04 January 2011

Clash of the Sacralisms

I wrote this on 1 January in reference to the Church bombing in Egypt….

Yet once again to we read of Christian groups coming under attack in the Middle East. Contrary to the claims of some within the Christian community, the American media devotes quite a bit of time to this. While they would prefer human interest stories and scandal, anything that supports the American foreign policy and supports the notion that Americans must get behind the 'troops' sells well….even if the message is conveyed by making the 'bad guys' look even worse. Fear sells. Sadly the fear is a reality in places like Egypt and Iraq for these Christian ethnic communities.

Why are they being attacked? Because the terrorists are evil? I can't believe it when I hear professing Christians express this type of sentiment. The Bible clearly teaches ALL men outside of Christ are evil….period. These labels are not helpful. Just because one group (A) is more hell-bound so to speak, than another (B), that hardly vindicates and makes righteous the character and cause of the other less righteous group (B). By casting the argument in this framework, you never ask the simple question of why? To ask it, raises the hypothetical possibility that A, the evil people might have even a tiny fragment of legitimate complaint. And if they did, then the whole -black cowboy hat/white cowboy hat- model falls apart. This model is sold to the American Evangelical community as the Biblical Worldview. It's very compatible with Constantinianism but is entirely absent from the New Testament.

All these nations are evil…..Egypt, Iraq, Great Britain, Russia, Israel, and the United States. That's the Biblical view of the world, that our media will NEVER bring to us. To expect them to is like asking a corpse to dance a waltz. Let me express that again….

The media will never report the news from a Christian worldview. It cannot.

I have never encountered a 'Christian' media outlet that reports the news from a Christian worldview either. I'll let you know if I ever find one. The problem is….the Christian worldview doesn't sell to lost people, and it doesn't sell to nationalists. Rooted in pride, Nationalism is dead to receiving the truth. It's not interested.

Since the media is probably never going to bring us a Christian view of the world…maybe then we can begin to have a discussion about the facts, put them together to try and discern the truth of the matter and then respond as Christians….which we should easily understand will be different than the response of Common Grace nations, corporations and the media outlets which are their mouthpieces.

Colson, Anderson and others insist the mainstream media refuses to cover the plight of Christians in Iraq. What they seem to mean, is cover the story in the way they want it, that's compatible with their agenda. They think so-called Christian news outlets are the only ones covering the story. Listening to local Christian radio, I find not coverage, I find propaganda for Christo-American Right wing causes….which sadly are often militarist, at least when it comes to the Middle East. They keep claiming legitimacy, because they're the only outlets covering the plight of Christians in the Muslim world….

Well then, turn on some real media. Visit the websites of international media outlets and you will find extensive coverage. Every time there's an attack, I go to Al Jazeera English, and sure enough they're covering the story.

However, even many of the international Western media outlets leave out much of the back story. Islamic Extremism is on the rise, no one is disputing that, but it did not come out of nowhere and to argue that it is inherent to Islam is also incongruous with the historical record.

Though born in fanaticism to be sure, Islam expanded rapidly, but in time growing fat and happy, like most empires it became nominal in its fervour and pragmatic in its worldview. Empires by definition are poly-ethnic, poly-national, and thus to some extent multi-cultural.

Were there flare-ups from time to time? Certainly. Christendom can hardly claim some kind of pure record when it comes to the Jews, or the so-called heretics. Am I defending the Arab, Turkish, and Persian Islamic Empires? Hardly, I'm just calling for a little realism. Did the Ottoman Empire go through periods of expansionism? Sure. Are you going to argue that Christendom did not? But the Islamic Caliphates were actually more tolerant of diversity than Byzantine or Western Christendom. What they were doing was no different than what we find so-called Christian groups like the Teutonic Knights doing in the Baltic region and certainly not as bad as the Spanish in North America.

America has followed the Roman model of creating a mono-culture through appeal and seduction. American culture, like Rome of old, draws people in…it offers them the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, riches and an ability to make a name for yourself. And if you take any very wealthy person, they'll tell you it's not about the money, it's about what it can do, the power and influence that comes with it. Most rich people are not in it for the money itself, they play the game because the game itself is the goal.

Other empires, like the Soviet Union, and Medieval Roman Christendom exhibit the totalitarian tendency of forced conformity. Perhaps even worse than the Soviet example we find this in Maoist China and Khmer Rouge Cambodia, and certainly in the Third Reich.

Despite the Convert or Die way in which Islam is portrayed, the majority of its adherents do not embrace this, and historically it was not the case at all. Even more so under the Ottoman Turks, who not being Arabs, held to their Islam in a much less than pure, less than original form. As they conquered areas, they were content to collect taxes from 'other' groups such as Christians and Jews. There were social advantages to becoming Muslim (like becoming a Christian in Constantinian Rome,) but it was not obligatory. In Roman and early Protestant Europe, you had little choice. If you were a dissenter, your life was at risk. Sadly it took a century and half of horrific war before some of the European states started to allow something akin to freedom of conscience. In other lands it took longer.

So why has this fanatical anti-Christian version of Islam become so visible, so prominent today?

By the 19th century, the Western, and thanks to Constantinian Doctrine, perceived Christian powers had virtually come to dominate the world. Look at maps of Africa from the 1890's, or early 1900's. Look at Asia, and finally the Middle East. Europe was the master of the world.

