Saturday, January 2, 2016

What Ideology Do Rorate Caeli And ISIS Have In Common?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph
of the restored Islamic Caliphate 
Kamel Daoud wrote a thought-provoking op-ed piece for the New York Times this morning.  It began
IT might have been an occasion for collectors of omens to rejoice: For the first time in nearly five centuries, in 2015 the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday coincided with Jesus’ birthday. A cause for hope? Too little, it turns out.
Mr. Daoud went on to explain Fundamentalist Islam’s hatred of time and obsession with geography.  With the goal of returning to a “pure Islam,” time becomes the enemy because time represents change and change means decay from the pure ideal.  In the same way, Fundamentalist Islam, represented by ISIS, wants to establish control over geographic space in order to be able to erase the changes of time whether by destroying evidence of time and its changes (the ruins of Palmyra) or by creating the “clean slate” on which the Islamist ideology can be imprinted.
After explaining this Islamic fundamentalist dream of re-creating the world in its own mythic image and likeness, Mr. Dauod goes on to compare it with the policies of the various right-wing nationalist movements taking over European politics right now.  He mentions, in particular, France where the National Front is gaining popularity on its anti-immigrant policy.  He claims that it represents a desire for that pure Gallic society where French culture was unchallenged by the arrival of “The Stranger”—the immigrants from France’s former colonies in Africa.
France has a long history of Gallic xenophobia.  Go back 120 years to the Dreyfus Affair where a Jewish military officer was falsely accused of and framed for passing military secrets on to the German Embassy.  What is so disturbing to those of us who are Christian and who know history is the role the Catholic Church played in the anti-Semitism and xenophobia on which the Dreyfus Affair fed.  The goal was to undo the constitutional changes of the French Revolution and restore the unity of throne and altar of the ancien regime. 
There are Americans who share a similar xenophobic dream for our society.  They want an America that is a “Christian Nation” composed of individuals of European stock.  We not only don’t want those Syrian Muslim refugees, we don’t want our little brown brothers from the south swarming over our borders.  Bring back the America of Ozzie and Harriet. 
You see, there are Christians who, like Islamic extremists, want to establish a “pure Christianity” (or in the case of the Katholik Krazies, a “pure Catholicism”).  Like the Islamic nut-cases they view time and change with a gnostic negativity.  Your Westboro Baptist Church folk or your Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons erase twenty centuries of tradition in their romantic revival of an imagined “primitive Christianity.”  They ignore twenty centuries of biblical commentary to impose their own isolated meaning on scripture.  They ignore twenty centuries of Christian heroes as examples to guide us in discipleship.  They hold in contempt twenty centuries of liturgical and spiritual tradition in a futile attempt to erase the time between us and Jesus. 
The Katholik Krazies take a somewhat different approach.  They pick an “ideal spot” in the contemporary world—let’s say for example, the reign of Pius XII (1939-1958) and presume that the doctrine, liturgy, and practice of that time had remained unchanged from Jesus and Apostles (their well-touted myth that the Tridentine Mass is “The Mass of the Ages,” just like the Apostles said Mass; their obsession with late 19th century neo-scholasticism as the sole model of framing the faith; their models of a monarchial Church with all its Burke-like trappings) and that all subsequent development represents only decay.
An authentically Christian approach to time sees time, not negatively as decay, but as the context in which the Kingdom of God is revealed.  Time is the theatre in which God has revealed himself in Christ Jesus—and continues to reveal himself in the life of the Church.  While it may be a bit much for some to see time as marching towards that Omega Point in which all creation is brought together in Christ, our Christian faith tells us that time is oriented towards that moment of parousia when Christ returns.  For Christians time is holy and we celebrate that in our liturgical seasons.  The Katholik Krazies and other fundamentalists are trapped in a gnostic bubble of negativity that ultimately denies the redemption. 
Mr. Douad finishes his op-ed piece by contrasting the Right-Wing western danger and the Islamic fundamentalist threat writing
One might counter that of the two groups, only Muslim extremists kill. Which is true, at least when it comes to people. But the extremists of the right kill humanism, and that’s the only thing that could save us all.
This brings up our subject for next time: Christians and humanism.  

1 comment:

  1. You know, last night, when I was lurking on Crisis magazine, they had an article called, "Why Catholics Needn't Celebrate New Year's Day." Your post is far more timely than you realize.