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Islam & The Benedict Option

Readers, I’ve got a very long flight today, and won’t be able to approve comments for some time. I want to share with you the transcript of an interview I did with a longtime reader of this blog who posts under the name “Jones.” I know his real name, and we’ve been corresponding for a while. He is a Pakistani-American lawyer of the Millennial generation, and a practicing believer in Islam. I think — I know — you will find a lot to mull over in his answers. I interviewed him as part of my research for my Benedict Option book — for the religion chapter, as I consider the question of Ben Op Christians finding common ground with Muslims and Orthodox Jews who are also resident aliens in this decadent post-Christian culture.

I mean, devout Muslims and Orthodox Jews would always be resident aliens here, in a sense, but increasingly, faithful small-o orthodox Christians will come to share their sense of being in this culture, but very much not of it. And in that we have an opportunity for fellowship, even mutual support. Here is the transcript, which I post with Jones’s permission:

How have cultural and political events in recent years changed your political views as an American Muslim (you were born and raised here, the son of immigrant parents from either India or Pakistan, right?)?

I was born in Pakistan, but came here when I was very young (less than one year).

Recent events in the United States have made me much more apprehensive about the future of Islam in America. I think Islam has a good, and even exciting, future in America, but recent years have made clear what sort of challenges we are going to face.

For many people on the right, including but not limited to the far right, the proposition that Muslims are an absolute enemy is a given; it no longer needs to be debated. And thanks to the Trump campaign, this contingent on the right has probably formed into an enduring force. Somewhere between 67% and 71% of Republicans support Trump’s ban on all Muslim immigration. 40% of Republicans, and 57% of conservative Republicans, believe that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than others merely because of their religion. Peter Beinart nicely sums up the situation on the right. [1]

Meanwhile, as the Left starts asserting itself more and more as holders of a comprehensive ideology for governing all aspects of life, they are increasingly turning on Muslims, especially on the point where we most starkly conflict: sex and gender. A series of articles in The New York Times on Muslim women portends the future there, I think.

There are many different factions on the Right and Left, and only some of them hold strongly anti-Islam views. But those factions do exist, on both sides. I think Muslims are probably going to be treated as a political football, kicked around by both sides whenever it seems advantageous. That said, I was deeply heartened and even moved by the way the public, especially but not only liberals, reacted to Trump’s announcement of his Muslim ban. Even people like Dick Cheney were coming out of the woodworks to say that it was beyond the pale. Superficial politics aside, I believe that Americans at their heart are an open and inclusive people, perhaps more so than any other in the world. In many ways, you could say that there is no better place to be a Muslim—and more than once I have heard Muslims say just that.

In the mainstream debate, these issues often get discussed under the heading of “Islamophobia,” but I dislike the term and never use it myself. It’s disreputable as a debating tactic: it psychologizes the opponent, in a condescending way, and also fails to capture the essence of his view.

Why have I not mentioned any of the political issues that conservative Christians care about as a substantive matter, like gay rights, abortion, transgender rights, and so on? I think that Muslims are already at the end of the road that the Benedict Option leads down. In Islam, drinking alcohol is forbidden. But we all go to college and binge drinking is the primary—sometimes it seems like the exclusive—form of recreation there. In Islam fornication is forbidden. But in this society fornication is nearly universal, celebrated, and fiercely defended. I don’t think the idea of convincing our fellow citizens to think and behave like us even occurs to Muslims. Far more pressing is the question of whether we will be allowed to live the way we prefer to live, and to maintain our communities in relative peace. Therefore it’s much more urgent to try to prevent governments from banning mosques; to protect against massive intrusions against our civil rights through surveillance, illegal detention, and more; to allow schoolchildren to be taught about Islam; to reduce the rate at which Muslims are discriminated against in employment; etc.

What would you like Benedict Option Christians to know about Muslim Americans regarding these issues, given our mutual suspicion of each other, coming after 9/11?

Before I answer your question—

First, I don’t think the suspicion is mutual. I don’t think most Muslims bear any real hostility to Christians. To the contrary, I think they usually respect them, especially insofar as they adhere to traditional religious practices. Muslim Americans have respect for people who care about family, who live according to traditional values, who take care of their parents, who act and dress modestly, and who respect marriage. And the actual doctrines of Islam command respect for Christianity, recognizing the prophethood of Jesus and the virginal conception of Mary, after whom a whole chapter of the Qu’ran is named. In Islamic doctrine, Christians and Jews belong to the Ahl-al-Kitab, the People of the Book, who make up a privileged group.

I have to confess that my perspective is particular; it’s based on the part of the country that I live in. In truth, I very rarely interact with the kinds of conservative Christians your book (and blog) is aimed at. I live in the liberal Northeast, where practicing Christians are few and far in between. When we look around us, “Christianity” is not what we see. It’s true that, when I was growing up, my parents would distinguish between “us” and the people around us, who were different. What they meant is that “we” would not drink; we would not watch lewd things in TV and movies; we would not socialize casually with the opposite sex; we would go to the mosque, read the Qu’ran, pray, and fast. In short, Christianity was never the “other” for us in a practical sense; secularism was.

My only experiences with Christians have been in the university setting, where we Muslims would very often organize and cooperate with Christians and Jews to hold interfaith programming. My sense had always been that there was great respect and cooperation between people of different faith groups. I only realized later that this might have something to do with the highly liberal setting of the university.

Anyway, those were the expectations I brought with me when I first encountered your blog. I had started to discern that conservative Christians were among the few people around who lived like we did. I felt completely on my own in trying to figure out how to live according to traditional values in this society, so discovering that Christians were thinking about these same questions was very exciting to me—and it was a great source of moral comfort. Thus I always had a sense that Muslims and conservative Christians had common cause. Ironically, it was only after reading your blog that I started to appreciate how many Christians felt hostility toward Islam, as Christians. You could say I had a naive view until then.

What do I want Benedict Option Christians to know?

By far my most important message is: get to know us. Before you decide that you know who Muslims are and what they are about, go out and find actual Muslims and talk to them. Ask them about their lives, their communities, and their faiths. Visit a mosque and listen to the sermons for yourself. If you approach in good faith and with an open mind, I am certain that you will receive a warm welcome.

Do you think that, say, the average Manhattanite has a positive impression of conservative Christians? Do you think they view you the way you view yourself? If not, then why is that? If all I knew about Christians came from reading The New York Times and the Huffington Post, would I have an accurate sense of who Christians really are, what they are really like, what they really stand for? Probably not.

In a similar vein, I was educated at liberal institutions where the consensus was that “conservative thought” was an oxymoron. I decided that I owed it to myself to find out whether that was actually true. And if I wanted, I could have stopped after looking at the major conservative media outlets, which merely confirmed all of my worst impressions. If you want to find bad people and bad ideas, those are always out there, in any group. What you find will often be shaped by the spirit in which you seek.

I think the importance of abstract beliefs is overstated. The most important thing is to look at how people actually live. The truth is that the vast majority of Muslim Americans live by the same values that you do. If you spend time with them, you might be surprised at how much you find in common. That has certainly been my experience in dealing with Christians. Much of the essential work of any religion is in teaching its adherents how to be good people, capable of forming and living in good families and communities. As our respective traditions teach us, that work is hard enough. And I think Muslims and Christians share far more in common in their vision of the good life than either of us do with the secular mainstream.

I would say to people that if you accept Rod’s vision of where our country stands and where it is headed, then you have to conclude that the greatest threat to our well-being is a secular mainstream that is increasingly hostile to any religious ideas whatsoever, and certainly to the traditional core of the Abrahamic faiths. In the face of such an assault, it would be foolish for Muslims and Christians to let themselves be played against one another. We are likely to need all the help we can get in maintaining an America that hews close to its long, proud history of religious tolerance and liberty.

What’s more, our communities may have a great deal to learn from one another. Muslims may be able to teach you new things, just as I have learned a great deal from listening to Christians. We have to look for guidance and support in whatever forms we can find them.

After learning more about Christianity, I realized that there is another potential source of great confusion Christians might have regarding Islam. Islam in America is far less organized and coherent than Christianity. Most people pray at mosques that are little more than a bunch of people in the same area gathering together to pray. There is no formal hierarchy in Islam. Anyone who wants to get up and put themselves forth as an imam can do so. Being an imam is very different from being a priest: in many places, different members of the community perform the function every week. I have never been to an American mosque with a formal membership. If I want to pray at a particular mosque I simply walk in the door.

