Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Self-Imposed Christian Cage

The caged pulpitUsing a post by Dymphna as a jumping-off point, Pastorius has written a powerful essay about the current crisis faced by the different branches of Christianity.

There is a strain of thought in the liberal we’re-all-the-same-under-the-skin wing of Christianity which maintains that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship what is essentially the same God. This assertion can only hold as long as one fails to read the scriptures of the religions involved. The God of the New Testament and the Torah is very different from the Allah found in the Koran.

Pastorius highlights an essential difference:

The first principle of the Bible is that man needs to be Free, and this comes before anything else.

This is not at all a principle of Islam. In Islam, a good Muslim is to learn the Koran by heart, and to follow its rules by rote. He is not to be analytical, because his analysis can never add anything to that which Allah has already provided. The Koran, itself, is the final word of Allah to man. It is not to be amended or added to. It is to be followed only.

And to follow the Koran faithfully is to engage in struggle and violence against the unbeliever until all the world has submitted to the rule of Allah. There is no escaping this imperative.

The most important endeavor the Christian Church can undertake, at this point in time, is to understand that the defense of Western Civilization is of utmost importance to the existence of Christianity. Without the protection Western Civilization provides to Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Speech, and Democracy, Christianity itself would go into a dark age…

The Christian Church must understand that Western Civilization and the Bible go hand in hand. The Christian Church must become warriors for Western Civilization. I am not saying that this means the Church itself must call for violence. No, the Church, at this juncture has the luxury still of keeping its advocacy in the realm of peace. We can still fight our battles in the realm of ideology.

However, if the Christian Church, and the West, allow too many of our cherished Freedoms to slip away, it will become incumbent upon the Church, once again, to go into the business of War. And, that will be a shame upon us, not because it would be wrong to call for war in such a case, but, because we could have won our war without violence, if we had only acted sooner.

Modern mainstream Christianity has put itself into a cage of its own making, a cage of radical non-violence. It has, in effect, repudiated two thousand years of its own history, forsaking all the heroes who gave their lives so that the work of Christ could continue unmolested. Are we to forget that Charles Martel drove out the Saracens in the Battle of Poitiers in 732, or that an alliance of Christian European kingdoms defeated the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, or that John III Sobieski, King of Poland raised the Siege of Vienna in 1683, all so that Christendom could flourish and create the beneficent cultural structure we now know as Western Civilization? If these uncouth, violent, and bloody-minded men had not fought on behalf of their fellow Christians, from whence would have come all the humane and tolerant values of postmodern culture?

This illustrates what I call the “Gandhi Syndrome”. Mahatma Gandhi would not have had the impact he did, nor would India have gained its independence in 1947, if the non-violent Hindu movement had been directed at anything except a humane and Christian culture. Gandhi, in effect, shamed the British, pointing out the basis of their own Christian values and forcing them to act accordingly. Under Hitler, or Stalin, or Saddam, or Kim Jong-Il, the equivalent of Gandhi’s movement would have been exterminated immediately, and its memory erased from recorded history.

The uncomfortable fact remains: modern civil society, with its culture of tolerance and human rights, is a creation of Western Christendom. Its existence is not a given; it is dependent upon constant vigilance and a willingness to do violence against those who would violently overturn it.

The humane tolerance of Western Civilization is an anomaly. On a historical scale, it has existed for but the briefest of moments, and can be extinguished with very little warning.

We ignore these facts at our peril.

24 comments:

boinky said...

you also ignore the Catholic and Orhthodox Christians...
Catholics say Muslims have an incomplete knowledge: That Allah is God, but they only have partial knowledge of him. So their religion is mixed with falsehood.
Falsehood opens one to evil.
However, even those with more complete knowledge can fall into sin, since pride is the largest sin. We are saved thru grace and God's love for us, not by perfect knowledge. Therefore, Muslims who truly love God and try to follow his will be saved by Jesus' love and grace, since they have "baptism of desire" i.e. the desire to follow good.

Dymphna said...

Boinky,
This post is not about good Muslims. It is concerned with the fact that Western freedoms and the sanctity of the individual, which are principles which derive from (a)Judaism, (b)Christianity, and (c)Platonist ideals as digested and formed by Christian belief.

While your ideas about what constitutes personal salvation are interesting, they don't impinge on the threat that faces our secularized, once-upon-a-time-Christian culture -- including many corrupted aspects of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Dymphna said...

btw, if this doesn't correspond with your thinking, I recommend that you read Oriana Fallaci's "Force of Reason." Now there's an atheist who has long since experienced a baptism of desire...it's only her personal witness of the corruption of Catholicism which keeps her where she is...

