Sunday, November 06, 2005

the beginning of the end

All of this unrest in France is most disturbing. Pray for the conversion of the Moslems.

Almighty and everlasting God, who desirest not the death, but alwas the life of sinners; mercifully receive our prayer, and deliver the Moslems from blindness, and gather them into Thy holy Church, to the praise and glory of Thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen. Our Moslem friends are a formidable bunch, perhaps pointing out the need for the Church's renewal of unembarrassed rigor and community- apparently those sorts of things are compelling. But, Fr. Brown, in all charity, why dont we call these persons "Mohammedans" these days?

Richard said...

Because that would imply they worship Mohammed - which they don't.

Mike the Geek said...

I'm not sure that's fair - after all, I don't think Confucians worship Confucius, and Rotarians certainly don't worship their rotary lawn mowers!

DDX said...

Moslem is Muslim is Islam meaning "submission." (Arabic) Historically it means "submit or die." Christians worship Christ and promote His character: love humility, & forgiveness. Muslims worship Allah (the Moon God in the ancient pre-Islamic Arab pantheon)and promote his character: power, honor and revenge. Jesus bestows life. Allah death. Better to worship the lawn mower Mike, but best to pray for their conversion to Christ. Right on Fr. Brown

Anonymous said...

I think we should convert the Protestants to Christianity first.

W.M. said...

After that, we can convert the Protestants to Catholicism.

J-Tron said...

Is your contention that the reason that Muslems in France are rioting, then, is because they are Muslems? That if they would only become Christian then they might forget that they are racially and economically oppressed by the society they live in?

DDX said...

N. Africa is Islamic. France is not. Let them go back if France is not better to them than N. Africa. After all...they are Arabic, Islamic, N. Africans not French. If I allowed j-tron to leave his bad house to live with me in my better house would he burn it down when he realized the room I provided him was not equal to mine? Put down your matches and go back home!

J-Tron said...

Ah, the old "Go back where you came from" trope. It's usually the one that comes right on the heels of "There goes the neighborhood."

father wb said...

I want them to be Christians because Christ is the way, the truth and the life. I want them to be children of the light by calling on the Lord Jesus and being baptized - not so that they can be just like me and I can finally bear to look at them, but because I want them to know the joy I know. How could I not want that for them? I could only be indifferent as to their becoming disciples of the Lord Jesus by being indifferent to THEM. But I love them. I really do. I want their joy to be complete.

JT - you know I don't deny their social and economic plight. Their native countries are largely terrible places, and their new countries don't seem to be particularly interested in them except as troublemakers. That sucks.

But neither do I think it behooves us as Christians to deny the teachings of Muhammad or the Qur'an. Within a generation or two of Muhammad, pretty much all of North Africa, Arabia, and the Middle East was Muslim. It didn't get that way through preaching. If we want to talk to and understand the Islamic East, we're not helping ourselves, and we're not helping them by pretending that they really believe what we believe - that a good world is a world with Christians and Muslims living side by side in harmony. They don't believe that. For Islam, a good world is an Islamic world, ruled by Islamic law. The rest is War.

Muhammad was a violent man by pretty much any standard. He was also the paragon of the Muslim (at least according to Muslims).

In the New York Times article I linked to, one of the rioters they interview says something like "We won't stop until two policemen are dead" (i.e. as revenge for the two teenagers who died). That doesn't strike me as a very Christian thing to say. It does, on the other hand, seem like a rather appropriately Islamic thing to say.

J-Tron said...

WB,

My concern is with what appears to be in your post an implicit linking of the violence in France with the religion of those rioting. There is obviously a religious dimension in that all those being marginalized are of one religion which is not dominant in the power structure, but I think it's false to claim that it is the religion itself which causes the situation. If the economic and racial conditions were different, there would be no riots.

You are right that we have to take the Koran at its word, to treat people's truth claims as they make them. And as Christians, that means taking our own truth claims seriously as well, that when we say Jesus is Lord we mean it, and when Muslems say that Jesus is not Lord we respond by saying that they are wrong.

But I think you've bought into a distorted notion of what Islam actually is, actually makes as claim for itself. Islam has roots in the same kind of violent place out which springs some of our most repugnant biblical literature (smashing the heads of babies on rocks, raping and killing women then cutting them up, etc... the bible is a rather messy place sometimes...). But the arc of Islamic history and scriptural interpretation has always been towards peaceful submission and contemplation. In Islamically controlled states in antiquity there was always a tacit tolerance of non-Muslems, something missing from Christian states. It is only in the late nineteenth century leading into the birth of Wahabiism that you get anything that looks like the modern phenomenon of jihadism, a twisted interpretation of a Koranic concept that differs little from so called "Just War" theory in its original context. It is import that we not conflate Islam with Wahabiism in the same way that it is important that we don't conflate the Ku Klux Klan with Christianity. Imagine a world in which all Christians were held under the thumb of foreign powers and the KKK, grown to now be a sizeable minority (and viewed by many others as the only group capable of making an impact), was able to convince the world that it was Christianity. That's the world of the middle east today.