In short, there are no great national councils debating the minutiae of theology and deciding what policy stances to take, as I gather there are in Christianity. Moreover, American Islam is very diverse—there are Arabs from several countries, Egyptians, Pakistanis and Indians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Malaysians, African-Americans, Iranians, and more. There is little interaction or coherence between these groups thus far. Most of these groups speak completely different languages. Many people seem to conflate Muslims and Arabs, but only 20% of Muslims in the world are Arab.

I encourage people to learn more about Islam by looking to scrupulously neutral, authoritative academic sources. Don’t put the cart of ideology before the horse of understanding. It would also help to know the basics of Western foreign policy in the Middle East in the postcolonial period to the present, to understand a little bit about where Muslims are coming from politically.

I like this passage from a post on your blog, quoting someone else:

Ironically, I am reminded at this point of a criticism the late New Left intellectual, Edward Said, made of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis. Said’s point was simple: At the local level, where people live next to each other, where they speak to each other, where they have to make their communities work because perpetual street fighting is not an option, the situation is always more complicated and hopeful than a collision of ideologies. Indeed, I might add to Said’s thoughts this paraphrase of something George Orwell said in another context: It is much harder to hate a man when you have looked into his eyes and seen that he too is a human being as you are.

How do you think about your own future as a Muslim lawyer, and perhaps as a husband and father in the United States, with regard to the social and moral environment, and the status of religious liberty? In that regard, do you think Christians and Muslims in this country need each other? And if so, what practical ways can we begin the engagement? What I’m thinking here is that US liberals think of themselves as allies of Muslims against conservatives, especially conservative Christians, but that is about a millimeter deep; most are not going to stand up for Muslims when it means choosing them over LGBTs and sexual liberty more generally. Right now, whether they realize it or not, Muslims are used by them as a way to beat up on conservatives. On the other hand, US conservatives, especially Christians, think of American Muslims warily at best, and as the enemy at worst. But is that the right way to see things? 

To be a practicing Muslim in this society is to be constantly rowing against the tide. Observing my faith is my personal moral responsibility, and not anyone else’s. But there is no doubt in my mind that environment affects how hard it is. And it’s easy to end up resenting the society around you when it feels needlessly hard.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure if this is a valid complaint: living a life of faith is never easy, and these kinds of obstacles often provide an important moral clarity. It’s common in Muslim circles to observe that American Muslims are often more committed practitioners of their religion than those “back home,” because you have no choice but to take personal responsibility for your faith. In these respects, the lives we live already resemble the ones that you envision for Christians after the Benedict Option.

In any case, it is not national politics, but this day-to-day struggle to stay true to faith that will decide the future of our religions in America. We reject materialist hedonism in favor of an ethos of moral self-discipline. We reject the cult of the autonomous individual in favor of fidelity to family and community. In these respects, there is a great deal of overlap in what Christians and Muslims want from modern society. We both confront a society that adheres to an increasingly aggressive and comprehensive secular materialism. And we both have an interest in preventing that ideology from unduly burdening our communities’ way of life.

When it comes to raising children, the problems become even more acute. A central task for any value system is to transmit its values to the next generation. This is where environment becomes really important. The one thing most crucial to intergenerational transmission is the formation of new families and the preservation of marriage. I probably don’t need to belabor the reasons why we face unprecedented challenges in this area. It may be a life and death issue for all of us. Traditionalists of nearly all cultures in nearly all times and places used to share a few basic understandings in this area. Now, in America it’s only a small number of traditionalist Christians, Muslims, and Jews that hew to those understandings.

I’ve been surprised by how quickly Muslims are adapting to contemporary America. What worries me is not that we will fail to adapt, but that the next generation will precipitately abandon or minimize any feature of Islam that is not cut to the measure of contemporary liberalism. All the young Muslims I know are educated in American universities, and in my eyes too many of them are eager to shear away the aspects of their faith that don’t fit neatly with current liberal attitudes. It’s as if they take the unerring truth of contemporary liberalism completely for granted. How long can such an amputated faith last?

I worry that the ranks of nominal Muslims will swell, and that the truth and beauty of the Islam that I love so much will fade from view. Much of what’s valuable about Islam to me is not how compatible it is with modern life, but how it challenges modern life on behalf of higher and deeper things. If we fail to hold on to these things, not only Muslims, but other Americans as well will suffer, having lost the opportunity to learn some things that only we can teach. I want us to occupy the middle ground, learning from the best of Western culture while preserving the essence of the Muslim way of life.

I don’t want to deny the differences between Christianity and Islam, nor am I asking you to endorse our theology. What we should both want is that America return to its best traditions of pluralistic liberalism. The American conception of liberty is that adherents of all religions should be able to freely exercise their faiths, and that the “free and open encounters” that result will be our best guide toward the truth. I was aghast when, not long after studying the Constitution’s Religion Clauses in law school, I saw The New York Times putting the term “religious liberty” in scare quotes every time it was used. The liberalism of the U.S. Constitution dictates that the state must be scrupulously neutral between competing worldviews and ways of life, equally protecting the rights of all.

Christianity and Islam are different, but in the eyes of atheists all religions are essentially the same: ungrounded superstitions standing in the way of social progress. If you are right, and the numbers of authentic Christians are rapidly dwindling, then neither of us can afford to go it alone. Adherents of different faiths should band together to defend the classical liberal compromise.

Right now, the movement for religious liberty is viewed as an opportunistic guise for the re-assertion of Christian domination. It would greatly enhance the credibility of Christians interested in religious liberty if they stood up for adherents of all faiths. And Muslims face many of the most severe, outright challenges to their ability to freely exercise religion: whether it is being under suspicion of terrorism for any outward display of faith, being pulled off of an airplane for speaking Arabic, having our mosques and even restaurants under extensive, multi-year surveillance that yields no actionable intelligence, nationwide movements to prevent the building of mosques, being subject to arbitrary detention and torture without due process, etc.

In practice, I think Ben Op Christians should try to find and reach out to local Muslim communities. Hold events together, serve the poor together. I have no doubt that Muslims would welcome such outreach. Of course I think Muslims should do the same, and have been personally involved in numerous interfaith efforts. I think the most valuable thing would be for us to develop personal relationships with each other. Recognizing and appreciating our common humanity is the first step, and I have faith that everything else will follow naturally from that.

Speaking for myself, I am rooting for Ben Op Christianity to succeed. I would much rather there be strong, functional Christian communities in the United States than that we all descend together into the morass of materialist hedonism. I personally regard the Christian tradition as a great source of spiritual insight, having been moved many times by Bach’s Mass in B Minor and the St. John’s Passion. I also revere the tradition of Western humanism, and my studies have taught me that it would be difficult to extricate this tradition from the background of Christian culture. If you tried to tell me that I, as a Muslim, cannot benefit or learn from these traditions, I would simply ignore you and keep going. I also think that America is destined to play an important role in global Islam. America might be the site of a world-historical turning point, a rich theological dialogue that has not been possible for centuries. There are things that are possible here that possible nowhere else. Who knows what the fruits of cooperation could be? Why don’t we just try and see?

[End of interview]

Note From Rod: I want to give my deep thanks to Jones for answering these questions at length, thereby giving me more than I hoped for. I want to also thank him and this blog’s other regular Muslim commenters, Alexander Valenzuela and “Mohammed,” who reads us in Iran. Their comments, both publicly and in private e-mails, have been challenging and edifying, and have opened my mind to things I had not considered before.

93 Comments (Open | Close)

93 Comments To "Islam & The Benedict Option"

#1 Comment By An Agrarian On June 20, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

@ Mario Diana says, “No one in America has a problem with people who want to go off and live on their own. Ask the Amish.”

Living on the outskirts of an Amish community, I find this to be a thoughtful point. They’re an interesting community to contrast w/ Islam, particularly if we’re trying to keep this on a BenOp track:

1) The Amish adamantly do NOT assimilate, so maybe expecting (demanding?) Islamic assimilation isn’t terribly important. The Amish peacefully withdraw & voluntarily segregate, cultivating prosperous community in the process. Assimilation is of utmost importance if we desire a unified culture under the E Pluribus Unum precept, but if we’re going to stick with present-day pluralism/multiculturalism, segregation seems key to harmonious community.

2) The Amish don’t expect favorable treatment as a special interest group. There is no politicized Council on American-Amish Relations as there is for Islam. Islam isn’t looking to “go off and live on their own”; they’re spending (state-sponsored) billions to gain American acceptance of their worldview.

3) The Amish are non-threatening because their religion is manifestly pacifistic. They have no honor killings … no recent history of sponsoring violence.

4) The Amish don’t ask the “English” to reach out to them, nor do they demand acceptance.

5) The Amish don’t roll into a community and work to politicize their agenda. They don’t distribute “educational” pamphlets or try to have their talking points assimilated into the public schools. They don’t issue lawsuits to have schools or business accommodate their dress or peculiar ways … they just open their own private schools & private businesses. Lessons here for Islam & Christianity, as well as SJWs.