Mr. Spog said...

As various writers have pointed out, pure New Testament Christianity is very "other-worldly" and does not provide much of a basis for ordering society, or for telling us when it is legitimate to be violent in the name of political objectives. You can't derive a definite legal code from the Golden Rule. Traditionally, other-worldly pacifism somehow does not seem to have been much of a problem for Christian society, possibly because it was ruled by an aristocracy descended from pagan warriors and retaining much of their ethical code. Also, Christianity was accompanied by the classical tradition (e.g. Aristotelian ethics). Within living memory, the classical tradition has been largely discarded, leaving us with a "naked" other-worldly Christianity which is dangerously disposed to suicidal pacifism. Of course the shift from individual moral cultivation to "social justice" issues doesn't help either.

Matt said...

Mr. Spog said:

"[P]ure New Testament Christianity is very "other-worldly" and does not provide much of a basis for ordering society, or for telling us when it is legitimate to be violent in the name of political objectives. You can't derive a definite legal code from the Golden Rule."

I'd call this one of the major strengths of Christianity, in that the inherent fuzziness of the the NT allows quite a bit of flexibility in setting up society. It also combines with the whole 'Free Will' thing, which the Bible postulates as being an inherent property of humans; if God gave us Free Will, then it wouldn't make much sense to then saddle us with a legal/moral/ethical dogma which is entirely closed to questions. Of course that hasn't stopped a few sects from taking in the notion of predestination, but they're the exception rather than the rule (rather as Sufi Islam is the exception to a generally tyrannical faith.)

It doesn't really surprise me that some of Christianity's most vehement opposition, within western culture, has come from dogmatic marxists. After all, every culture in which their ideas have been implemented has seen a huge contraction in freedom.

Full disclosure: I don't actually consider myself a Christian, having discarded the faith when I was a teenager and having since developed a somewhat, erm, eccentric brand of personal faith. But, I have gotten over most of the hostility I had to Christianity, mostly as a result of seeing the other options on the current world religion menu.

Dymphna said...

Christianity is a social religion. It's difficult to maintain an authentic link to a mature spirituality without a community frame of reference which allows one to come face-to-face with the limits of Self. The generosity which arises from the experience of grace, of serendipity, is simply an overflow feeling of gratitude...the need to respond in some way to what one has been given. And to respond to another...thus experiencing both the immanent and the transcendent aspects of spirituality.

Lots of teenagers turn away from their childhood's lost faith because our culture has become ritually impoverished when it comes to rites of passage in spiritual life and communion. Too bad, because the impoverishment of one affects us all.

OTOH, I can't blame kids for turning away from what seems to have neither life nor meaning. The Old Man in the Sky image doesn't make it into adulthood and our professed religious are not good at communicating the inner reality of genuine spirituality.

Too bad we don't have teenagers reading C.S. Lewis and Meister Eckhart or St. Augustine. But we don't...we leave them spiritually illiterate.

Sorry for going on for so long. I was moved by Matt's comment.

Mary said...

Brings to mind Jared Diamond about the Maori and the Moriori, one of whom was peaceful and one of whom was warlike. Guess who won?:
"In the Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand, centuries of independence came to a brutal end for the Moriori people in December 1835. On November 19 of that year, a ship carrying 500 Maori armed with guns, clubs, and axes arrived, followed on December 5 by a shipload of 400 more Maori. Groups of Maori began to walk through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing those who objected. An organized resistance by the Moriori could still then have defeated the Maori, who were outnumbered two to one. However, the Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council meeting not to fight back but to offer peace, friendship, and a division of resources.

Before the Moriori could deliver that offer, the Maori attacked en masse. Over the course of the next few days, they killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of the bodies, and enslaved all the others, killing most of them too over the next few years as it suited their whim."

Archonix said...

The reason NT christianity is so vague about a lot of issues is that it was written for an audience with a thorough understanding of hebraic law and social customs. It didn't cover those issues in depth because it was generally understood that they would be known already. In some ways this has been a detriment to us in the modern world, as we have very little understanding of the culture that prompted so much of what was written there.

One interesting tidbit that I picked up recently: Paul, the pharisee, learned in teh law, was sent to preach to the gentiles, whereas Pete and the gang stayed in Israel to preach to the jews. Paul knew the law and had the authority of roman citizenship and high learning on the front row at the feet of the temple council, and had to teach the law to those who didn't know it, so they could have a full contextual understanding of the fulfillment that Jesus brought. Pete knew the law too, but he wasn't a pharisee; his teaching to thr jews was a reversal of the natural order of the day. He was teaching to people who already knew the law; all they needed was to understand the fulfilment of the law.

