Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Culture Wars: Europe Waking Up

Must reading by Dennis: "First they came for Israel, then they came for America..." Curiously enough, the local Long Beach Press-Telegram entitled this column, "May the Better Culture Win."

Clash of Civilizations? Culture Clash?

I think this past week is the first time in a while that I have heard Hugh and Dennis so clearly disagree with each other. Dennis understands that what is going on right now between the West and the radicalized, fascist, and terrorist-minded faction of Islam is a clash, a war, or cultures. Hugh disagrees.

At least, Hugh does not want to call it that. Whether or not he thinks there really is not a war between these two groups or we just should not deem it such (for political purposes) is left unsaid. He just disagrees with the conclusion that there is a clash of civilizations going on. Perhaps he does not regard the Islamists as a real voice of Islam. Are they?

How does one decide who are the authentic voices of Islam? How does one decide who are those worthy of the name "Muslim"? This is difficult without some type of professed creed like Christians have or some type of basic laws, rules, or even faith to live by. Does not Islam have this? I thought so. Then can not the Islamists be regarded as a voice of Islam? Some say yes while others say no because of the violence they spread. I have even heard these Islamists described as a "perversion of Islam." If they are a perversion, what is authentic Islam? It seems there is Islam and there is the Islam many westerners would like it to be: a more peaceful, even Christian-like approach to faith with Muhammad regarded as the final prophet. Follow the Qur'an, they imply, but do so disregarding certain statements and ignoring how Islam was started and more importantly how it spread: by violence.

If we regard Islam as one whole, this is not a clash with all of Islam. We are not at war with Islam as a whole. However, if we separate the Islamists from civil-minded Muslims--as we are told to do so often by just about everybody--then it becomes apparent that there is a considerable group with an interpretation of Islam that is threatening to all non-Muslims. These are adherents of Islam who advocate forms of terrorism, thus Islamists. Further, these Islamists have cultivated their own ways and developed a culture all its own. See certain areas of the Islamic world for examples. Therefore, there is an Islamist culture and, moreover, we are at war with it. Q. E. D. Thus it can be said and perhaps must be said: There is a clash of cultures, a clash of civilizations.

Hugh, you sound too much like advocates of the war who will not acknowledge that this is not particularly a "war on terror" but is more accurately a "war on Islamic Terror." "Naming the Enemy" does a good job of explaining this point.

Yesterday, Hugh interviewed Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Joe Carter. Here are some highlights:

HH: Now I want to ask whether or not, in our little time in this segment and the last one, is a wider conflict with Islam inevitable, ... ?


HH: But how do you win the war, Dennis Prager?

DP: If the West believed in something, it would prevail overnight. The problem is you can't beat bad faith with no faith. [Emphasis added.]

HH: press is not what you win with.

DP: You can't beat good faith.

HH: I mean, the idea that a free press, that's not the good that wins the war, is it, Dennis?

MM: I actually think that it is, and I think that one of the things that is positive about this horrible situation, and it is a horrible situation, is aligning some secularists who previously maybe had not fully acknowledged the tremendous danger of the Islamist message.

DP: Yup.

MM: I mean, there are secular leftists who I think are waking up, particularly in Europe.

HH: All right. When we come back, final comments from Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Joe Carter on the controversy as it escalates, and what, if anything, the United States government ought to say. Clearly, it's not going to say don't publish anything. It can't and it shouldn't. But what should it say about the controversy?


DP: The greatest disgrace to Islam is not the cartoons in a Danish paper. It's the great number of Muslims who murder in the name of Allah. [Emphasis added.]


HH: Quick question. Do you have sympathy for peaceable Muslims who have protested these cartoons?

MM: If it was a peaceful protest? Sure. Why not?

HH: Dennis?

DP: No, because they're...if they didn't protest the infinitely greater persecution of Christians in the Sudan, and by other Muslim societies, then their moral barometer is broken.

HH: Joe?

JC: I'd have to agree with Dennis on that one. I think the Muslim world should hope to get to the point where they can flagellate themselves for cartoons. I think they've got bigger issues to worry about.

There is so much to say in response. The most important line, it seems, is Dennis's: "If the West believed in something, it would prevail overnight. The problem is you can't beat bad faith with no faith."

Islamism can be beat, as it was near the Gates of Vienna back in 1683. It can be beat by those who believe in something and are willing to sacrifice and die for that something. Even greater when that something is real, true, and grace-providing: the freedom and virtue that we are called to live. Whether Christian or not, those who strongly believe in something will prove victorious in this war. I just pray it is the Western, democratic, and freedom-loving individual.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Radical Orthodoxy

Radical Orthodoxy has come up in discussions lately. What is it?
According to Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP,

The Institute of Radical Orthodoxy is the brainchild of three Anglicans: John Milbank, who is moving from Cambridge to the University of Virginia; and two other people from Cambridge: Graham Ward, the Dean of Peterhouse, who is going to Manchester; and Catherine Pickstock, who is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. They have formed a definite school that has disciples.