6) The Amish have a great track record of keeping their youths engaged and having successive generations follow biblical “old paths.” Neither Christianity nor Islam compare, yet this is what many of us desire from BenOp.

There seem to be a lot more BenOp takeaways from the Amish then Islam, MTD, or the myriad versions of America’s schismatic (often apostate) christianity (purposeful small “c”.) Maybe Islam, like the Amish, have some things right in their subculture … Christians would be wise to extract those “things” without compromising biblical precepts.

#2 Comment By J On June 20, 2016 @ 2:51 pm

I think liberals have shown recently that Muslims rank higher then homosexuals. Orlando indicates that. They can’t bring themselves to admit that Islam was the main factor. Also given how Christians are treated in every Muslim country I saw no mention of that in his responses. Granted this is about the Benedict Option, but Muslims need to be more upfront about the persecution of Christians. How can I ally myself to a group that considers us infidel?

#3 Comment By Bernie On June 20, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

Hound of Ulster,

I apologize for the Crusades; now, moving into the 21st century…

You state: “There is also a custom in some Islamic schools of law to not question another Muslim’s ‘Muslim card’ as it were, unless they are clearly in error theologically.” So, does this mean that the lack of Muslim outcry after Orlando indicates many Muslims don’t want to question another Muslim’s “Muslim card” for the slaughter of 50 innocent people? Are you saying they don’t see this as a “clearly theological error”?

#4 Comment By Charles Cosimano On June 20, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

Look, it is really easy to get caught up in history and say, “The roots of x are this or that.” The wisest course is to ignore that and simply say, “We do not care about your history. We do not care about your culture. You may believe anything you wish about anything you wish. But! These are the things you may not do and if you do them we will crush you like an eggshell.”

The issue is not belief. The issue is behavior.

#5 Comment By Follow the money On June 20, 2016 @ 3:49 pm

Perhaps one day Islam in America might evolve into another Mormonism, which keeps many of the aesthetic properties of Christianity, but has a number of theological innovations.

I’ve noticed that there is much more offense taken among the Washington set over the Muslim immigration ban than there was over defaming Mexicans. I imagine that if Mexican nationals were as present and eloquent as this fellow, the outrage would have been equivalent. But for the time being, our largest think tanks are considered “Arab-occupied territory” for advocating the use of US force to advantage one side in a tribal war, and so our Washington elite find themselves seduced in this way.

#6 Comment By MRG On June 20, 2016 @ 4:30 pm

Several thoughts:

1) Re: taqiyya: It’s my understanding that a) the justification for this doctrine is so developed that there are actually various concepts represented, to wit: taqiyya (lying about one’s Muslim identity); kitman (lie of omission); tawriya (intentional misdirection); and maruna (sacrificing some aspect of Islamic identity to further another goal). If these are not used against non-Muslims, then what possible value could they have?

Further, saying to a non-Muslim that only Shi’ite Muslims can use taqiyya sounds a little like this: “Russian Orthodox are strictly forbidden to X, while Bulgarian and Ukranian Orthodox can X only in certain circumstances. But beware those sneaky Greek Orthodox; they X just because it’s Tuesday!” What a confusing morass.

3) Those of you who are certain that mainstream Muslims have spoken against the rapes in the countries I mentioned, would you be kind enough to link to them? I’ve seen some lukewarm denials of terrorist attacks, but never — not once — a strident repudiation of the sexual abuse that is becoming so problematic in Europe. My German is passable, so if I’ve missed these reports even in the German press, I’d love to see them.

4) Catholics, even today, are constantly being called to account for the priest scandals. Fourteen years after the scandals broke, I, a butt-in-the-pew layman, am constantly called upon to repudiate the actions of a small minority of consecrated men who ruined untold numbers of lives. I would feel sorry for Muslims who have to do the same but them’s the breaks. We all have to play the hand we’re dealt.

#7 Comment By Mario Diana On June 20, 2016 @ 4:54 pm

@Joan – The anti-Catholicism wasn’t entirely without foundation. It wasn’t until Vatican II that the church officially repudiated its policy of intolerance towards non-Catholic polities. The official position, until that time, was that Catholics, in countries where they were the majority, should work to institute politics in line with their religious teachings, effectively making the country a Catholic one. Separation of church and state was anathema.

In fact, it was only something like a hundred years prior to Vatican II that the pope released an encyclical denouncing democracy and, specifically, the advanced democracy of the United States. I don’t remember the title offhand, but I’m aware of this encyclical. Most Catholics today (and people in general) have no awareness of this.

Can it be any wonder that the protestant Americans at the time, faced with the influx of hordes of Catholics, most poor and ignorant, were concerned? Traditionally, Catholics were obedient to the Vatican in a way that has no parallel in the fractured, protestant world. Moreover, until Vatican II, their religious practices were in almost every way decidedly different from protestant America — right down to the Latin liturgy.

Few people care to reflect on any of this or even know much of it.

What the Catholics had going for them is that both they and the Vatican were from and of Western culture, a non-trivial fact that undoubtedly made assimilation more easy; and by assimilation I mean not merely American Catholics but the Vatican itself. Vatican II was an effort by Roman Catholicism to, in part, accommodate itself to the modern world. Until then, the institution was fraught with medieval relics.

Islam not only has no heritage in Western culture, it has been Western culture’s historic enemy. What Western culture they have absorbed has been largely foisted on them by European colonialism, a fact that the people of the Islamic world feel keenly, whether they appreciate Western culture or not.

To say that what we’re seeing now with sentiment critical of Islamic immigration is just like anti-Catholicism is a false analogy. Convince me that what we see with our plain eyes is less foreign to America than medieval Catholicism and that the Muslim world is not less amenable to living in harmony with modern Western civilization than was the Catholic church, and I’ll reconsider what you’ve said. Respectfully, I don’t think you can pull it off.

#8 Comment By JonF On June 20, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

Re: Muslims in the US will be more aggressively assertive once they attain a larger presence through superior birth rate or uncontrolled immigration.

I used to live in the Detroit metro area and still travel back there regularly (as recently as two weeks ago in fact). I have not noticed a problem with aggressive Muslims or even assertive. To be sure parts of Dearborn and western Detroit do have a distinct Middle Eastern feel what with Arabic signage and the occasional sound of Middle Eastern pop music. But is that any different from the various China Towns and Greektowns and the like?

#9 Comment By Eric Todd On June 20, 2016 @ 5:16 pm

“I don’t want to deny the differences between Christianity and Islam, nor am I asking you to endorse our theology. What we should both want is that America return to its best traditions of pluralistic liberalism.”


Thanks for writing that. I found it interesting and I also think we orthodox Christians could occasionally collaborate with Muslims.

However, you will forgive us for not wanting more Muslims in America, however much we might appreciate those who are already here. The “pluralistic liberalism” you so value is unknown in countries where Muslims are a majority and is thus, I suspect, incompatible with a traditional understanding of Islam. In Saudi Arabia, where I have travelled extensively, Christians cannot go to church or even wear a cross. The penalty for proselytism in majority Muslim countries is typically death. Sure, Muslims allow their fellow monotheistic brethren to live, as long as they pay a special tax, the Jizya, or adhere to strict limitations to their religious liberty.

I wouldn’t pretend I could interpret your Quran, but it certainly doesn’t seem compatible with “pluralistic liberalism”.

Quran (9:29) – “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

I understand that these verses may mean something completely different in modern Islamic theology to what they appear to me, an outsider to your faith. But it is a fact that Christians throughout the Muslim world feel “subdued” on a daily basis.

So, can Christians and Muslims collaborate? Yes, I should hope we could. But I also hope you understand why we should not like Islam to become a dominant religion.

#10 Comment By Ras Al-Ghoul On June 20, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

Stefan, you ask:

Perhaps this points to a new standard for thinking about religious liberty: “How easy would it be to turn this group’s orthodoxy into an argument for being hesitant to condemn violence, or to qualify such condemnation with endless of whataboutism?”

The question you might ask yourself is how easy would it be to turn this position of yours into an argument for being hesitatnt to condemn voilence against a group with a particular “read-in” orthodoxy, or etc.

Where do you come from in judging the actions of a person, or a community? Are we to repeat that. “all violence, and talk of violence is bad”, hence “forbidden”, and logically are we to conclude that we must be violent to thviolent? Shall we begin by a postion of “absolute tolerance” and end up being intolerant to the intolerants?

