Sunday, September 20, 2009

Two key words

I want to be outrageous:

To tell the difference between Islam and Christianity in a nutshell. In two words, literally: the two key words that name them.

Islam, Christ.

What do they mean?

Islam means submission: the image it evokes is that of a sovereign, under whom stand all people as his subjects.

Christ means anointed: the image it evokes requires a few words more of explanation.

In the Old Testament the kings of Israel were anointed with perfumed oil, which made them brilliant and smelling of good. Anointment, chrisma, was then the sign of election by the only sovereign to represent him among the people.

To call Jesus Christos was to proclaim him king.

Now, his followers are called Christians, but they are actually themselves christoi: at baptism, in fact, and again at confirmation, they receive the chrisma.

The image then is not of people commanded to submit themselves to the sovereign, but called by him to share of his sovereign kingship.



Lazy Disciple said...

Dear HP,

I am fairly certain I understand where you are coming from with this, and where you are going (it reminds me of some of your lectures back in the early part of the present decade, i.e. many moons ago, when I still had exams to take!).

Before you draw it out further, though, I would like to take issue with some of your terminology.

Specifically, I wonder whether the image that islam invokes really is that of a sovereign, who stands over his subjects.

The reason I am hesitant to accept this vision of the matter is that subjects, e.g. the subjects of the king of England, or of His Most Catholic Majesty, Juan Carlos of Spain, are subjects of rights in the polity under the sovereign.

Islam does not recognize such a state of things.

It strikes me that the act of islam brings a person under the absolute authority of the divine lawmaker (N.B. I do not say, "lawgiver" but "lawmaker"), so that those who are in Islam are not subjects of a sovereign; they seem, rather, to be persons who have submitted to the absolute rule of one who is not, himself, bound by any law.

The Greeks called such a one, tyrannos. The one who was under him was not polites; he was rather doulos.

I hope this is enough to get your dander up!


Maria said...

that's cool... what about Christians before we were Christians (i.e. Old Testament Jews)? The gauntlet is thrown!

Lazy Disciple said...

I am not sure I follow you, Maria.

Can you elaborate a bit?