This week Jeff covers a range of topics, focusing on the controversy over Obama’s remarks about the historical sins of Christianity such as the Crusades, the Inquisition and slavery. Jeff also explores the mindset of the perpetrators of such brutalities, which we saw erupt anew this week with the immolation of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS. In other matters, Jeff notes the explosive growth in Chinese cinema, and it’s evolutionary power. Plus we revisit vaccines…and get to meet the Integral community’s own Navy Seal sniper.

Did Obama blow it in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast? He certainly got blow-back, especially for the following comments:

Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

Murderous extremism is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.

I must say, when I first heard he had said this I thought, “No Barack, please! You let me say this shit, not you. You just stand up there and praise Jesus for another two years, and I’ll take care of this other stuff.”

But he never listens to me, and so he has gotten creamed from pretty much all sides. Especially from the traditionalists (amber altitude) because his comments feed into their fears that this Obama, which rhymes with Osama, is not really a Christian at all and is actually tilling the land for the Enemy. But even moderates saw it as a gaffe, simply for the unfortunate timing and lack of context of larger events in the world.

Indeed, his speech took place two days after the world saw a shocking demonstration of non-Christian atrocity: a thirty-minute, four-camera video edited like a video game with quick-cut graphics, sound effects and a grandiose narrative that led to a stark, brutal scene: a steel cage holding a man in an orange jumpsuit soaked in gasoline who is about to be burned alive.

So two days after this, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama brings up Christian atrocities of a thousand years ago. Bad timing in my opinion but I will defend his comments on one count: they are 100% true. Christians did all of these things — in numbers that dwarf the deeds of today’s Muslim fanatics.

But all of this is so much better understood in a developmental context — and Obama didn’t provide it. His explanation of ISIS was basically that they are evil criminals who are perverting Islam. This explanation represents the orange/green sweet spot that Obama generally tries to hit as President. I’m not sure how much he believes it versus how much he thinks espousing it is proper leadership for the country. The former view would be orange/green and the latter would be integral.

Here’s how the view of ISIS evolves according to the altitudes of development:

Amber traditionalists: For traditionalists, evil is evil. It’s what the Devil and his minions do in their battle with God and God’s people. For them the whole religion of Islam is evil. Conversely, for Islamic traditionalists Christianity is a religion of heresy and infidels. There’s one true faith and you’re either with us or against us.

Orange modernists: ISIS is evil but Islam isn’t, and in fact ISIS is perverting a great religion. This is a more mature and complex view, but we’re still stuck with evil.

Green postmodernists: This view of ISIS is that they are power-mad psychopaths. The Obama administration, for instance, is intent on identifying them by term such as “murderous extremists” not “Islamic extremists.” In this view ISIS is ultimately trying to gain power and are cynically using Muslim ideology as a veneer to do so. Thus we see headlines on progressive sites such as: “Charlie Hebdo has nothing to do with religion.” But yet the assassins didn’t shoot up a crowd of tourists at the Eiffel tower, which would have been much more effective in terrorizing the world and hurting France. Instead they took pains to hunt down cartoonists who had insulted their religion.

So what’s the integral view of brutality? How does integral theory explain a rampaging mob of militants who blitz the countryside killing and crucifying people, stealing girls, beheading people and burning them alive?

Integral has the most astonishing explanation of all: brutality is perfectly normal human behavior. Except, that is, for the last  0.1% of human history (a couple hundred years). Before that humans were busy with plunder, conquest, beheading and burning people alive — the whole horror show. This is simply standard-issue pre-modern behavior.

But will it work for ISIS in the 21st Century? Clearly it has so far. But to be effective, terrorism has to constantly raise the shock value, and so last week we were subjected to the immolation of the pilot instead of “just another” beheading.

From a military perspective, however, this latest atrocity may turn out to be a blunder on ISIS’s part. The deed — and its media dissemination — is so dastardly that it may actually galvanize the more civilized Arab world against them. Jordan for instance has been understandably ferocious in their response. This could be a turning point in the psyche of the Arab world.

But whether or not it is successful actually misses the real point of ISIS’s motivation, which is: they believe in what they’re doing. They believe that Allah has sent them to rout the infidels and bring forth His kingdom on Earth. They are far less worried about being successful than they are about being faithful.

We miss this point when we focus just on the brutality of ISIS and call it evil, crazy or power-mad. Because there is another feature of red/amber development that is equally significant: it is magical. Holy warriors don’t think rationally — heck, rationality is two stages in their future. They think magically.

ISIS’s story goes something like this: “Look at you, you infidels, with your tanks and your planes and your bombs. You have no idea who you’re up against. We are army of Allah, the one true God. I’d much rather be on my side with Allah than on your side with your big army.”

Don’t forget, this is the same God that parted the Red Sea for Moses and the ragtag Israelites, and then drowned the Pharaoh’s chariot army that was in pursuit. It’s the same God who empowered David to kill Goliath. This God, like all super-hero red/amber gods, specializes in miraculous victories against impossible odds.

So ISIS warriors fight for the same reason people have always fought: because they think they will win, and gain something in the effort. History shows that people will fight against impossible odds when they think they can win. And they will only be disabused of this notion when they lose, lose, lose.

And as for Obama, why did he bring up historical Christian atrocities? He had to know the reaction he was going to trigger. I think he, too, thought he was right. He was also taking into account that moderate Muslims are listening. As I said, this week’s immolation of the pilot may mark a turning point in the consciousness of moderate-leaning Muslims, and the prayer breakfast was a good setting to speak to them. It was, after all, attended by religious leaders from over 100 countries, and widely publicized throughout the Middle East.

So Obama was apparently taking into account the politics of the world, not just the politics of the US, and was willing to risk the indignation of conservatives to do so. History may be kinder to this speech, and Obama’s world-centric sensibilities, than the knee-jerk reaction of the outrage industry here in the US.

But still, some days it’s harder to be an Obamapologist than others.


The Daily Evolver | Episode 112 | The Banality of ISIS