Your position is illogical and self defeating in the first place. Blaming Islam, as an example for having clauses in its founding sources which formulate and pose the conditions of what comes to close to what is called a “just war” in other legal doctrines, or blaming those clauses for being the cause of crimes committed by the jihadists, because “they are there in the books and hence they influence people, therefore that book is not neutral” is intellectual laziness, a laziness which is killing us all. That is the vais problem, from the jihadist which argues by the Quran in this simplistic manner to the people who comment on this blog and make Islam and honor killing equal, to you. Islam encourages honor killing as much as Christinaity encourages fornication by all this talk of love. Just look at the typical “christian” around you. Of course I don’t know if you are a christian, but this is the level of that argument of yours about “the plausibility of violencevargument by orthodoxy”. Orthodoxy is noy just a bunch of texts you can pick at random: it has also a method, conditioned on the purity of heart, it has a tradition, and it abhores, at least in the Islamic context, intellectual laziness; unfortunately the latter is something which is more and more encoruaged as we are all entitled to revel in our personal opinions conveniently formed after reading the media news, a few blogs, perhaps a couple fo articles a day and maybe a few serious books. The result is the mess we see.

Believe me, a policy of “Thou shall not talk about how to exerce legitimate violence since it leads to voilence” will lead to the worst atrocities when the liberally raised youth are thrown unwillingly into the next necessary war. They will not know how to handle it, and this is similarly the case with the jihadists, since they too are a bunch of ignoramus moody illiterates, arrows the hand of Satan.

#11 Comment By John On June 20, 2016 @ 5:33 pm

H. of Ulster..

The Crusades were a defensive war against Islamic aggression. To call is something else demonstrates lack of regard of objective history.

An Ulsterman critical of Catholics is the cutest remark of all.

#12 Comment By Brendan On June 20, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

Rod, I’d like Jones as my neighbour, but when it comes to Islam globally he is a statistical outlier.

The problem we face in the West is not well integrated sincere but ‘liberal’ Muslims like Jones, the problem is Islam.

It has structural problems when it comes to the treatment of gays, women, apostates, heretics and indeed anyone who is not a Muslim.

That’s the religion.

Individual Muslims respond to Islam on a continuum. Sincere, decent human beings like Jones are at one end of the spectrum. He is someone who is not about to take all of those violent injunctions to jihad seriously. While he fasts prays and lives a moral life, he is from an Islamic Scriptural perspective, a nominal Muslim.

Then there are those Muslims like ISIS, but even others living in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and many other places including (sadly) in the West, who are at the other end of the spectrum. They do take their obligation to Islamic jihad seriously.

What makes it difficult for us in the west, is there is no way telling one Muslim from another, and definitely no way of testing how the as yet unborn second generation Muslims will behave after their immigrants parents cross the border.

We can celebrate the outliers like Jones, but we deceive ourselves if we think he is representative of Islam.

#13 Comment By Eliavy On June 20, 2016 @ 6:22 pm

Chris Travers says: (June 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm) “Christianity, Judaism, etc are also ideologies that have religious components, and the idea of ‘basic civil rights’ really arose from Calvinist thinkers applying Calvinist thinking to social issues, so I am not convinced.”

I’m curious about the Calvinist roots of basic civil rights. I learned that our Western understanding of them had its turning point with the Magna Carta, centuries before John Calvin.

While ancient Judaism did not have our present understanding of civil rights, the law of the Torah was incredibly liberal compared to known near contemporaries, such as the Code of Hammurabi.

#14 Comment By cecelia On June 20, 2016 @ 6:43 pm

A lot of the things that are being said now about Muslims were said about the Catholics 150 years ago. Last time I looked those predictions about the horrible awful Catholics did not come true just as I doubt the horrible awful predictions about Muslims in the US are likely to come true.

One thing about the Pew survey which interested me is that Muslims in America are better assimilated than Muslims in Europe. Less (admittedly slightly less) American Muslims think homosexuality should be criminalized and punished, less want sharia law imposed in the US. On several other measures this adaptation to America values is apparent in the survey. I’d say this suggests that as in the past – Muslim immigrants will become “Americans” for good and ill.

And thank you Mr. “Jones” for your thoughtful comments.

#15 Comment By DeclineThe Enjoy On June 20, 2016 @ 8:15 pm

Except Jones is a serious outlier, in the same sense Rod is one for Eastern Orthodoxy. While I can trust both of them on an individual level, they really can’t speak for the mass of American Muslims or Orthodox.

#16 Comment By VikingLS On June 20, 2016 @ 9:16 pm

If socially conservative Muslims like Jones want to make common cause with socially conservative Christians maybe they need to make the first move.

#17 Comment By (((Darth Thulhu))) On June 20, 2016 @ 9:35 pm

Jones wrote:

I also think that America is destined to play an important role in global Islam. America might be the site of a world-historical turning point, a rich theological dialogue that has not been possible for centuries. There are things that are possible here that possible nowhere else. Who knows what the fruits of cooperation could be? Why don’t we just try and see?

That is, more or less, the guidance of the early Baha’i leaders as regards [2]: it’s democracy will, eventually, be the host of great religious transformations and inter-racial revivals and peaceful rebirth.

But first it, and the West, and everyone else, get to endure the catastrophic successes and catastrophic failures of revolutionary corporatism and materialist industrialism. In the soil of the wasteland thus created, new life will grow.

#18 Comment By (((Darth Thulhu))) On June 20, 2016 @ 9:41 pm

Jones wrote:

It’s common in Muslim circles to observe that American Muslims are often more committed practitioners of their religion than those “back home,” because you have no choice but to take personal responsibility for your faith. In these respects, the lives we live already resemble the ones that you envision for Christians after the Benedict Option

Except, of course, for the many Muslims who become almost-completely-irreligious, instead. There are more openly-atheist Pakistanis in the West, by far, than there are back in the home country.

Just like the Christian sects and the Jewish sects, America offers Muslims who are serious about their Faith many incentives to be even more serious still … but offers those who are less serious an equal number of incentives to stop bothering altogether.

#19 Comment By Potato On June 20, 2016 @ 10:14 pm

Muslim Americans have respect for people who care about family, who live according to traditional values, who take care of their parents, who act and dress modestly, and who respect marriage.

This is pretty much the antithesis of modern America, isn’t it?

You know what? I’m pretty tired of listening to this.

I am a life-long Roman Catholic, although I am certain that my Christianity would not pass muster according to Rod Dreher (and he got made judge of this when exactly and by whom?). I have been married two months short of 50 years and we have four adult children, only one of whom is a practicing Christian (another devout Catholic who would certainly Fall Short of the Dreher standard) and four grandchildren so far. All our children and their spouses and (so far) our grandchildren are decent and upright people who love their spouses and are faithful to them and work hard to raise their children. This is also true of almost everyone in our very wide circle of friends and more distant relations. We have many friends, many of them of 50 years duration and more.

We all respect marriage. We all act and dress modestly (whatever that is supposed to mean). I’ll put the modesty of my dress up against anyone, although no one we know goes around in a burka. We all care deeply about family. We took care of our aging parents.

Who exactly is this “modern America” everyone here is so incensed about (and is so much better than)? I have lived my whole life in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Modern Sodom, as have almost all my friends and relations, all the people I’ve been talking about. Is life so much more degenerate in Louisiana, in Ohio, in wherever everyone is, than it is here? Are these modern Americans you have such scorn for your own relatives, your own business partners, your own friends? Are they real human beings you know in person? Or are these just people you read about in the media and in scare posts at Dreher’s?

[NFR: Goodness, you are wound up. Isn’t it Miller Time where you live? — RD]

#20 Comment By Tominpa On June 20, 2016 @ 11:21 pm

So much to say, so little time. I think MRG already nailed it.

I have much, sometimes more, in common with American Muslims than many of the Christian counterparts regarding issues pertaining to the culture at large. But that common ground isn’t based upon the same Truth. I see a number of comments claiming tiqquia is a Shira thing or that there are aspects of the Koran that teach good moral teachings and values. To this I ask, what of abrogation?

And what about any nation with a Muslim majority? Not exactly great places to live as women or as homosexual. There’s a reason Jones says America is the best place to be a Muslim. It’s because it’s based in Christian values and ethics despite the fact that it has strayed and is in need of help.

#21 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 20, 2016 @ 11:22 pm

Would it be easy to find justification for something this in the Lotus Sutra (yes I know there are violent buddhists somewhere in Myanmar, they don’t have a central holy book that offers plenty of explicit textual support for it)? \

Violent Buddhists are definitely a thing, and not just in Myanmar. During the three-way civil conflict in Sri Lanka that began in the 1970s and ended in 2009 (and which gave rise to, uh, suicide bombing as a military technique), Buddhism served as an important legitimating ideology for the government in its wars against both the Tamils and the Sinhalese Communists. Conservative politicians used Buddhist mythology (as well as Hindu myths- Buddhism arose out of Hinduism and borrows a lot of the same deities and stories) to justify the violence, including analogizing Tamils to pagan invaders and Communists to rakshasas (demons).

