that’s their religion. Defensive jihad and offensive jihad – not the spiritual type – is built into their religion. They believe non-Muslims ought to live in submission to them (dhimma). Islam means ‘submission.’ About this point in the conversation Westerners usually plug their ears and start screaming ‘Racism!’

    As far as Islam is an all-encompassing political AND religious system involving subjugating non-muslims, I don’t support their right to free expression or exercise of their religion. Nor do I see a point in bringing more of them here. Elites want them here to multiply servants and divide us. Leftists want them here as allies against red-state Americans.

  5. Hmm, nope, I don’t think you informed me of anything new. What you wrote doesn’t sound particularly relevant to the point Sasse was trying to make.

    Suicide terrorism matters, in part, because of the negative consequences against Americans and other policies that the government has pursued. Pape demonstrates that some of those reactions increase the likelihood of more suicide terrorism. It’s a vicious circle and Sasse doesn’t realize the consequences of misunderstanding the motivations that usually accompanies terrorism.

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