Thursday, 5 March 2009

What is going on?

In the world, and in my head...

Another old bit of paper swept away at the moving of a bookcase amid general shedding of bumph was some thoughts I had during the Cambridge Papers discussion of Colin Chapman’s response to Islamism and Islamic terrorism. Mostly fairly ignorant questions, they deserve some thought, and probably some attempts at answering by good, old-fashioned research one day!

What do all these ‘moderate Muslims’ [to use the categories of others, for a moment] want? We can distinguish bombers, we can spot those who call for violence, we can distinguish those who push for rigorous application of sharia… but what do ‘moderates’ want? And why should we [whoever they are] build bridges with them? 

What is their political goal, and to what extent does it involve gaining coercive powers over non-believers? [This really seems like the $64,000 question. Having read some very interesting essays on Islamic theology of law recently by meaty scholars such as Noth, Becker, Morony and Edelby I feel slightly closer to understanding this, at least in theory!]

Are there any Christians who want to capture the state? And what do they want to do with it?

How do postmillennial reconstructionists fit with Islam? What about postmillennialims in general?

Should the question of Islamism spur us to try to understand what the church’s relation to organised idolatries and false (eschatological) communities is? See Peter Leithart’s wonderfully provocative essay, Mirror of Christendom, on this.

Suffering victors… Muslims tend to measure triumph by expressions of power (as Colin Chapman pointed out, anger at the Crusades was fuelled by the fact they they lost so many battles to the barbarian Franks) but Christians don’t have to do that. Islam misses victory-in-suffering, but we have because our Lord has it. We don’t need to vindicate ourselves now, but Muslims do. [Or is that not quite accurate?]

Muslims have a good understanding of how to rule: Christians don’t. We know how to be in a minority, and how to be oppressed quietly, but they don’t! 

A similar sentiment was expressed by the Syrian John bar Penkaye in the 8th century…

He promotes a particular view of the past which seems to say that Christians are better off if they are ruled by non-Christians, that Christians are ruined by peace and quiet and by the interference of Christian rulers in Church affairs. (p.16)

Michael G. Morony, ‘History and Identity in the Syrian Churches’, in J.J. van Ginkel, H.L. Murre-van den Berg & T.M. van Lint, eds, Redefining Christian Identity: Cultural Interaction in the Middle East Since the Rise of Islam (Leuven: Peeters, 2005) pp.1-33.