Lewis outlines the gradual realization of Muslims that Western Christendom had somehow lapped them in cultural, industrial, political, and military might over the course of several hundred years. While it was initially military defeats and truces as the Ottoman Empire was stopped in its tracks, the reality slowly trickled in that the West had advanced explosively and Muslims had to begin grappling with how to handle this. At first, there was very cautious study of Western military practices, but then this curiosity spread to political theory and social organization and eventually to commercial, industrial, and scientific investigations. Sultans and Caliphs even began sending their people to be educated at Western universities, which is still a well known practice to this day.
It’s hard not to read about all this and not hear Isaiah’s prophesy: “Arise, shine, for your light has come… And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Is. 60:1-3). Over the centuries, Muslim investors preferred putting their money in Western ventures: “the wealth of the nations shall come to you… ” (Is. 60:5).
Of course all of this comes with opportunities and dangers. While Muslims have greatly feared the allure of the wealthy West, warning their people not to permanently settle in Western nations lest they be drawn away into the Christian faith, the desire to keep the wealth of the nations coming into the West has arguably become one of the hooks of secularism, the promise of multiculturalism without any explicitly Christian foundation.
Not sure if Lewis will touch on this, but the explosion of Muslim immigration in Europe, Great Britain, and the US toward the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century is also a fascinating phenomenon, given the traditional Islamic prohibitions against settling in infidel lands. One can hardly help but think of the mass evacuations and migrations from Cuba during the rise and reign of Castro as indicators of what life was actually like on the ground. People don’t risk their lives crossing seas in rafts if what lies behind them is peaceful and prosperous. Those immigrants are running, fleeing for their lives. And indications are that many modern Muslim immigrants are likewise fleeing the Taliban, Isis, etc. And now Aleppo is just the latest on the list of the genocidal tendencies of pent up Islamic frustrations and fury.
But the point I’m making here is that for all the massive problems in the “Christian” West (the proliferation of abortion, pornography, homosexuality, greed, etc.), the West is still a shining light to the nations. The nations are still streaming in.
And of course this immediately raises the whole immigration discussion, especially as it relates to those jihadists using immigration as cover for their violence. If we hear Isaiah rightly, Christians ought to see immigration in principle as a good thing. All things being equal, people who want to move to your nation is a compliment, a sign that your land has been blessed. A closed-door policy that simply despises immigration is refusing the blessing of God. In the Bible, the blessing of God is often pictured in the form of foreigners bringing their treasures into city of God. Of course in the New Covenant that could be anywhere. The city of God is not limited to the West, and if we do not turn away from our current course of rebellion, we will at some point create our own refugee crisis. But when God blesses a city, a state, a nation (anywhere) it becomes a place that people consider moving to, to enjoy those blessings.
One set of problems comes when the original inhabitants forget where those blessings came from and begin thinking that their own hand has gotten them that wealth — that’s a quick path to racism and xenophobia and the worst sorts of ethnic nationalism. Another set of problems comes when wicked men ride the stream into the city only to destroy it. And in order to rightly divide between the glory of the nations and the hatred of the nations the host nation must have some way of distinguishing, a standard of law and justice, which begs the question: where’d you get that standard? And if there is no standard above mass human opinion and fear, you curse yourself with the whims of ignorance, staggering hard right or hard left or godless center depending on how the room seems to be spinning at the moment.
Turns out these current issues (along with so many others) are constant invitations to return to the wisdom of Christ. His Word, His cross, His ways are the good paths.