But again, it's important not to mix these things up too dramatically. The folks rioting in France are not terrorists. They're oppressed people. That does not excuse their actions, the violence they perpetrate, whatever hatred they feel, or the mob mentality that likely motivates many. But it does explain the root cause. What's happening in France right now has little to do with those two kids who died. It has to do with decades of being treated like dirt. Conditions like that can only carry on for so long before something pops, as we who can remember April of 1992 in Los Angeles should well know.

Seppuku Kid said...

DDX,
I'm not sure why you charactize Allah as a "moon-god." The deity's origins may well lie in pre-Islamic Arab religion, but I don't think anyone claims that Christians worship a "tribal warrior god in from ancient Syro-palestinian pantheon." Any linguist will tell you that etymology does not define meaning, but use does. Muslims are monotheistic, so the politheistic origin of the god which they worship seems to be moot. That said, Islam is still a stupid religion.
Cheers,
SK

father wb said...

JT -

"But the arc of Islamic history and scriptural interpretation has always been towards peaceful submission and contemplation."

That is just false. Unless you are talking about Dar al Islam, under sharia law. I suppose 'peaceful submission and contemplation' could be a description of it. But you should really ask women and homosexuals in Islamic societies about that.

And again, the notion that Islam wasn't TRULY violent until Muhammad al Wahhab or his followers distorted it is just plainly false. Christians and Jews were "tolerated" under Islam in the sense that they (sometimes) weren't killed outright. Rather, in accordance with the 'Covenant of Omar' (cf. Sura 9.29) they were 'allowed' to wear special yellow clothes, they were forbidden to ride horses or carry swords, and they were 'allowed' to have special poll taxes levied on them, so they wouldn't be corrupted by worldly wealth. How generous of Muhammad. The next of Muhammad's Qur'anic ruminations on Judaism (sura 9.30) puts it very tolerantly indeed: "God fight them, what liars they are."

Which is all of course to say nothing of Muhammad's career beginning with the (offensive) battle of Badr, after which Muhammad celebrated victory by beheading seven hundred (non combatant) jewish men, and then enslaving their women and children. If that weren't enough, he then led a festive parade from Medina to Khaibar, where he confiscated the property of all the Jews there. Hoozah for toleration and peace!

Show me a single Muslim who, as such, does not commend Muhammad himself as the paragon of what it is to be a faithful Muslim.

JT, I think if you look honestly at Islamic history, you will see that it is blood-soaked, filled with conquest and revenge. Yes, that is largely true for Christian history too. But my point is this: when Muslims sack and pillage and (verily) rape women and girls, they are being faithful Muslims, obeying the Koran (on rape specifically, see suras 4.3, 4.24, 23.6, 33.50, 70.30; and also cf. that Muhammad consummated his marriage to his favorite wife, Khadijah, when she was nine years old).

We are kidding ourselves if we think Islam was all sufis and hippies, peacefully and happily coexisting with other religions until Wahabism and the Muslim Brotherhood came about.

Johnny Awesomo said...

DDX,
Your posts are truly enlightening. Your bluntness and humor in no way distort the truth of what you say.

I would not hesitate to blame the Islamic religion, or at least a particular branch of it, for the violence. In response to DDX's call for the disenfranchised immigrants to go somewhere better, I would also not hesitate to imply that French political liberalism and secularism are as much to blame as bad religion. The welfare state created an entitlement society that absolutely refuses to do anything to better themselves.

Johnny Awesomo said...

DDX,
you can post on my blog any time.

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't worry about the Muslims until all of the unchurched are Christians. That starts in Las Vegas and NYC.

J-Tron said...

WB,

Have you ever met a Muslim? I say this not to be trite but simply because your reading of Islam seems to me to be based on a particular Christian context.

It really does little good for us to quote Surahs back and forth at each other since neither of us are Islamic scholars. Also since in Islam the character of the Koran is more in the language itself than in the meaning (must Muslims have no idea what the words mean, only that their correct scripting and speaking is important).

