The Almost Nearly Perfect People Redux

Swedish schools, religious as well as secular, distinguish between “education” and “learning,” as odd as that may sound. The former is the curriculum; the latter, the time spent, for example, at recess, lunch, or social gatherings — outside the context of teaching. Religious education and practice are allowed only outside the highly regulated curriculum. Even then, any religious activity, such as school prayer or the lighting of Shabbat candles, must be voluntarily undertaken. In each case, it is up to the parents either to include their children in the activity or to opt out.

This means that there is in fact no religious education in Swedish schools — it is legal only outside the state-mandated curriculum — and so there is no religious education to outlaw. What the state would now outlaw, however, should the proposed legislation pass, is the opportunity for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish children to feel part of a group they can identify with, to learn about their religious and cultural heritage, and to partake of a value system that isn’t built on a belief in the almighty state, blessed be its name.

… As we all know, it is much easier to outlaw liberty — that has always been Sweden’s default choice — than to struggle with the questions it raises and the perils it poses.

(Annika Henroth-Rostein, Sweden Aims to Outlaw Religious Education, Which Is — Already Illegal)

“The question” here is Muslim immigrants now 10% of the Swedish population, with 11 Islamic schools segregating boys and girls. My blog title is based on this book, which is on my bought-but-not-yet-read list.

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It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Calvinists and Wahabis

Every year around Christmas time, we begin to hear noises about Christmas trees having “pagan origins.” And there are many who rush to the defense of the poor trees. I yawn. My ancestors worshipped trees, and I daresay their later Christian descendants were glad to see the Church baptizing the trees as well as people. There simply is no “pristine” matter from which the faith starts fresh. God always speaks and reveals Himself in terms that can be assimilated. He does not destroy culture, but fulfills it. The Christmas tree is a stark reminder that the Child born on that day has a rendezvous with a Tree, and that there is no getting around it. There is a Tree at the heart of our faith, even as there was at the heart of the Garden.

CS Lewis once opined that pagan mythology consisted of “good dreams sent by God to prepare for the coming of Christ.” Such myths can also carry deep darkness and confusion – but such is the nature of a world that is broken. God does not offer us redemption by destroying a broken world. He does not erase or eradicate the cultures of mankind. It is only a darkened theology that imagines every production of the human imagination to be worthy only of the dung heap. That sort of destructive view belongs to the scions of Calvin and the iconoclasm of Wahabis: it is not the work of God.

(Father Stephen Freeman, When Chaos Ruled the World – Part I)

Candor trumps cant

Reporting on the reporting on the National Prayer Breakfast, Julia Duin is pleased at what she sees as an uptick in quality. Example:

Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post found out about an alliance of evangelicals and Muslims connected with the breakfast.

The best paragraphs were the following:

(The Rev. Steve) Bezner and others said one reason evangelicals are becoming more comfortable with Muslim engagement is because this generation isn’t called “interfaith” – which makes evangelicals nervous because many are theologically conservative and don’t like the concept of watering down the differences among religions. They call it “multifaith,” which to Bezner feels more frank about the goal: different faiths standing side by side, not one big squishy group.

“The first time I met an imam in my neighborhood, we’re five minutes into the conversation, and he said: ‘Do you think I’m going to hell?’ I said: ‘That’s what my tradition teaches, yes.’ He said: ‘Good, I think you’re going to hell, too, so now we can have an honest conversation.’ ”

I admire the candor of both, and agree that such candor permits trust that cant undermines.

Had I been in Bezner’s place, though, I think my answer would have been just as candid, but slightly different: “Yes, probably. But I also know that God is gracious, and loves humankind. He does not will that you be damned. If you do not go to hell, it will be only because somehow, in a way I don’t understand and upon which you dare not presume, the Christ that you now reject saves you.”

UPDATE: I changed my hypothetical quote.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Second-hand Random, Bold Predictions for 2018

Dwight Longnecker makes his Random, Bold Predictions for 2018, disclaiming the prophet’s mantle in a sort of caveat emptor.