Their line is that postmodernism is the natural result of the way that Western philosophy has developed. That is to say, the postmodernist critique of Western philosophy is irrefutable in terms of what it is attacking, but postmodernism itself is nothing but nihilism dressed up in fancy clothes. And therefore, the only remedy is the Holy Trinity!

They basically argue that all of the errors or false directions or insoluble problems in the Western philosophical tradition stem from misunderstandings of theology and of revelation. The only remedy is to go back to the source by renewal of a revelatory mode of thinking, which has the Holy Trinity as its center. That is the basic idea, roughly speaking, of Radical Orthodoxy, as I understand it.

It is an overwhelmingly Anglican movement. To be fair, it has been described as a theology in search of an ecclesiology. I would say it’s the first major theological movement in England since the South Bank school of John Robinson, which was a sort of warmed-up Tillich and so much less original.

Just in case that does not help, you can also check these out:

Radical Orthodoxy’s proponents, then, have constructive as well as critical ambitions, and in the long run the constructive ambitions are the more important. Milbank, Pickstock, and Ward hope to articulate an encompassing Christian perspective that will supersede and replace secularisms both modern and postmodern. Their goal is to uncover a "new theology," new because it renounces the mediations and compromises of so–called modern theology. Yet their positive achievement is uneven, and understanding the failures of Radical Orthodoxy should occasion some sobering thoughts about the way forward. A genuinely postmodern theology requires spiritual disciplines very alien to our terribly creative and rebellious late–modern souls.

However deeply invested Radical Orthodoxy might be in the vocabulary, thought forms, and literature of postmodernism, it rests on a different foundational assumption about what we might call the glue that holds the world together. It is Augustine’s vision of heavenly peace, made effective in the dynamic and binding power of divine purpose, that shapes Radical Orthodoxy’s reflections, not Nietzsche’s violence wrought by an omnipotent will–to–power. This difference allows Radical Orthodoxy to interpret postmodern thought without being drawn into its orbit, giving Milbank & Co. the perspective from which to expose the nakedness of postmodern nihilism.

Then there is this book review by Douglas A. Ollivant: "Thomism Unwhigged." It may not be an article on Radical Orthodoxy per se, but it does mention similar concerns.

And lastly .... for now ... is this somewhat related piece from today's Opinion Journal: "An 'Ordinary Radical'" by Paul Beston. Though I like the subtitle, "A 'Jesus freak' becomes an 'extremist for love'," I take issue with some of the claims of the "extremist for love."

Beston does a decent job of pointing out some of the problems. I would add more, such as why just-war theory did not have a reason to be publicly taught during the Early Church. It was not like there were many Christians with the power and the authority to pursue war.

As well, real and consistent pacifism has not had an honorable history: how can Christian charity tolerate the butcher, rape, and mass murder of innocents?

Living in a Material World

This morning, Dennis posed a question regarding getting/having material goods. He asked if there was anything wrong with seeking and getting material items that are beyond the mere necessity.

In discussing piano purchases, he further asked, "If someone is considering purchasing a piano and the choices are between one that is $1,000 and another that is $15,000, is purchasing the less expensive one more noble?" Noble? Is it a matter of nobility? Or prudence?

Anyway, many callers rang and seemed to voice concerns and worries that sounded somewhat manichean or spiritualist. Material goods are neither good nor evil. In a sense, they are neutral. It depends partially upon how they are used. The goods in themselves have no inherent moral value. That morality comes in when consideration is given to how the goods were made, how they were attained, and how they are used.

Creation is good. It is to be used according to its nature. Each item of the material world is to be used according to the nature of the item, according to "what it is for." Very simple.

To say that a wealthy man who tithes generously and demonstrates great concern for those who have considerably less errs because he spends on material items for himself and his loved ones is wrong, misguided, and unrealistic.

We are material beings and so we are made to use the material world. To use it for our enjoyment. To use it for our work. To use it for our betterment. To use it. However, we must use it responsibly, which means that we should use "things" from the material world according to what they are for, according to their natures. Material "things" can be abused and misused, yes, but they necessarily are not so.

Attempts to strive beyond the material world and live a "human" life rejecting the material is really rejecting the "human" part of the life of the human person. Without grace, it is to attempt to be like angels ... and, as has been said countless times, ... when men attempt to be like angels, they quite often end up like devils.

So enjoy the material. Just do it in moderation and with prudence. Perhaps that is what Dennis should have been stressing: moderation and the prudential use of things. Now it is time to play some more CD's and listen to music while I continue to work on the computer and read a book.