Moreover, we could go back and forth all day between Surahs that seem to suggest violence and others that seem to suggest peace. One could do the same thing with the bible, and many Christians do.

I'm not suggesting that Islam doesn't have a violent history. What ancient western religion doesn't? Yes, non-Muslims were treated as second class citizens in Islamic caliphates. That in and of itself is a step above the treatment that Muslims and Jews in Christian countries have suffered historically.

Of course, today things are different. Wahabism has a strong hold in the Muslim world and the cumulative effect of decades of economic malfeasance and oppression have helped to make it so. And yes, it is difficult to be a woman or to be gay in extreme Islamic settings. I'd hardly say that extreme Christianity would be a remedy for that. In most cases that I've seen, the arguments for the ill treatment of both are similar if not the same.

Again, pointing to Mohammad as an ideal Muslim is not particularly different than pointing to Joshua as an ideal Jew (or perhaps in more modern terms, pointing to Robert E Lee as an exemplary Christian). Mohammad is seen as someone who ideally submitted to the will of Allah and he was also a military leader. The question for the Muslim is how those things relate. You seem to suggest that they relate in that anyone who commits any sort of violence is then the same as a military leader and that this is inherantly bad. That's an awfully radical position to take. Even as a pacifist I'm not willing to go that far.

Look, my point is not to say that we should all go become Muslims or throw a Muslim pride parade. My point is that by conflating a riot that has its roots in socio-economic oppression with an entire religious system is to misrepresent what is actually going on and to make an unfair caricature of Muslims (not Islam, but Muslims). That caricature is compounded and made far worse when you point to the most extreme elements within the tradition as evidence of what the tradition is. Call someone a dog long enough and they're eventually bound to bite you.

Why mention how disturbing the violence and then follow in the next sentence with a prayer for the conversion of Muslims. Why not pray for an end to the violence? Why not pray for a change of heart among the many supposed Christians in France who seem perfectly content to keep their Arab and African neighbors in ghettoes? Whose Christianity would you have them convert to? The French? Yours? A non-violent resistance would be preferable and would be much more in line with the values of the gospel. But that is not what you called for. You called instead for the sinful, blind Muslims to switch teams. And I submit to you that it is exactly this sort of mindset that makes our paternalistic approach to evangelism ultimately ineffective.

father wb said...

Whatever, J-Tron. That you think Muhammad's place in Islam is akin to Robert E. Lee's in Christianity (or Joshua's in Judaism for that matter) doesn't merit comment.

I'll keep praying for Muslims to be brought to a saving love of the Son of God, if you don't mind. You can pray that their hajj will be efficacious. We'll see what happens in the eschaton.

In the meantime, I recommend the following:

http://www.gendercide.org/case_honour.html

http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/world.htm

"Why mention how disturbing the violence and then follow in the next sentence with a prayer for the conversion of Muslims. Why not pray for an end to the violence?"

Because praying for peace doesn't set liberal teeth on edge like praying for conversion does.

"Whose Christianity would you have them convert to? The French? Yours? A non-violent resistance would be preferable and would be much more in line with the values of the gospel."

Good point. "Non-violent resistance" is generally agreed to be more in line with the values of the gospel than Christianity.

"You called instead for the sinful, blind Muslims to switch teams."

No I didn't. Read it again. I didn't call on the Muslims to do anything. I called on the readers of my blog (among whom I doubt are any Muslims) to PRAY for the conversion of the Muslims. And I called on God to DELIVER the Muslims from blindness, and to BRING them into the Church.

"And I submit to you that it is exactly this sort of mindset that makes our paternalistic approach to evangelism ultimately ineffective."

I'm not engaging in evangelism here. I'm exhorting my fellow Christians to pray for a people group. And anyway, what's paternalistic about believing that Muslims are wrong? You believe that I'm wrong in believing that Muslims are wrong. Does that make you meta-paternalistic?

For the record: I have had three close-ish Muslim friends during my lifetime. And about as many more Muslim acquaintances. I have travelled in three Muslim nations. I was once a part of a Muslim-Christian theology forum that met regularly for about a year. And I've been doing little besides reading about Islam for the last two weeks.

J-Tron said...

WB,

Upon re-reading my last post in the light of your response to it, I see some places where I muddled what I meant to say. At the risk of giving this dead horse one heck of a black eye, let me try to reiterate a bit in light of your post.

You said

Whatever, J-Tron. That you think Muhammad's place in Islam is akin to Robert E. Lee's in Christianity (or Joshua's in Judaism for that matter) doesn't merit comment.

