Praise be for Sean Stone, Imam of Abrahamic ecumenism, demiurge of the non-doctrine, and patron saint of religious homogenization:
“I am of a Jewish bloodline, a baptized Christian who accepts Christ’s teachings, the Jewish Old Testament and the Holy Koran. I believe there is one God, whether called Allah or Jehovah or whatever you wish to name him. He creates all peoples and religions. I consider myself a Jewish Christian Muslim.”
It is almost like I am a criminal for having accepted Islam. I didn’t realize Islamophobia was that deep. People have speculated that I have done this because I am from a spoiled family or that I am lost and trying to find myself. That is ridiculous.
“I don’t care if I get criticized. If I can open up a debate about religion and create some understanding, then it is worth it.”
All the while, he told AFP his conversion, “is not abandoning Christianity or Judaism.”
Far be it from me or anyone else to doubt Stone’s sincerity. But I think the story gets at one of the problems with the multicultural ethic that conservatives tend not to emphasize, which is its tendency to totalize religious belief within, to borrow a Dreher phrase, a therapeutic moralistic Deism. In the world of a mass culture scion like Stone, the result is a sort of reverse Orientalism – rather than emphasizing the contrast in order to shore up one’s own cultural camp, differences are sufficiently glossed that he can be a member of all three Abrahamic faiths simultaneously, a notion that would probably offend most religious people, Eastern or Western.
Make no mistake, this is a totalitarian ideology. Yet the critique against it makes strange bedfellows. Neocons prefer a Clash of Civilizations-style interpretation, in which someone like Stone would presumably be a trojan horse for multicultural values and, in turn, Islamic domination or something. I would suggest that this isn’t productive, because raising the banner of the Christian West in the face of perceived existential threats has required the same homogenization and politicization of religion in this country. (For more on this subject, stay tuned for D. G. Hart’s piece in the upcoming issue about America and the shift from the private practice of faith to the public performance of it) Thus a thing like the Defense of Marriage Act is considered insufficiently pious by some social conservatives and, to them, a good Christian is compelled to support a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, regardless of one’s 10th Amendment convictions.
Conservative localism offers a better path to a more vibrant, tolerant, and diverse public life. There’s a great interview with David Thomas of Pere Ubu where he gets at some of these issues:
“All these monuments and landmarks of the Cleveland we loved and wrote so passionately about, the other side of the curtain of these things, all ceased to exist. They were “urban renewalized” and all that sort of stuff, but to us they still exist, and to us we still see them. That’s what I mean about living in a ghost town. What happens, and this began to happen in 1980, ’81, ’82, is that the real world and the town that you live in, the geography you live in, begin to diverge. They begin to separate. This is, I think, a very common feeling all over the world. It has to do with culture and the alienation of culture and what happens in a society where things become homogenized by the media and various mechanisms. … Wherever you go in the world, people feel the same thing. The world they live in in reality and the world of their spirit, as it were, or their home, no longer occupy the same space and the same time. This has to do maybe with multiculturalism being forced on everybody. You can look at it any number of ways. Mainly, it’s just the alienation of culture.”
David Thomas has some strange ideas, but they make a lot of sense. I would argue that the single biggest piece of evidence for the alienation of culture is the apathy people hold toward democratic participation now that most of its functions have concentrated in the hands of the federal government though. The irony that he contributes to that universal alienation is probably lost on Sean Stone.