#22 Comment By M_Young On June 21, 2016 @ 12:07 am

“That is, more or less, the guidance of the early Baha’i leaders as regards America: it’s democracy will, eventually, be the host of great religious transformations and inter-racial revivals and peaceful rebirth.

But first it, and the West, and everyone else, get to endure the catastrophic successes and catastrophic failures of revolutionary corporatism and materialist industrialism. In the soil of the wasteland thus created, new life will grow.”

And they call the AltRight crazy!

#23 Comment By nemo On June 21, 2016 @ 1:23 am

There’s so much that one could address here, particularly in the comments, which is to say, I think, that the interview was useful, interesting and served the purpose of starting discussions.

Having said that, one feels at a loss in terms of the comments to address some of the ‘outsider’ perspectives which are equally mistaken and presented with certainty. In particular, I was glad to see someone address the strange canard about ‘taqiyya’. As a rule, Sunnis do not hold any doctrinal principle of ‘taqiyya’, which is basically a Twelver Shi’ite principle according to which one is permitted in case of necessity to deny certain of one’s beliefs. Ultimately, it simply means that you are not necessarily committing a sin to deny elements of your faith outwardly in the face of persecution.

As with so much, things are really much less ‘sinister’ when one ‘unpacks’ them and allows the light to shine on them. According to Islam, by the way, God is ‘an-Nur’, the Light.

I am not much of a believer in everyday ecumenism and interfaith dialogue; it seems to me that it confronts mainly the ‘Meet a Muslim’ crowd – see above – with their ‘progressive’ counterparts among Jews and Christians. As Rod suggests in the equally interesting post today on the ‘progressivist’ deviation as contrasted with orthodoxy, such dialogue can be of incidental interest, but it effectually measures the Divine by the human, rather than the other way around.

In the words of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, ‘In accordance with the real nature of things it is the human that must conform to the Divine and not the Divine to the human.’ With all the necessary qualifications, most of which I think Rod addressed in the other post, this really sums up in a sentence the dichotomy between those who are ultimately more modern than not, as opposed to those who are more traditional or orthodox (I do not say ‘pre-modern’ since this takes, again, modernity and modernism as the norm).

Although I am opposed to wishy-washy, reductionistic ecumenism, I do not think this is the only possibility. What Jones – and, in his own way, Rod – has been suggesting here is an ‘ecumenism of the trenches’, that is, an attitude, basically, of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Christians, Jews and Muslims need not deny or water down any of their disagreements or theological distinctives. The fact is, however, that the three Semitic monotheisms – not to mention other religions – in their orthodox iterations stand opposed and as a bulwark against the debilitating and dissipating winds of secularism, atheism, materialism as well as a host of modern ‘isms’ (including, let us note, superficial and politicized ‘fundamentalisms’ of whatever stripe).

This ties into what several commenters have noted, that Jones suggests Christians ‘reach out’ to Muslims. I don’t think that Jones was suggesting this as a one-way action; I am sure that he encourages Muslims to get to know Christians and Christianity as well. However, he is here writing at TAC and to a largely Christian audience, and I think that was why he was simply speaking to his audience.

Beyond this, it is worth noting also that, in my humble experience, most Muslims, whatever their theological disagreements with Christianity, have much less suspicion towards and dislike of Christians and Christianity than some conservative Christians have toward Islam. Generally, Muslim dismissals of Christians and Christianity stick to ‘first-tier’ issues: the Incarnation, Trinitarian theology, the breakdown of social morality due to the lack of an explicit revealed Law. These things can be debated endlessly and will be; they are not, however, reliant on bizarre, dehumanizing caricatures.

Most Muslims of whom I am aware are happy to discuss such central issues of their own faith, such as the Qur’an, the revealed Law, the prophetic standing of the Prophet, etc. What is impossible are the ‘blood libels’ which are akin to asking whether one has stopped beating one’s wife yet. ‘Do you accept Sharia law and its provisions?’, as some helpful commenters here have pointed out, is as useless and impenetrable as asking Catholics whether they ‘accept Christendom’ or, in another sense, asking Jews whether they have yet accepted Christ.

Alongside taqiyya, someone brought up the lack of Muslim voices against terrorism, etc. This is a tired line among Muslims, but there really are an endless parade, after every claimed terror attack, of Muslim leaders, spokespeople and others rejecting such attacks and disclaiming the people involved and the actions. Look up ‘Orlando Statement’ as a starting point for many American Muslim leaders addressing the recent events.

Someone rather bizarrely mentioned the lack of humor in Islam. As with several of the odd anti-Islamic accusations, this is an immediate ‘unveiling’ of the accuser’s lack of familiarity with Islam and the Muslim world. Not only was the Prophet of Islam known to laugh often and jest, but those Muslims who are filled with faith and who most exemplify the Prophetic character are very often those whose happiness in their Lord and joy in their salvation is most evident on their faces and particularly in their smiles. As with so many accusations, what these caricatures of the Muslim come down to is in fact a lack of awareness of the Prophetic personality and character, not to mention his spiritual presence.

This is why Muslims are asking you to ‘get to know’ them; they are not asking for a ‘free pass’ or for you to agree with everything they do. It is just that people usually know that ‘if you get to know us, you will not find us to be so threatening’. To know that many Muslims are joyous, loving and intelligent people does not mean you must then accept polygyny. It simply means that you are less likely to accept your Muslim neighbors being rounded up in internment camps when the time comes.

Those who have critiqued the Muslim imagination and the Islamic record of tolerance are unfamiliar with more than a small slice of the historical record. Today, it is true that on several levels, the Islamic world is more often than not bereft of the sense of beauty. There are several reasons for this, but it suffices for the moment to point out that this is very much the case in the West as well, except for a profane and idolatrously humanistic ‘art for art’s sake’ which has very little to do with an authentically Christian mentality. This blog has addressed several times previously the paucity of real profundity, beauty and greatness in the art and cultural manifestations of much of American Christianity.

As far as tolerance is concerned, I will highly recommend Reza Shah-Kazemi’s excellent ‘The Spirit of Tolerance in Islam’, which adroitly examines just this topic. The Qur’an itself, precisely, and Islamic Law both address explicitly Jews and Christians and include social provisions for them as – even within the context of a medieval Islamic community – a partially autonomous and independently recognized religious body. To underline this point at the most intimate level: Muslim men are explicitly permitted by God in the Qur’an to marry Jewish or Christian women.

To take these remarkable provisions and these acknowledgements and twist them into something oppressive – the ‘dhimmitude’ rhetoric – is either merely unimaginative and lacking in a sense of proportions or is an expression of willful baseness and ‘bad faith’.

The relevant question to ask in such a context is not, what do most Christians today – in the secularized, post-Enlightenment West – feel comfortable with or prefer in terms of ‘religious equality’; rather, what social provisions for other religions does traditional Christianity explicitly provide, and then what does it permit, if only by implication, etc.?

Every society has laws; Christian societies are no different. The difference is that Jews and Muslims believe they have revealed laws, whereas Christians are given much more a ‘free hand’. One can see clearly the potential advantages and disadvantages of both these approaches, it seems to me, even if one ultimately prefers one to the other.

To Bernie, and at the risk of sounding flippant: yes, the vast majority of Muslims believe in the Shari’a, jihad and ‘the role of women’ – though I would say, roles. This is not necessarily a problem for ‘integration’ or ‘assimilation’, though these latter are problematic concepts in more than one respect. As has been pointed out in this space more than a few times, to what extent does a believing Christian wish to be ‘assimilated’ to the broader American culture? Therefore, to what are American Muslims being asked to ‘assimilate’?

If you rephrase the ‘scare topics’ using non-foreign words, you could say that most Muslims believe strongly in the fear of God (which is the beginning of wisdom) and His Will as a final authority in their lives and, ideally, in society, they believe in fighting for what they believe in, and they believe that men and women both have essential and important roles in society and in the individual religious life.

All questions of immigration and other public policies aside, the reality is that Islam is the second-largest religion in the world and looks to be at least the second-largest for the foreseeable future. It is a huge swath of the world and if one effectively has to tell oneself that everyone who seriously affirms such a religion must be a fool or a knave, in the face of the deluge of information to the contrary one can easily gain today, I worry that one can only end with a certain level of willful dehumanization of ‘the other’. Many Muslims stupidly do this too, by the way, with regard to ‘the West’ or ‘America’.

