The Bad Radical

During the presidential campaign, during political arguments, and during religious

disagreement, including those within the Church, this ad hominem seems to be

the ultimate card: Call your opponent “radical.” Closely followed by its synonym

“extremist,” this bit of name-calling can used nominally or adjectively to equal

advantage in dismissing the opponent and/or his argument. Its use has become so

widespread, so acceptable, that it’s never called into question, never recognized as

the ad hominem fallacy that it is.


Why is this so? Because the universally acceptable creed is relativism. It’s relativism

that’s really at work when we speak of “tolerant,” which is now used as an antonym

of “radical.” Both terms should be removed from the lexicon of public discourse

because both have lost their semantic value. (In the absence of any absolute, non-

absolute has no meaning.)


The Boston bombers have been referred to countless times as having been

“radicalized.” That means they ceased to be relativistic in their faith. Bad. We don’t

mind people being religious, as long as they don’t take their religion seriously

(radically), as long as they keep it confined to their private lives, their churches,

synagogues, or mosques, and inside their own homes. We want religious people

to put secular values ahead of religious ones. We want them to recognize our god

(the state, euphemistically called “society” lest we be recognized as totalitarian)

first. We want them to castigate those members of their faith who threaten by word

or deed to get out of line by actually living according to the tenets of their faith or

encouraging others to do so.


But there is something in every human being that longs for authenticity, for

objective truth. State/society/community can’t answer that longing. In some people

the hunger for something greater than themselves becomes so strong that they

endure incredible suffering and martyrdom; they become saints or heroes. Or

terrorists. They become radicalized.


I’m as horrified as everyone else by the Boston bombings, but I think the secular

political and sociological analyses of the bombers’ actions are superficial and facile.

It has nothing to do with politics or sociology. In denying the reality of the Absolute

a priori, such analyses can’t even approach an understanding—indeed, they ARE the

problem. The “enemy” is not America or Israel, or any country; it’s not Christians

or Jews, or any religion. These are actually only trees, and it’s the forest that is the

enemy. And that forest is collective, inclusive, tolerant “society.”

Dena Hunt
Dena Hunt is the author of the award-winning historical novel Treason (Sophia Institute Press), and The Lion’s Heart (Full Quiver Press), as well as several short stories and reviews, online and in print, at Dappled Things, StAR, and The Pilgrim Journal. She also writes for FaithCatholic, a liturgical publication company. She is currently working on her third novel. She is the book review editor of St. Austin Review.

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