Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another gloomy analysis

The last three posts or so have been pretty depressing. So I stepped away from the word processor, did some things around the house, went to Adoration. When I came back, I was going to write a post full of sweetness and light.

Then I read Msgr. Charles Pope’s piece from Monday on Europe's inability to deal with Islamic demands for Shariah law within their enclaves. I also read Abp. Charles Chaput’s address to the Berkley Center for Peace, Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown U … reminding that think-tank that the American concept of ordered peace and justice directly depended on Christian humanism, a humanism based on a particular view of the human being and his relationship to God.

Recently, in Detroit, there were conflicts as the police arrested a couple of Christian missionaries who had gone to an Islamic festival, although they were observing city law while doing so. And now the ACLU has undertaken to represent another enclave in LA who wants to implement Shariah within their boundaries, cheerfully ignoring the fact that Shariah has some direct conflicts with women’s civil rights. (That’s what the ACLU desperately needs … A CLU.)

So much for sweetness and light.

Most analyses of the tensions between Christians and Moslems begin with the premise that the two are rooted in the same religious context. However, Islam can’t be compared to a heresy like Monophysitism, which is organically Christian. Rather, it’s as if Mohammed grafted elements of Judaism and Christianity onto the religion the Arabs had been observing, according to his vision. In this respect—and this respect alone—Islam is better compared to Gnosticism or Mormonism, especially in its reliance on a later revelation that (it claims) supersedes the evangelium of the apostles.

Whatever else can be said about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, they were born and raised Christians, and the moral code they created in Mormonism reflects that upbringing to a great extent; it’s their theology which sharply diverges from orthodox Christianity. Shariah, however, stems from a different relationship between man and God, one in which man is merely an instrument of God, one in which God’s goodness or love for man isn’t even relevant, let alone debatable.

Here is the difference: The American principle of religious liberty is founded on an idea of a natural law, which presupposes that two people of different religions can share enough of a moral unity to make a common law possible even while their religious views and practices differ. The natural law is implied in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires … [t]hey show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them, on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom 1:14-16).

Islamic thought, however, doesn’t admit of a natural law. There is only God’s law, as expressed in the Qur’an. Tolerance can only be found where Mohammed hasn’t spoken, and only so far as the Prophet’s words can’t be properly extrapolated.

In France, the idea of a cause worth dying for damn near died itself in the wasteful, bloody futility we call World War I. Even the traditional hatred of the Boche wasn’t sufficient to prevent the collapse of the army when Germany invaded again in 1940; the Resistance had as many French detractors as supporters. English nationalism was barely strong enough to resist invasion, but the same cancer was eating away at its organs even then.

As for Germany, it’s hard to understate how much the revelations of Nazi atrocity traumatized the German national identity. Such is their fear of accusations of religious persecution that government officials suffer the mistreatment of German natives by Islamic fundamentalist gangs rather than take positive action.

Both German chancellor Angela Merkel and British prime minister David Cameron have said that multiculturalism has failed. But multiculturalism failed only because it couldn’t take Shariah into account. Natural law is a concept based in the transcendent; multiculturalism, a secularist concept, is merely pragmatic.

Nationalism, however, is also based in the idea of the transcendent. Religion and nationalism were and are both blamed for the events of 1914-1945; the European Economic Union, in this sense, is possible only because of the distrust of transcendent identities. But the English, French and Germans haven’t traded being “English”, “French” and “German” for being “European” in any mystical, meaningful sense; the loss of weight in national identity didn’t result in any increase of weight in a continental identity.

Right now, the idea of America—of being American—is still relatively strong. On the surface, it seems a contradiction to say that non-Christians can live and thrive in America precisely because America is a Christian nation. But it’s only due to the Christian’s implicit, even unconscious, acceptance of transcendent ideas as fundamentally real entities that religious liberty has any soil in which to grow.

What, then, of the loss by traditional Christian communions of members? This is mostly a by-product of yet another transcendent, one peculiar to Americans, that of radical individualism. The American may lose allegiance to a church, but she doesn’t necessarily lose all allegiances with it.

However, we do need to be concerned right now. Detroit and LA aren’t just blips on the screen; the presence of Moslems among us necessarily entails the presence of Moslems who wish to replace the American system of laws with Shariah. On the surface, they’re an entirely different matter from those who merely wish to be allowed to observe Shariah. To the woman in the burqa against her will, or who is slain in an honor killing, there’s no real difference at all.

For Moslems also must obey God rather than men (cf. Acts 5:29). And the Constitution, the “supreme Law of the land” (Art. VII), is a construct of men.