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He used to be the “Big A”, the most feared gangster, assassin and drug-dealer in contemporary Copenhagen. Abderrozah Benarabe is his name. Recently he got religion, and is now “doing the Jihad” with Al Qaida against Assad. The reason for this extraordinary metamorphosis (though murder is murder, whether in Denmark or Syria; in a video he says he wonders what Allah thinks about those he has already committed) is worth noting. Apparently he promised Allah that if his brother recovered from cancer, he would walk the line, stop slitting Danish throats and become a model Muslim. Naturally his brother no longer has cancer and the righteous rebels have a new recruit.

Such a conversion, such a pact, such a covenant, is not without precedent. I have already in another post referred to a Sydney priest who was an Australian naval chaplain during World War 2 in the battle of the Coral Sea. Floating in said Coral Sea and in danger of drowning in his uniform after his ship went down under, he promised the Virgin that if she saved him he would build a church in her honor. She did and he did, and I once preached in his church in the Sydney parish of Penshurst, where every year the U.S. Seventh Fleet was represented in the annual commemoration of the Coral Sea battle, dedicated to thanking God and His Mum for the victory and to reinforcing Australian-American friendship.

One cannot but think of other contacts and contracts with the Deity and its delegates, Mary and lesser Saints. Lourdes would never have happened had Bernadette not had her visions and agreed to have a basilica built. The history of France would have been significantly different if the Maid of Orleans had not heard those voices urging her to oust the Brits with her own precocious “Aux armes, citoyens !” (Even Grand Opera would have been different and much poorer without the legend of Faust and his pact with the Devil.)

Like NDEs – Near-Death Experiences – personal supernatural revelations and experiences forge unshakeable convictions, especially when they involve “proof” of their authenticity. When God holds up His side of the bargain by working the miracle requested, the beneficiary feels a certain obligation to hold up his, like the Big A and my sacerdotal colleague. St Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa of Avila, Padre Pio are among the many models for the credulous who believe they too have had a direct contact, and even a contract, with God. How many of them try to cajole Him into working a miracle for them ? When it works, their faith is set in concrete.

There is little hope of shaking such faith. One can only applaud conversion from immoral, dishonest, cruel or criminal behavior, at least when it does not result in murderous fanaticism. But surely rational, sensible people will recognize how infantile and stupidly naïve it is to believe that they can negotiate with a creation of their own imagination.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

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