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Lions Roar : January 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 37 the first millennium BCE when all the world’s great reli- gions got their start. She arrives midmorning at Couchiching ill, feverish and losing her voice. She wants quiet and sleep before her evening keynote speech. But, told that a journalist— me—has made the ninety-minute drive from Toronto for an interview prearranged by the conference organ- izers, she ends a too-brief nap to come resolutely to the conference center’s dining room to talk, a small, wan, tired woman speaking hoarsely and above a whisper. She forgoes rest because Armstrong is a woman on a mission, a messenger bearing warnings for Americans and the world: Beware. Beware. Misbegotten U.S. foreign policy is pushing Islamic fundamentalists closer and closer to the use of weapons of mass destruction. Time is running out. The American administration and its allies have ignited a conflict that will last a generation. It is, she says, just the beginning, and Pollyannish optimism about its outcome she labels a sin. “It is just the beginning. Even to call it a war on terrorism is a mistake,” she says. It is war, a religious war, launched in an era of mushrooming worldwide religious funda- mentalist revolt against modernity and secularism. Fundamentalism, she says, is an enormous socio- political problem that must be addressed—it is split- ting countries like Egypt, Israel and America into two camps—and the lessons from history are unequivocal: religious fundamentalists always, always become more violent under attack, whether in the Middle East, Iraq or in the United States itself. Armstrong warns that this is a conflict frighteningly aggravated by the rising domestic political might of American conservative Christian evangelicals and tradi- tional Roman Catholics. Whenever religion is allowed to enter political debate, positions become more absolute and the middle ground of compromise and flexibility erodes. Because religious behavior mirrors the culture in which it exists, she says, the Christian right in the U.S. has absorbed the endemic violence of U.S. society and taken on the vengeful Armageddon fantasies of the New Testament book of Revelation. She proclaims George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden to be BY MICHAEL VALPY