Anyway, the point is, a pure New Testament christianity needs an understanding of the old testament in order to function correctly. Not forgetting that much of our legal system is based on, or inspired by, the legality of the old hebrew law anyway... but, otherwise, I agree. The temporal flexibility and spirituality of christianity is its prime saving grace, and should be its chief weapon, Instead we're faced with legalists, who take the words of the bible but don't understand the meaning behind them. People who have eyes and ears, but don't see and hear, to coin a phrase... :)

Pim's Ghost said...

This is one reason why I have so enjoyed the book Without Roots : The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by (now) Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera, an excerpt of which I typed out for the IBA w week or so ago. These two men are well aware of this cage and are actively seeking solutions to breaking out of it. They too marvel at the circumstances we (The West) would have landed in had it not been for the Martels and Sobieskis in our past.

I agree with your "Gandhi Syndrome" idea, and the shame lives on. Yet such movements do require small windows passing by to work. I believe that the ideal of self-preservation is slowly returning to the West, though I base myself more on hope. The reality seems more akin to desperate attempts to put sandbags in place against ever rising water.

bioqubit said...

The Leaky Cage...

If I understand you correctly, you are saying Christianity has lost it's evangelical edge, it's ability to draw new members. I am not so sure that is true in America. Revivals, gospel groups, missionaries, these are all pretty robust groups. I know a family that is moving to China to do missionary work. To me, that strikes of moving into the belly of the beast.

While it is still the standard orthodoxy of the People's Liberation Army to reject religion, or else co opt it in any way possible, those who are more forward looking know that despite political restraints on religious practices, there will be conflicts in the future on a much larger scale than currently exists. Rather than having the state intermediate, let the Christian segment grow so that when the Chinese muslims in the west finally do rise up, they can let the Christians and Muslims kill each other.

Will this polarization create more converts? Sure. Will it buttress the crumbling foundations of Western Civilization? Only if education gets it right.

Come to think of it, I remember, around 1970, the formation of Eisenhower College for the sole purpose of providing a college edducation to those with a conservative background. My then girlfriend went there, and was making much of how other colleges were far too liberal.

Message? The forces corroding the western values in American education have been at work for quite some time.

Sluggo_f16 said...

Baron/Dymphna,
If you could overcome your distaste for the Catholic church and the Holy Father for a minute you would recognize a man who understands this well. Pope Benedict has been quietly (and sometime not so quietly) promoting just this issue. Pope JP was a great man, but the threat of Islam was lost on him. Benedict is not about to give up Europe without a fight.

i.e. Stop lumping in the Catholic's with the erhabists.

Baron Bodissey said...

Sluggo,

Where did you get the idea that we're anti-Catholic? I'll let Dymphna speak for herself, but... I don't think I've given any evidence of anti-Catholicism. If I have, please take to task with specific examples.

AMDG said...

> Are we to forget that Charles Martel drove out the Saracens in the Battle of Poitiers in 732, or that an alliance of Christian European kingdoms defeated the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571...

Not an "alliance of Christian European kingdoms", but of the King of Spain and some Italian cities, with the opposition of France and Protestant Europe.

France, allied to the Turk, broke the Holly League (Venice deserted) after the victory, and the task could not be completed... That is now our task!

Lepanto, la batalla inacabada (Spanish)

Archonix said...

Politics and the french. Who'd have thunk it?

A. Eteraz said...

this is terrible. what are you guys saying? you want to turn back the 'gandhian' christianity? in favor of what? violent christianity? angry christianity? so you want to stoop to the level of the people that people like me are telling to become peaceful. blood begets blood: saladin said that b/c he knew war. this is the worst idea ever. stick to the battle in the realm of ideas and be patient. christ was patient and he wasn't much into violence.

Baron Bodissey said...

Chill out, Eteraz! Pastorius and I are only talking about "suicidal pacifism", the kind that walks meekly to the firing squad.

I hope Christianity will remain the force for peace that it has traditionally been. But I want to avoid the descent into "peace at any price".

Dan M said...

I find fascinating the mixture of intense loathing of the Catholic Church, coupled with calls to remember past CATHOLIC victories, such as Poitiers, Lepanto, and especially, the victory that occurred at "the Gates of Vienna."