In particular, I want to take issue with John’s assertions: “Islam is an ideology that has a religious component that historically proved to be unreliable for providing even for basic civil rights. In Islamic societies Christians are persecuted and made to assimilate by every means; even coercive means. I know the people of the book statement but in practice it has never worked for the people of the book: Jews or Christians.”

This is almost exactly the opposite of the truth. What is lost in the discussions of ISIS and their persecution of Christians is precisely the reality that there have been significant Christian populations which have existed throughout the Islamic world for almost 1400 years. This may seem unimpressive in the context of American ideas of full-throated religious liberty, mandated by the secular authorities, but at least it gives the lie to the absurdities John mentions. If all coercive measures were used – let us simply say, if ISIS was representative of Islam – then those communities would have faced what they have been facing a millennium ago. They have not, precisely because of the Islamic understanding of the literally God-given rights and standing of the People of the Book.

Again, An Agrarian states: “Yet Americans would be wise to know what Muslim doctrines teach … in detail. The moderation and liberal ideas of Jones, sincere as they may be, are absent in Islamic doctrine.”

The trouble is that most Americans – especially those most opposed to Islam – rarely know much of anything about Islam, and in this sense I agree with An Agrarian. The second sentence, however, is useless. Jones does not have ‘liberal virtues’ or ‘moderation’ in spite of his faith but rather, if anything, because of it. If all virtuous and ‘moderate’ (according to which scale?) Muslims claim they derive the positive elements of their character from the example of their Prophet and the Attributes of God which they learn from His revealed Word, is it meaningful or could it even be true that they are all really living a sort of perpetual cognitive dissonance in which they ascribe all these virtues to their antithesis while simultaneously rejecting – to one degree or another – the supposed ‘liberal’ source of their virtues? How many impossible things does you believe before breakfast?

To N. S. Palmer:

“Your Christian correspondent is someone I would like. We share many attitudes and beliefs. He seems a good American who contributes to our society. But …

I still think it’s a good idea to limit Christian immigration and “profile” Christians for extra scrutiny. As Ann ‘Yellow Peril’ Coulter said, tactlessly but accurately, most Christians are not homophobes but most homophobes are Christians.

That your correspondent would be subjected to the same scrutiny is unfortunate and in his case unfair, but there are no perfect solutions to social problems. We must find the least imperfect solution and, if we can (Trump being the last exudate of the American political process), implement the imperfect.”

Ann Coulter also had some other notable things to say about Muslims and the Muslim world shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Why, in the case of a cap on immigration, should we not simply trade her for a Muslim more like Jones, since she does not seem like ‘a good American who contributes to her society’, unlike him? Such a policy with regard to Muslim immigration I could fully support.

To Ben H: CAIR is not run by the Muslim Brotherhood, nor does it represent Islam in America. It is a civil rights organization, as you mention, and is involved in public advocacy for American Muslims. It is entirely fallible and any Muslim can like it or dislike it, support it or not. It is not an Islamic ‘religious institution’.

To Cosimano: “Americans must not change for Islam. Islam must change to survive in an American universe. The planet ain’t big enough for both of us.”

‘America’, as you are using it, is a nation state founded in 1776. Islam is a world religion founded in 610. There is no comparison, but if you expect that ultimately it will be the man-made and mutable which will determine the God-given and timeless, then I can only suggest that there is a very significant something which the vast majority of the world’s population has grasped – and throughout history – that you have missed.

To Eric: Since when were ‘the grunts’ authorities on religion? How did spreading the light of democratic capitalism to Uncle Sam’s misguided Afghani and Iraqi children, et al., work out? Is there a little similarity?

BPS: The view that Trinitarian Christians are not included among the People of the Book is a very weak position within Islam and not supported by the vast majority of scholars. It is generally held by Salafis and those who are disturbed by what they can perceive as the general Qur’anic and Prophetic approbation of Christians.

What I mean is: “the Qur’an and the Prophet seem to be generally positive towards Christians, however the Qur’an and the Prophet are strictly montheist. Since we don’t understand trinitarian theology as being ‘monotheist’ enough for our purposes, ergo the Qur’an and the Prophet must have been merely referring to some fanciful, posited ‘unitarian’ Christians when it speaks of them as People of the Book.”

One among several difficulties with this rather tendentious interpretation is that it rests on the assumption that God – speaking in the Qur’an – is unaware of the fact that almost everyone who reads the text thereafter will take his references to ‘the Christians’ at face value and as inclusive of Christians generally, as opposed to some small Ebionite or perhaps Arian branch. It is, all told, an example of what Meister Eckhart referred to as people’s tendency to put God into their own little boxes when faced with His mystery and transcendence.

Chris Travers has some good points about Islamic Law.

My thanks to Rod and Jones for the fine interview and to Rod, more generally, for the place, the space and the conversation. What is needed today is an ‘ecumenism of the trenches’ which acknowledges the common dangers facing each faith, alongside a sort of ‘BenOp’ within each faith; I will end by suggesting that there may be something more also – it has been called an ‘esoteric ecumenism’ – which is only for the individual who comes to see that there is finally one Word known by many Names.

#24 Comment By nemo On June 21, 2016 @ 1:53 am

One further note: Bernard wants to make of Jones a ‘nominal Muslim’ because he wants to believe the narrative that the Saudi government is more authentically Islamic than Jones.

Let it be clear that this is simply an assertion on the part of Bernard; it has no actual relation to any reality of Islam.

One does not get to tell Muslims what Islam is. Since when has a ‘Christian government’ been the best representative of what is authentically Christian?

Instead, one looks to the foundational sources and also the later authorities of the tradition.

For those unfamiliar with the Prophet of Islam, I always recommend three ‘tastings’ above all: ‘Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources’ by Martin Lings, ‘And Muhammad is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety’ by Annemarie Schimmel, and the recording of the Burda – the Poem of the Cloak – by the Fez Singers, translated by Hamza Yusuf.

If you want to understand why Muslims love, revere and follow the Prophet of Islam, and if, by extension, you want to see who is truly representative of his religion, then these are, I submit, an excellent and entirely representative starting point.

#25 Comment By Chris Travers On June 21, 2016 @ 2:39 am

Regarding Calvinism and civil rights, I don’t think the Magna Carta is based on the same principles.

The modern view of rights starts with Thomas Hobbes (religious life unknown) and his rejection that the common good is the basis of society, and therefore people had a general right to live life as they please, guaranteed by the absolute supremacy of the state. But Hobbes began something although he didn’t really form it.

The two primary thinkers who gave rise to our rights-and-state ideology both came from Calvinist circles. I refer to Locke and Rousseau. Rousseau, true, went through a Catholic phase but he started and ended his life as an austere Calvinist.

I would in fact argue that the basis of predestination in Calvinist teaching arises from a mechanistic, asocial view of the world and of humanity. While Hobbes was problably not a Calvinist himself, the seeds he planted grew in the fertile soil of Calvinist liberal philosophers for the reasn that he articulated the same basic view of humanity.

But in all three, remember, rights are used as a substitute for common good. I don’t think you see that in the Magna Carta but you do see it in the Constitution (except arguably the 2nd Amendment), and you see it in the progressive idea that a primary goal of government should be to liberate people from the chains of society (family, community norms, culture etc) through expanding rights.

#26 Comment By Chris Travers On June 21, 2016 @ 2:42 am

The argument for basic civil rights would be more compelling if there was a neutral and universal epistemological basis for deciding what is a right and what is not. Then we could discuss such.

But that never works because if you had a solid, uncontroversial basis for articulating rights and defining them, then they would never change and have to affect all cultures in the same way, which they dont.

#27 Comment By Ras Al-Ghoul On June 21, 2016 @ 2:43 am

Tomoipa: What About Abrogation? I ask you: What about it? Could you give us a lecture about its theory, its origins, its history, the opinions in Muslim scholars against it and the opinions for it? How would it apply to the particular verses you are mentioning? When and in which circumstances those verses were revealed? How come an isolated opinion of one 7th Islamic century Muslim scholar oft quoted on internet overrides a whole pool of opinions about it? How come it is not mentioned in the Quran and in the deeds and words of the Prophet which verses were and were not abbrogated and if yes, to which extent?

This is another hoax like taqqiya, propagated again by intellectual lazziness. I could also ask, what about Catholic church condemning all scientific activity? (It has not yet appologized for the Gallileo trial, therefore it wants to put all scientisits in jail if it gains the upper hand. Is this a non-sequitur? What do you think?)