And that follows because of my poorly worded sentence which read "Pointing to Mohammad as an ideal Muslim is not particularly different than pointing to Joshua as an ideal Jew (or perhaps in more modern terms, pointing to Robert E Lee as an exemplary Christian)."

My point was not that Mohammad is regarded by Islam the same way Joshua is regarded by Judaism or the same way that Robert E Lee is regarded by Christians. But when I read back the sentence I wrote, that's exactly what it sounds like I was saying. So my apologies for that. I should not post things before a certain hour of the morning. Of course Mohammad is regarded differently. He is the seal of the prophets. He is the penultimate example of what a good Muslim should be.

What I was trying to point to was what I said later in the same paragraph, namely that the violence of Mohammad is connected with his role as a military leader. And from reading your previous statements, it seemed that you were saying that Mohammad's place as a military leader means that one has to be violent in order to be a good Muslim. So what I was taking issue with was that idea. Joshua and Lee were meant to be examples of people considered to be a good Jew and a good Christian respectfully who were also military leaders who engaged in violence. Now, they are not examples in the same way that Mohammad is. But then if it is being violent that makes one a bad example, if Mohammad's military violence means that all Muslims forthwith must be violent, then should we not be speaking from a place where we condemn those in our own tradition who were also proponents of violence, whether military or not? Perhaps the answer to the question is no, but I think a case would have to be made.

In other words, is there a difference between military violence and bloodthirsty, mad cruelty? If so, and the first can in some occasions be excused, why can't it be in the case of Mohammad? And why are all Muslims, as people who wish to imitate Mohammad in so much as he was a good Muslim, also inclined to violence?

And as a secondary question, do you believe that if the Arabs and Africans in the French ghettoes were Christians they would not have rioted and engaged in violence? If so, why?

You said

I'll keep praying for Muslims to be brought to a saving love of the Son of God, if you don't mind. You can pray that their hajj will be efficacious. We'll see what happens in the eschaton.

I'm happy to pray for the whole world to be brought into the saving love of Christ. I hope that Christ has mercy on all the children of God. I hope that all people, Muslims included, myself included, experience conversion of heart and mind to love and serve Christ who is God. And in so much as I would ever pray that Muslims have an "efficacious" Hajj, it would be that they experience the love of Christ in the Hajj.

You said

"Whose Christianity would you have them convert to? The French? Yours? A non-violent resistance would be preferable and would be much more in line with the values of the gospel."

Good point. "Non-violent resistance" is generally agreed to be more in line with the values of the gospel than Christianity.


Again, I think my poor writing skills have shined through. I meant there to put non-violent resistance under the umbrella of things that would happen in a scenario in which the folks in the French ghettoes were ideal good Christians but all other circumstances were the same. I think I was trying to make two different points in the same paragraph and just got lost in thought somewhere along the way.

I don't know how much it matters now, but the two points I was aiming for were:

1) What kind of conversion are you praying for here? What does conversion mean in this instance? Is it a conversion to nominal Christianity, as opposed to nominal Islam, or a real, deep conversion? The French have been engaging in nominal Christianity for a long time and it has not accorded them much.

2) I could be reading you completely wrong, but your posting has seemed to posit that good Muslims must be violent (hence the riots) while good Christians would not be. As I've said, I don't think that this is exactly the case in relation to Islam. However, I do agree that it is not being a good Christian to be violent. Nevertheless, in relation to this situation, my hope is not simply that the violence perpetrated by Muslims cease. My hope is that the violence perpetrated throughout the society cease. My hope is that the injustice inherant in French policy towards these people, itself a form of violence, would cease. If becoming Christian means becoming a good Christian (IE, non-violent), then what is gained if only one group converts?

You said

I'm not engaging in evangelism here. I'm exhorting my fellow Christians to pray for a people group. And anyway, what's paternalistic about believing that Muslims are wrong? You believe that I'm wrong in believing that Muslims are wrong. Does that make you meta-paternalistic?

Well, yes, that's true, Muslims are not your intended audience. But evangelism is not limited to what we say to non-Christians. And the Internet is a very public forum.

I don't believe you're wrong in believing that Muslims are wrong. I believe you're wrong in what you believe Islam is.

Paternalism is a loaded word. I apologize for using it, as do I apologize for questioning whether or not you know any Muslims (I really didn't intend that to be as insulting as it sounded, but nevertheless I am culpable).

Here's hoping I've managed to write the above with slightly more clarity.


Pax Christi,

J-Tron

DDX said...

WB,
You've got a good hammer and your nail is strong and straight...but you still can't nail jello to the wall! DDX

W.M. said...

DXX, you rock.

WM