Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Some obvious things

I hoped to find some further lines of meditation tying my staying on the beach with the bible studies I am doing at the moment. That's why I ended a previous post with a "possibly to be continued". But strength failed me. UPDATE: I FIXED THE LINK - LD

I wanted to tell you about the beach, the strange effect the resort where I go has on me, of a kind of gynaeceum, peopled mainly by half naked women with their children, where men were just admitted but didn't quite belong. Whether this has some larger meaning for the understanding of our society, I am not quite sure. For me, it was a reminder that, however we might mingle in all public places, so that women are now present in all the activities previously reserved to men, privately they are different from us.

Should I give you a biblical quote for this remainder, i.e. that when "God created man in his image", "male and female he created him"?

Why to inconvenience in this way the Bible for something so obvious? If not because we need to be reminded of the obvious, of what is so obvious that we don't even see it anymore?

In the meantime the LD overcame me with the burning issue of the mosque at Ground Zero, so drawing me back to the facts of the day. Away from the beach, but not from the Bible.

Are there other obvious things of which we should be reminded by reading the Bible? Plenty, but one in particular: that the Bible is not a "religious" book – at least not in the sense in which we have become accustomed to use the word religion: meaning that everybody has his own theological world view, and that doesn't impinge in the way we live in society as good citizens.

Actually the Bible deals precisely with this question: how to be "good citizens", i.e. a people capable of living in peace and justice under a Good Sovereign.

It speaks, in its own terms, of the kingdom of God, in which everybody finds in the end his own immortal life.

It's here that problems with Muslims arise: also the Quran speaks of the same thing. But it gives a very different image of what this requires. Different, and in many ways incompatible with the one indicated by the Bible.

An example: the Bible says "you shall not kill", without qualifications. The Quran apparently says the same thing. Only apparently though, because the interdiction of murder ends by being qualified and restricted just to the people who recognize the truth of the Quran itself, i.e. to other Muslims. All other people, in fact, being equally called to do it, are turned by their failure to recognize it into renegades, whose life is not worthy a dime, therefore to be killed or subjugated.

The LD asked whether Muslims can be good Americans. Well, I say yes, if they turn Christians. I don't mean with this that they should all convert, but that they should recognize the universal dignity of all men, therefore all equally to be respected in their life. Which, being contrary to the teaching of the Quran, would be already a kind of conversion.



James H said...

"I don't mean with this that they should all convert, but that they should recognize the universal dignity of all men, therefore all equally to be respected in their life"

Could you go into this more. That is the Muslim view or non view of universal dignity of man

Humbly Presumptuous said...

Yes, for what I understand according to the Quran man's only worth is in "islam", which means the subjection to God. Now, all men are so equally subject, "islamic", but only some recognize themselves such by following the Profet. Those who refuse him are the "negators": stronger word for "infidels" used by my Italian translator, that gives the full sense of a willful opposition, because of which they loose in their guilt their human worth.

Acceptance or refusal seems therefore to establish one's dignity in Islam. On the reverse, we start from maintaining everyman's dignity as based on his nature of "image of God", and look in this for a common ground of communication.

Does this do for a clarification of that sentence?

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear James,

Some of the ground has already been covered in the series of posts I published over the course of the past few weeks.

The issue about which you have asked for clarification can be brought a little further into focus if you will permit me a minor quibble with my friend and mentor, the HP: all men are not equally "Islamic" in an univocal sense.

Indeed, the revelation of the Seal of the Prophets (Mohammed), contained in the Qur'an and the hadith (the "sayings" of Mohammed), has been promulgated universally; in other words, the rule of Islam is already in place de iure over the whole world. All men, in other words, are called to make an act of submission - of Islam. Those areas of the world, which are occupied and controlled by men who have made an act of submission to this final revelation, are called Lands of Islam or Lands of Peace (salaam); now, it is only by making an act of islam that one can bring himself into the community (ummah), i.e. under the protection of the law. Those, who refuse to submit, are quite literally outlaws, i.e., outside the protection of the law.

So, your question about the Muslim view of the universal dignity of man is in a certain sense a loaded one - it assumes that there is such a vision.

It strikes me that there is no such vision - at least not in a juridically pertinent sense, or one that is compatible with the Christian understanding.

Indeed, the notion of the universal dignity of man is properly Christian - it belongs to the intellectual and spiritual patrimony of CHristianity. It is originally unthinkable outside that context. It is the result of the elaboration - the information and perfection of the classical tradition of philosophical inquiry - or, if you will, the threefold synthesis of a peculiar Hebrew theology of history with Greek science and Roman law.

This is, as luck may have it, also an adequate description of that most fascinating historico-cultural phenomenon called "Europe".


Humbly Presumptuous said...

No quibble, dear LD, I was just shortening the question to its formal, more than historical, terms.