The problem we have here is that the Islamic civilization, (or in parallel the christian one for that matter) which produced all those books in which you find your favtorite quote justifying your claims was partially based on a lonstanding legal and intellectual discipline. Without this discipline, which requiers long hours of study, patience, impartiality, etc., one can essentially deduce anything he wants from the texts in one-liner arguments like the ones you see in “webblogs” against Islam or in jihadist propaganda, and which you have in mind when you write this nonsenseical “what about”.

Look, all of you particualr class of commenters here will fail your Islam 101 if you participate in a serious exam. Don’t you think you will be one day held responsible in the final judgement for propagating all this misinformation, even about a “false” religion? Now this latter “warning” is something from the Quran, and it is not abrogated.

[NFR: As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church authorities did apologize for the Galileo affair. You can look it up. — RD]

#28 Comment By Chris Travers On June 21, 2016 @ 2:50 am

And what about any nation with a Muslim majority? Not exactly great places to live as women or as homosexual.

One needs to be careful with that sort of logic. I will explain why.

First, tolerance to individuals’ homosexuality varies quite a bit in the Muslim world. It’s very different in Iran than in Malaysia or Indonesia btw. It isn’t accepted anywhere per se, but then I would argue that a premise that gay rights are needed because “they are fundamentally different” is nothing more than an argument over how gays should be marginalized.

As for women…. Which women? Where? Again, Malaysia and Indonesia are very different from, say, Egypt or Morocco. But I am not sure such a sweeping generalization works anywhere. Indonesia has had a female Muslim president after a little more than half a century of independence….

#29 Comment By VikingLS On June 21, 2016 @ 3:21 am

@Decline the enjoy

As one of Rod’s fellow Orthodox I am curious as to what you think makes him an outlier.

#30 Comment By (((Darth Thulhu))) On June 21, 2016 @ 5:12 am

M_Young wrote:

And they call the AltRight crazy!

That’s because the AltRight, unlike the Baha’is, actually is crazy.

It is crazy to yearn for “endarkened” neo-monarchy in countries continually barraged with the accelerating successes of capitalism, because it is never going to happen.

It is crazy to yearn for a future of racially “pure” ethnostates on a planet where the barriers to travel (and the costs of travel) from one end of the globe to the other constantly plummet decade after decade after decade, because it is never going to happen.

We will certainly get some incompetent, corrupt juntas and some incompetent, corrupt leftists … but those governments immediately discredit all nostalgia for such governments to all the people unfortunate enough to be forced to live through them. None of it bodes well for an incoherent future of 50% glibertarian Rand fantasies and 50% ethnonational dictatorship.

By contrast, the Baha’i assertion that mass industrialization and secular enlightenment inevitably mean “the End of the World (as it was)” and the beginning of a new Era in the wake of global civilizational wreckage … well, what else do you call the American Civil War, World War I, the Russian Civil War, World War II, the Chinese Civil War, and the accelerating undeclared wars of the 21st century? What else do you call the accelerating mass collapse of existing religious institutions? What else do you call the global devastation of the first Great Depression and the oncoming mass collapse of a second Great Depression (which the AltRight seems incapable of actually imagining in any detail)? All of this stuff actually happens.

Feel free to call such predictions “crazy” if you want. That dudes in Persia in 1840 were talking about the broad outlines of such things strikes plenty of others as “prescient”, or even “prophetic”.

#31 Comment By (((Darth Thulhu))) On June 21, 2016 @ 5:26 am

Rod wrote:

As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church authorities did apologize for the Galileo affair. You can look it up.

Yeah, they apologized … in 1992, a full three and a half centuries after Galileo’s death under house arrest. I was an astronomy-nerd kid when the announcement came down, and my first take away was shock that the apology hadn’t come centuries beforehand … followed by the second takeaway that [3]

At that rate of alacrity, we can expect the Catholic Church to get around to apologizing for the First Vatican Council and a lot of other loudly-argued throne-and-altar absurdities sometime around the year 2200. In the meantime, we’re in the middle centuries where the Church has quietly moved most of that stuff off the books and is now trying to pretend that it never happened, but is still several generations away from being able to apologize for ever putting that stuff on the books in the first place.

#32 Comment By Ras Al-Ghoul On June 21, 2016 @ 5:34 am

[NFR: As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church authorities did apologize for the Galileo affair. You can look it up. — RD]

Rod: my bad. I got it confused with Bruno case. (I double checked on Bruno, and it seems there is no official apology regarding his particular case).

Anyway, I was just offering an example of a type of argument in its fallacy I myself believe. So my point still holds: Even if the Catholic church did appologize for Galileo in 1992, it is clear that for about 350 years till that date, in the absence of that apology, the catholics would have burned or imprisoned scientists if they gained the aupper hand. Then the truth and the nature of the Church magically changed in 1992 and now we are no more under that threat (again, assuming that all the other cases, like Bruno’s, have been put to rest). This is the type of conlusion one can draw discussing theology through the data provided by the sensational media and the internet.

By the way, if I remember correctly Galileo was trying to insist his theoy was “the truth” determining the interpretation of the scripture and not just a scietific theory; and this was one essential point of contention. This is not the black and white dominant narrative we hear nowadays. But what is to be done? We moderns want it fast, chewed, and packaged for us so that we can make our mind in a few minutes, feel better about ourselves in identifying those “violent” or “backward” or (choose your favorite label); and then rush to the next topic of entertainment.

#33 Comment By mrscracker On June 21, 2016 @ 6:46 am

I have sympathy for Muslims living not just in America but in the West in general. I don’t mesh with our current culture and can imagine how they would feel too.
We decry how women are treated in Muslim countries, but our society doesn’t do well by young women. We basically throw them to the wolves.
I personally think gender segregated beaches and swimming pools sound fine.

#34 Comment By Hound of Ulster On June 21, 2016 @ 8:40 am

The Crusades were not a defensive campaign against Islamic aggression, if so they 1) would have began in the 600s, not 1095, 2) you would have had an Eastern Christian form of crusades theology, which never came into being despite centuries of war between the Caliphs and the Emperors of the Romans, and 3) why the campaigns against Russia and Byzantium? Both were Christian, even according to theology of the time.

The idiocy of the the religious conflicts in Ireland, along with everything mentioned above, are one of many reasons I became Eastern Orthodox.

#35 Comment By ADL On June 21, 2016 @ 11:25 am

He is a Pakistani-American lawyer of the Millennial generation…

This guy is a Millennial (in his 20s) and sounds this intelligent?? Wow! He must have spent all of his Friday nights doing homework.

#36 Comment By anonymousdr On June 21, 2016 @ 12:11 pm

@Mario Diana
Whatever Dignitatis Humanae did (and I’m not exactly sure what it did do), it certainly didn’t pave the way for French style laïcité or even American style “separation of church and state” as Lefebvre and some progressives claim. There are still a handful of countries where the Catholic Church remains the “established” or at least “favored” Church, and is deeply entwined with the government in many “secular” states, even in Western Europe, through education and tithe collections. I suspect that even our current pontiff has no interest in upending those relationships, as he benefited (and with Kirchner battled over) from close Church-State involvement while in Argentina. The Church still encourages the laity, very strongly, to vote in line with Catholic moral principles, and it would probably be happy to have democratic majorities committed to Catholic teaching.
DH did reaffirm the right to conscience, which really needs to be read against the backdrop of Russian and China, as much against the backdrop of a throne and altar state. It certainly seems to downplay the secular state’s role in coercing the baptized, but it doesn’t totally give up all forms of coercion either, insofar as the post-VII church makes acceptance of certain Catholic principles a condition of employment. So, it is a tempering of traditional teaching, but certainly not a radical break, or at least if we are to follow B16, should be read this way. Thomas Pink provides some interesting commentary on this.
To the degree that throne and altar states have been abandoned it is because they are deeply unpopular, but not because they are intrinsically immoral. I shouldn’t expect the Church to apologize for the Ancien Regime. Just to be contrarian, remember, places with a strong Inquisition had fewer witch trials and less interreligious violence than Northwestern Europe where the Holy Inquisition was weak. As we are seeing with modern liberalism, every state needs an animating ideology. If you think that Catholicism is true, then why not have it be Catholicism? To me the best answer is practical—when people identify the Church with “the powers that be” they resent it, even if it does conduct itself properly.
Obviously, something that Rod has said or done really bothers you. But, as to the fact that non-Christians can be good people, well, this is a well -nown truth throughout Christian history. There has been a long understanding that natural reason, e.g. without revelation, can lead people to good earthly lives. Just look at the esteem with which most Christian thinkers have held Aristotle, and to a lesser extent Plato and the Stoics. Confucius and Lao-Tse also probably belong up there. The point that Rod and other traditionalists worry about (I count myself among them) is that we aren’t replacing Christianity with anything capable of intellectually justifying things like the family or other “traditional” values but just costing off of centuries of essentially Christian habit. While things for the most part look good on a superficial view of a place like the Bay Area (I used to live there), when compared to the pre-sex. rev days things really have declined (see Charles Murray for a nice overvew). People don’t work as hard or take care of their children the way they used to. There is also a concern that, by definition secular people can be good, but they can’t really ever be holy, since holiness is precluded by a truly secular ideology. Most people will continue to at least try to do the traditional things, because they are things that “natural reason” can know, but certainly they will be less prevalent in a society that does not actively promote them.