You might do well to remember something from a bumper sticker i recently saw, which said: "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a GI. If you can read this without peering through a veil, thank a Catholic."

Roman Catholicism was the bulwark behind which the Protestants worked their historic mischief. While Catholics were driving the muslim out of Spain, out of Sardinia, out of Malta, out of Sicily, out of the Balkans, the Protestants were ripping and tearing apart the mystical body of Christ himself.

That's one hell of a record to be proud of.

But hey, "corruption" I suppose, is an intrinsically "Catholic" sin.

I liked too that comment that the only thing holding Fallici from embracing Catholicism was her being scandalized by "Catholic corruption." Cut me a fricken break. And grant Fallici a degree of mental sophistication. She isn't some blockhead scandalized by the sin of her fellow humans.

Corruption was endemic to the 12, via the misdirection of funds by Judas himself. Whereas the Catholic sees that sin, corruption, graft was present even within the Apostles, and that sin is not something to be scandalized over, but rather something to be constantly on guard against, the Protestant pretends that the presence of sin within the institutional Church damns and blasts the entirety thereof. I love it, Christ was NOT scandalized by sinners, "tax collectors, prostitutes," and he was and is the Son of God. But the dainty, scrupulous, pure as the driven snow Protestant chooses to be scandalized by behavior that Christ himself was not. Christ wasn't scandalized to be seen in the ranks of the "sinner," but some Protestants are scandalized to be shoulder to shoulder with Ratzinger, a Wojtyla, a Cardinal Newman, a George Cardinal Pell.

God, irony upon ironies.

It's sophomoric, it's juvenile, it's ahistoric, and it fails to take account of the fallen nature of man. To say that the Church is condemned for her many "corruptions" is to say something so brain dead that it simply staggers the mind.

Martin Luther had issues. However, some of his problems, particularly the practise of simony, warranted remedy. But there wasn't any need to leave the Church, only to work within it.

And what a picture that protestantism presents to us today. What is it now, the protestants create a new splinter group every what, 8 or 9 days, something like that. Even before Luther was dead and buried, the "protestants" were "protesting" against one another. And have been ever since.

If you are looking for scandal, just take a good look at what the protestants have wrought to Christian doctrine over the last couple hundred years.

THERE is the REAL scandal, because it impacts the life of the Church, the body of Christ on earth.

Yea, that's what Christ intended, endless splintering, endless breaking away, endless groups of people looking for some charismatic "pastor" or "preacher," who says what they want to hear.

The Roman Catholic Church has existed for 2,000 years plus, it's seen all forms of corruption, financial, sexual, you name it. But throughout it all, one thing has remained involiate, because of the protection of the Holy Spirit, and that is the deposit of faith.

Dan M said...

Baron, the 2d and 3d entry on this comment thread were an attack upon the Catholic Church.

But maybe I'm being too harsh.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the line about "corrupted practises of the Catholic and Orthodox Church," from entry #2. And Maybe I'm overly irritated about that comment that Fallici would have become Catholic by now, but for the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church.

Corruption and sin no more disprove the Catholic Church than the flood disproves the Ark.

Christ came FOR the sick, he came to call "sinners," NOT the "righteous," not the self-satisfied, not the smug.

A. Eteraz said...

Baron,

I made a response to yours and Pastorius' post here:

http://eteraz.org/?p=209

A. Eteraz said...

i think there is a mis-assignment going on. 'suicidal pacifism' isn't a by product of christian compassion, but of the welfare state. think over it.

Baron Bodissey said...

Eteraz, you could be right. Maybe pacifism, which started out Christian (or Hindu) has been completely secularized.

It's still suicidal, though.

Pastorius said...

Of the welfare state? You mean in a psychological sense?

Eteraz, I am not arguing that the Christian Church take up the defense of Western Civilization in a military sense. I am arguing that we take it up in an ideological sense. The Christian Church needs to start explaining to its parishoners exactly why Freedom of Speech, Conscience, etc. are so important. The Church needs to articulate how these freedoms are based on the Bible, how they are Biblical ideas. That man must be free, before he can choose to serve God. That Freedom comes first, and that, therefore, we must tolerate mistakes, and sin within society, for the cause of Freedom.

One of the points in my essay is that if the Christian Church doesn't get serious about defending Western Civilization, then it is a possibility that we will end up having to argue for war. In other words, we had better fight ideologically now, and contribute to victory, or the Christian Church may wind up being the last power structure standing who is willing to fight militarily, and therefore, we will have to advocate for violence.

