Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Islam and violence

Alastair continues to post some very thought-provoking pieces. Have a read of his latest one on Islam and violence. He argues that while the right is self-righteously confident of the goodness of the West's cause, the left masocistically accepts and projects all guilt onto Western imperialism (in its various forms). He then has some very interesting thoughts on how the gospel is a subversion of the shame/honour culture in which it originated and is then a resource for moving beyond violence.


Looney said...

I would have to disagree with him on the "shame/honour" culture explanation. The reason is that the shame/honour culture is as strong as anywhere in Japan and China, but dosn't manifest itself in the form of violence that we see on the news today. T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) described a grudge/revenge mentality among the Arabs.

My view is that we are all sinners and exhibit those characteristics, but we tend more or less towards our leader. In the case of Jesus, our leader healed Malchus. In the case of Mohammed, he lead his people to fight wars and had some apostates executed.

Or to put it another way, Christian fundamentals will necessarily lead to a tempering of our violent nature. Islamic fundamentals will lead to an exacerbation of violent tendencies.

byron smith said...

I agree in principle, but wonder whether a focus on Christian 'fundamentals' will automatically and necessarily lead to a tempering of our violent nature. Perhaps it is true on a broad generalised level, but why is it that so many 'fundamentalists' (even Christian ones) are quick to reach for the sword? Perhaps it is not the fundamentalists who are the true guardians of the fundamentals? Or perhaps there are more levels of causation at work than simply the structure of belief?

Looney said...

I think you are right there there are many things at work, but I still think that people who grow up on "blessed are the meek" are likely to be affected at some point or another. Peter reached for the sword, but Jesus told him to put it back.

There are some violent groups that claim to be fundamentalist who certainly aren't paying much attention to the fundamentals - as you have noted. Then there is Bush - who is the world's greatest terrorist(!) - and is a Methodist - but depends on fundamentalists(?). If you know much about fundamentalist attitudes towards Methodists, this should register pretty high on the bizarre meter.

The other factor which weighs high is the opportunism of other groups. Since your blog is entitled "Nothing New Under The Sun", I will go back to an example from Herodotus and the Persian Empire (~500bc). The Persians observed that in almost every city, there was a group of people who were out of power and would do anything to get it. With some simple negotiations, it was always possible to entice these malcontents to throw open the city gates for the Persian army in exchange for becoming governors subservient to the Persians.

Now one could argue that the opportunists were peace lovers, but Herodotus condemns them as the worst form of politicians - those who sell out the freedom of their countrymen for the sake of personal power and wealth.

Today the main stream media and the intellectual elites of the universities are the alienated group that feels it is being cheated out of power. I would challenge that the majority of the reputation for violence of fundamentalist Christians is due to the dishonesty and opportunism of these groups.

byron smith said...

That's a big claim - a media/intelligensia plot to sell out fundamentalists and let the enemy into the gates?

Looney said...

I would call it an "instinct" rather than a "plot". It is the "blame the other guy" instinct that causes all kinds of things to be projected onto someone else. Admittedly, I have done this at times too. Intellectuals have the same sin nature as everyone else and are better equiped to play this game.

My other observatin is that I never saw any AK47s or RPGs in the basement of the church!

Looney said...

Byron, this is actually the core of the shouting war in the US between say Fox News and the Ann Coulter crowd. The left's premise is that the right are all imbiciles. The right's premise is that the left is pathologically dishonest.

The right has been attacked for 150 years, so they are a bit numb to it. For the left, this is something brand new and they aren't taking it very well.

The recent "Fundamentalism and American Culture" seems to be repeating talking points from the left, although the classic is "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom" by Andrew Dickson White, published in 1896.