#37 Comment By grumpy realist On June 21, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

Actually, the reason that the Catholic Church still haven’t apologized for Bruno isn’t because of his science but because of the rest of his theories, which really scared the piss out of them. Go read Frances Yates on the links between Giordano Bruno and Hermetic beliefs. Bruno was setting himself up as an alternate authority to the Catholic Church. No wonder they panicked.

#38 Comment By Stefan On June 21, 2016 @ 7:13 pm

Ras Al-Ghoul,

Please do not condescend to me as if I am not aware that ideologies other than Islam have also come up with just war doctrines. On the other hand, thank you for claiming that my arguments are part of the “intellectual laziness that is killing us all”. It’s nice to know that Muslims and Islam apologists can suddenly adopt a profoundly buddhist view of moral non-dualism, of all of us participating in qualitatively the same cosmic guilt, when that serves to gaslight Islamosceptics’ arguments. Perhaps Mateen and his victims are spooning icecream together in the afterlife by that logic, I am probably too intellectually lazy to tell.

You also assume that I am claiming Islam has tremendous potential for being abused (I would say used, since violent lashing out against the infinite complexity of the all under heaven is precisely the goal) for condoning or being hesitant to condemn violence merely on the basis of certain “clauses in its founding sources”. I never wrote anything about what aspects of a religion should or should not be taken into account when identifying its orthodoxy.

To that point, I am not judging Islam on the basis of individual clauses in the Holy Quran, but on the basis of what it represents holistically in light of the history of ideas, namely an exaltation of extreme epistemic closure (“Seal of the Prophets”) that even surpasses Marxism’s extreme epistemic closure. Marxists, as moderns, at least feel obliged to pay lip service to the notion that Marxism might be refuted by extra-Marxist material. Yet plenty of democratic societies keep marxists cults under close scrutiny, and are entirely justified in doing so given that Marxism too is full of excuses for violence against those outside the epistemic community.

Islam though is at least a shade worse in terms of epistemic closure, it is the nadir of the idealistic calamity that took place in the human noosphere after the end of the last ice age. One thing I would never call Islam though is insincere. It is as cruel and unforgiving as the Arabian desert whose biosemiotic flows it came into existence to rationalize. I have no doubt that it is the perfect ideology for any environment where imagination and normative innovation is or cannot be tolerated, e.g. airport security lines, social justice warrior bragging contests about who promotes more tolerance and prevents more bigotry (hence the reason Khomeini looked so cheerful in public, he was the ultimate alpha SJW), prisons, space stations, etc. I do not want such spaces to occupy a significant part of this planet, and above all not my continent. The sustainability and hence desirability of a culture can be measured by its degree of complexity, for which Islam’s inability to accept it (“Fornication! Whores! Unclean!”) is an excellent way of operationalizing it. If I were to write a mirror for princes, it’s main advice would be to create a state where Muslims wouldn’t know what to recoil at in horror at first.

And then there is of course the separate issue of non-Islamic societies’ acceptance of Islam in practice requiring an increase in expertocratic, managerial approaches to diversity, i.e. the turgid multiculturalism discourse industry. The desire to secure public space for a concept of cultural diversity that is given excessive positive definition (as it necessarily has to be when some people are making a career out of it) and is proceduralism-heavy kills off society’s low-level intelligence (also called discrimination), which in turn creates social anomie and thereby enables the most violent elements within any ideology to do their thing relatively unmolested. There’s a reason no one is getting killed by Muslims on North Sentinel: any local is entitled to kill whatever outsider shows up on the beach. Which is of course a bit extreme for this day and age, but still, this kind of extremely low-level organic policing is extremely valuable in maintaining social order without increasing the deadweight of the state or SJW academia.

#39 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 21, 2016 @ 8:23 pm

“And thanks to the Trump campaign, this contingent on the right has probably formed into an enduring force. Somewhere between 67% and 71% of Republicans support Trump’s ban on all Muslim immigration. 40% of Republicans, and 57% of conservative Republicans, believe that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than others merely because of their religion. Peter Beinart nicely sums up the situation on the right.”

It might be a good idea to have this fleshed out accurately. This is the kind of tiresome game liberals play with the position. There is a call for a ban, but it is temporary. And it based on the data concerning the turmoil in the region. The ban is in place until such time as a full scale review/audit of our immigration policies for the region from which most of the conflict exits. I haven’t looked, but I bet that State Dept travel warnings exist for the same locations.

Now if the liberal entrenched state dept is providing travel warnings to said countries or regions, I don’t think it’s unreasonable consider our immigration policies for the same.

No. the issues you describe are not because of Mr. Trump. The current angst in the US is the direct result of behaviors of those claiming to be Muslims carrying out acts of violence in the name of Islam. 9/11 was a shock to the system. Trying to pass that off to Mr. Trump is inaccurate. Now I think it might be fair to say that our response was out of proportion to the actual actors and Islam in general, but let’s not pretend that there have not been very is concerting behaviors that have brought us to where we are now. If Mr. trump disappeared tomorrow, those concerns would still exist.

As to your feelings and reality, should you have some specific Constitutional concerns spell them out. I am not an advocate of limiting the protections of US citizens. If you are not yet a citizens, as pained as I may be on your behalf, you’ll just have to wade through it. And abide whatever protocols and contingencies the state dept provides.

I think a deeper problem is reflected in your comments bout the lack of cohesiveness about belief, practice, and structure.

If I sat down a group of Christians who rest their belief on scripture as the foundation and source. Especially the new testament, regardless of their denomination, I could discuss struggle all day long, from every angle, and not one could point to Jesus and say, by his example they are called to act that struggle in violence against another.

Now we could get into a lengthy discussion about societies acting on behalf of their belief as christians who engaged in warfare and acts of violence in Christ’s name. But not a single one could point to Christ, as the example and endorser of said behaviors.

That is just not the case with Islam in practice, in scripture and as to the author of the text. The fact that there is warfare and violence struggle not only as spiritual growth, but in life real — that cannot be directly directly disputed bu pointing to the founder is a troublesome as you yourself have said,

There is no cohesive dynamic. Meaning there is no point of authority or nexus of control —

that’s a tad troublesome.

No one who believes in Christ has ever approached me instructing me in what adjectives to use for Jesus before saying his name. And no christian has ever approached me contending that there ought to be a law forbidding the criticism of of Chritianity or anyone else’s faith and practice either.

#40 Comment By JonF On June 22, 2016 @ 7:40 am

Re: No one who believes in Christ has ever approached me instructing me in what adjectives to use for Jesus before saying his name.

I have encountered a certain pickiness about words among Orthodox Christians, some of whom insist on
Pascha” in place of Easter, and I have been admonished– once– to say “Great and Holy Friday” in place of “Good Friday”.

#41 Comment By Ragnvaldr On June 22, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

95 percent of respondents to a BBC straw poll, indicated multiculturalism is a failure in the UK.

August, 2014

#42 Comment By Chris Travers On June 23, 2016 @ 1:06 am

Ras Al-Ghoul (Head of the Monster) wrote:

Anyway, I was just offering an example of a type of argument in its fallacy I myself believe. So my point still holds: Even if the Catholic church did appologize for Galileo in 1992, it is clear that for about 350 years till that date, in the absence of that apology, the catholics would have burned or imprisoned scientists if they gained the aupper hand.

I would agree that it is fallacy to argue that, but I would also argue that one of the reasons why people *do* think that the medieval Catholic church was “anti-science” was that they have a very skewed history of the intellectual history of the Middle Ages. Medieval Europeans might have believed that crossing the equator would lead to death (if we believe the popular literature on the subject of the day) but it was clearly understood that the earth was a sphere.

The same of course does hold true with Islam. But even more so since Islam is decentralized and has no central authority other than the community (which is, rhetoric aside, very local in practice).

#43 Comment By Chris Travers On June 24, 2016 @ 1:03 am

The only way you can obtain a genuine assault rifle, fully automatic and firing a shortened rifle cartridge, is to find it on the black market. They are quite illegal.

Multicuturalism would be a good idea were it pushed by people actually valuing culture.

But multiculturalism pushed from a perspective of people who try to liberate folks from culture will always become anticulturalism by another name.