The above link is to a GKC poem, "To St. Michael in Time of Peace." To those of you who to your shame do not know the above picture, it is Mont St Michel in France. Truly one of the wonders of Christendom, at high tide the old abbey is surrounded by the sea.
"Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fullness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword."
- from GKC To Michael in Time of Peace
St. Michael is one of my favorite saints. My father was born on this day, he would have been 78 today. My son has Michael for a middle name in his honor.
I think St. Michael is a very good individual to focus our thoughts around today. The last couple weeks have seen so many events of significance. The Moslems do honor St. Michael, Mishaal(?) in the Koranic tradition, although St. Gabriel figures more prominently. Even though I have done two deployments in the Islamic world and been in the war zones, I do see the possibility of certain individuals and elements in that community as allies in the "other" culture war. Take the following example as food for thought. In Iraq, our unit had a cadre of Kuwaiti interpreters who traveled with us and we rotated them through our missions. They also lived with us at our camp, and interestingly enough, the group with whom they felt the most comfortable interacting with were the more devout Christian soldiers. This may immediately seem like a dichotomy, but there was a shared value system up to a point. Devotion to duty and professionalism seem to be highest among religious soldiers, and this is something the Kuwaitis took seriously. Many soldiers are involved in porn in these situations, add to this the tension created by the presence of female soldiers, and it should be easy to see how these two groups in this arrangement actually bonded together as gentlemen and professionals.
The war on terror, and clash of civilizations has to have a definable end state, or at least a detente. The situation in which I found myself modeled this in many ways. We differed on theology and other obvious items, but found enormous common ground in the areas of personal morality and honorable living. On a societal scale, if the West can yield in the area of sexual revolution values and militant secularity I believe there can be a happy co-existence with the Islamic World, if they yield on the violence and rhetoric.
I know that is an enormous understatement, school books in Egypt and the Palestinian territory teach revisionist history and incite extremism. Instead of true soul deepening education, what is provided in so many of these states is mere indoctrination to create a new generation of fighters. The fringes of the Islamic world, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Phillipenes all show there own brand of radicalism. The nations occupying the center of the culture, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq are obviously beset with problems of many types.
As Pope Benedict XVI said, (as did Chesterton) modern thought has split into different branches. There is only one angle, however, by which a structure stands and an infinite number by which it falls. The secular West and the Islamic world are suffering from this misalignment. In a way, what the Pope is asking for, echoing CS Lewis, is a Mere Reasonableness.
This is a bit unusual mix of thoughts to bring together under the inspiration of St. Michael. It seems in our age, "Who is like God," would be taken as a statement of agnosticism instead of a battle cry of humility. Peter Kreeft has an excellent talk on his website about Angelic nature and intelligence. For as esoteric as that sounds, there are some wonderful points there. Angelic intelligence is seen to be above ours, yet the brightest example given to us from scripture in this area says "Who is like God?" A true invocation to humility and making the same point as Regensberg about reason, and the faith which it informs and inspires.