That is not a choice the Christian Church wants to make, but it is a choice the Church has made in the past. And, it was under similar circumstances.

Dymphna said...

The complaints about my "anti-Catholic" attitude on this thread are puzzling. My views re ecclesiology, which I have discussed on other posts, are quite conventionally Roman Catholic.

However, having my ideas called "sophmoric" or being perceived as having an "intense loathing" of the Chuch makes me disinclined to bother responding to the charges. In no way did I say I loathed the Church; if someone chooses to infer that from my words, go for it...but why ratchet up the dialogue like that?
You'll bruise yourself jumping to conclusions, but, hey, be my guest. Fortunately, your judgments as to my orthodoxy are simply that: *your* *judgments*.

We all know the scandals that have ensued in the long history of the members of the Church. That does not mean that the ecclesia is itself corrupt; it merely means that its members are human and fallible and always will be. Sometimes brave souls have paid with their lives for that.

As for Fallaci, when it comes to loving God with one's whole heart, soul, and mind, she's got two out of three. Not bad. It is hard to be Italian and see the machinations of the Roman bureaucracy up close and not be disillusioned if you're an idealist. And if she is anything, Fallaci is that. Have you actually read what she has to say? She didn't title her last book "Force of Reason" for nothing.

The strength of the Catholic Church lies in the sacramental life she provides for her members. The Eucharist is primary; the kerygma is secondary -- though still essential.

Archonix, I would demur that Paul was "sent" to the Hellenized Jews. It was more that he decided or discerned that it was his mission. Don't forget he had a two year hiatus between his experience on the Damascus Road and his eventual missionary work.

Paul and the Jerusalem church existed in an uneasy relationship. If you read Galatians 2 and Acts 15, you're reading the same story, but told by different sides. Luke (Acts 15) wanted to demonstrate the supremacy of the Jerusalem Church, Paul wanted to show that he was his own man, not needing to "report" to Jerusalem. Had the city not fallen in 70 AD, who knows how far from Judaism Christ's message would have ventured? Back then, one still had to go thru Judaism to become a Christ follower. Afterwards, the Hellenization of Christianity dominated, as one can see reading the Patristics and particularly St. Augustine's ideas on the limits of the Manichees.

By the way, Christ may not have been scandalized by sinners--as someone here claimed -- but he had some choice ideas for certain kinds of wrong-doing -- e.g., that they should have a millstone hung about their neck and be thrown into the sea...that was for those who harmed children. So you cherry pick your Bible verses, and I'll do the same with mine.

Anti-Catholic? I don't think so. A little reactive are we? Maybe it's the plank in your own eye your seeing?

If my theology offends you so much, just hit "next blog" because I guarantee you that there will be no further insults allowed to let stand. The next commenter who arrives here to breathlessly pontificate on his or her perceived merits of my theology, ecclesiology, church history, or scriptural interpretation will be cast into the outer darkness. Go gnash your teeth and do your name calling and judgmental jumping to conclusions (on quite limited evidence) on your own bandwidth.

What Christian charity I've witnessed here. My heavens...wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, at least two are vying for power, hmm?

Jason_Pappas said...

I too worry about a revival of the pacifist Christianity. As I see it there are two modes of Christianity. First there is the pacifist mode typical of the Christians of the catacombs during the 1st few centuries of persecution. This is the “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies” viewpoint that resigns oneself to a harsh life in this world awaiting the rewards of the afterlife.

But there is the second kind, a more muscular Christianity, which arose when Constantine saw the cross as an omen of military victory. Constantine didn’t read the Sermon on the Mount; the cross was more of a coat of arms for the muscular Christians. These are the Christians that make up the core of our military today. These are the Christians that absorbed the Roman ways. My type of Christians!

Constantinople fought with Islam for 8 centuries before falling in 1453. The Constantinian Christian is fierce when they have to be. However, once Islam overtakes Christian land, they revert to the Catacomb type of Christianity. Rarely do you see a Spartacus rise up and fight Islamic oppression (with the very important exception of Spain.)

Not being religious, I’m counting on the muscular “Constantinian” type of Christian to withstand the pull of the “Catacomb Christians.”

By the way, our secular heritage is not pacifist. The Greeks and Romans were fierce fighters and it is from this tradition that we derive our fighting ways (See Victor Davis Hanson’s Carnage and Culture.) The modern relativist secularist has adopted the pacifism of the Catacomb Christian after Immanuel Kant secularized this altruistic disposition.

Thus, today, the muscular Christian carries on the tradition of Greece and Rome!

Some more food for thought!