Excerpts (wistful, not random):

5. The Sexual Revolution will fizzle out. Hugh Hefner is dead and buried next to Marilyn Monroe. People are fed up with aggressive sexual adventurers. Women don’t want to be bunnies anymore. The flower power love the one you’re with generation are getting really old and their stamina is not what it was. Ordinary folks can see that the sexual revolution, like all ideological revolutions, ends in absurdity and violence. A younger generation can see the freaks, the disasters and the walking wounded from fifty years of perversity and they are going to step away from it into the one option that is healthy, wholesome and good: sex between one man and one woman that makes babies and families for life.

7. Radical Islam will start to peter out. There are reports of an amazing amount of conversions to Christianity in Islamic lands. People don’t really want to live in bondage to theocratic regimes who behead little children and who sell women and little girls as sex slaves. Not really. As rebellion simmers in Islamic countries be prepared for crackdowns. It won’t be pretty.

9. Europe will begin to recover her Christian roots. Atheism will die out because it is a lie. So will fashionable secular agnosticism. Poland will be the center from which a renewed Christian revival begins to spread across Europe, first in Eastern Europe, then moving West. It has happened before. While it seems impossible, it is when the pendulum swings to its furthest point that it must swing back.

Note that number 9 will probably mean more stories from Mainstream Media (see Longnecker’s prediction 2) about “far-right” candidates in Hungary and points north, south and west, and will mean fewer non-Christian immigrants to the re-Christianizing countries. I’m not wistful about that.

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“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Why do they hate us?

What They Saw in America:
Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G. K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb

by James L. Nolan Jr.
Cambridge, 306 pages, $27.99

In the wake of 9/11, James Nolan was prompted to reflect on America to find a satisfactory answer to a simple question: “Why do they hate us?” He gives his answer by pairing the critical observations of three widely respected European writers, whose feelings toward America were at worst ambivalent, with those of Sayyid Qutb, an early leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose views were downright hostile.

Common threads in all four of his subjects’ criticisms of America lead Nolan to conclude that many traditional hallmarks of American exceptionalism—liberal democracy and individuality, free markets and free speech, pragmatism and pluralism—can be viewed as quintessentially American vices, and sources of perennial conflict with the outside world.

The problem, for Nolan, isn’t so much what these norms and institutions represent in themselves (which is very little, since most are only negations of positive values). Rather, the problem is what they leave behind once pockets of illiberal opposition, such as orthodox Christianity, fade away: little more than commodity fetishism and libido dominandi. Or so Tocqueville feared, and Qutb raged.

—Connor Grubaugh is assistant editor of First Things.

(First Things, January 2018. Paywall will disappear over the next month or so, article by article.)

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

A haunting history

In the Indian state of Kerala, a 25-year-old Medical student, now named Hadiya, has had her marriage to a Muslim, and her conversion to Islam the year before that, disrupted by guardianship-type judicial proceedings brought by her Hindu parents.

[One] problem is the profound Hindu paranoia about religious conversion. For many centuries before the arrival of the British, Hindus of the lower castes converted to Islam in massive numbers to escape an oppressive religious hierarchy. Under the British, and even after independence, many hundreds of thousands converted to Christianity for the same reasons. Hindu revivalists today see an opportunity for a great and glorious reversal of that demographic loss. This has made them aggressively defensive of their faith, and of “their” people. Hadiya is but a pawn in their game.

(Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal)

If Hindus were converting to Islam because it was less oppressive, then Hinduism is/was far more oppressive than I realized and/or Islam is/was, in its Indian setting, a far cry from the Islamist/Sharia advocates today in other parts of the world.

I can’t say much about the Hinduism side of that equation, but this is some circumstantial evidence, yet again, of how monolithic Islam isn’t—just as, sadly, there are multiple contending Christianities. Perhaps there is one true Islam in that mix, as I believe there’s one true Christianity, but I’m not competent to opine on which is it and I doubt that other Western non-Muslims are in any better position.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.