All that was left was the sick man of Europe, the Ottoman Empire. By the conclusion of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was no longer sick, it was effectively dead. It took a few years to die, but by the 1920's, the Western (Christian) powers now dominated the Middle East as well. Christendom had triumphed. Of course within a generation it had all blown up in their face, the Proud Tower as one author astutely put it was demolished. WWI and II (really one war in phases) brought it all down and ended a couple of centuries of European dominance, and over a millennium of European autonomy.

White 'Christians' ruling Middle Eastern lands doesn't work very well, so the Western Powers, mostly France and Britain, started establish puppet regimes..sorry, client states or protectorates. In astonishing ignorance and disregard for the people who lived there, they drew lines on maps and created countries out of thin air. They created monarchies and governments and started extracting the new resource, the Great Prize, perhaps the greatest in the history of the world….oil.

The client states (to employ the euphemism) crushed any dissent and enriched themselves. Rather than help the people they ruled, they looked out for the interests of their Western backers.

It didn't always go smoothly, there were people who resisted these regimes and this just further complicated an already complicated situation.

Sacralism defines Religion in cultural terms. Religion is Holy Culture. Constantinians embrace this definition, missing the remarkable fact that the New Testament uniquely created a religious system both multi-national, and trans-cultural, one in which the people lived as sojourners in whatever land they happened to inhabit. New Testament Christianity knows of no cultural allegiance, patriotism, and certainly not nationalism, which many have rightly identified as a form of idolatry. Rooted in pride, it has no place in a Christian Worldview based on Scripture.

I hope to write more on this later, but why is Patriotism tolerated? It's pride….the hallmark of worldliness. Nationalism is just a more extreme form of this usually with a militant edge….Pride buttressed with violence? This is Christian?

There's a small but vocal group of racists in Reformed circles known as the Kinist movement. They are rightly denounced, but why? All their doing is applying the same pride in nation to a larger circle, a multi-national cultural frame. Pride of culture is certainly tied in with pride of nation or nations…….is it a jump to be prideful of a race?

Christians denounce racism but then rant and rave against immigrants from the Middle-East and the Indian Subcontinent….Rag-heads I believe is the term I hear most frequently.

Mexicans are spoke of as some kind of disease, a pestilence. It's like listening to a Nazi propaganda film about the Jews. Communists and Jews provided convenient targets for post war German frustration and anger. Muslims and Mexicans serve a similar role in the angry American climate fueled by the collapse of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, the majority ancestry of the present author.

But they're not racist, they claim. Pride in country. Pride in nation. Pride in language and custom….sounds like pride in culture and race to me. The Kinists are right to laugh at them. The Kinists are simply following through….taking pride to its logical end, and saying we're proud to be white. No different than what the others are saying but afraid to vocalize in that way.

Sanctify your culture, call it blessed of God, mix it with pride……and look out. It's not just racism, it's really pushing toward a blind fanaticism. A fanatic isn't merely someone who has abandoned moderation. They've abandoned the ability to reason, to even entertain other possibilities, to engage in calm rational discussion. It's good to be zealous, but a fanatic knows no wisdom or restraint.

I continue to argue this is what Sacralism does to people. Far from Christian, this is deeply Pagan….this is the Babel Impulse that has plagued mankind….a yoke we as Christians should be liberated from.

For the people of the Middle East under the domination of these Client Regimes, their Sacral thought also has worked itself out. It took time, but for Muslims, who like every other religion except Biblical Christianity think in Sacral (Holy Society/Culture) terms…. To them, they were being dominated not merely by Secular States, but by Christian ones. Of course we would say they weren't Christian at all, but a Sacralist can't really think that way.

I remember the Theonomist Greg Bahnsen pointing this out as a strength of Islamic thought….seeing all of society as tied in with the Holy. He wished more Christians would learn to think the same way.

How can a doctrine of antithesis function when Sacralism creates a condition in which social norms are equated with Christian piety? Doesn't the Christian life essentially become social conformity? Where's the suffering, where's the persecution that Paul promised? Doesn't this create widespread nominalism....a Christian veneer? That's what the Middle Ages gave us. If you're a member of the society and law-abiding, then you're a good Christian. That sounds kind of familiar....it would seem many Evangelicals almost echo that view when it comes to the United States. White middle-class, patriotic people are practically Christians by default.

My wife and I laugh at the Christian radio people delighting in the fact that all the unbelievers 'glorified' God by celebrating Christmas. Just by keeping the cultural norm, they were being Christians and didn't even know it. Ha, ha, tricked them.

I'm thinking of the 1980's television advert with egg frying and the voice saying, "This is your brain on drugs."

This is your brain on Sacralism. It does amazing things to your ability to think. This is what we're here for, silly one-upmanship type games with the pagans?

And since we're reminiscing about the 1980's, their campaign to force people to say "Merry Christmas," was about as profound and effective as Nancy Reagan's very thoughtful and persuasive, "Just say No."

That really worked didn't it. People sat down and said, "Yes, I see it all clearly now."

Thus to the extreme Muslims, they may say it's about religious doctrine, but it's really about culture. On this point, the Taliban have the same view that Samuel Huntington does….it's a clash of civilizations.

Or as I would put it, a Clash of Sacralisms.

The problem is, they're both wrong. Islam because it's a false religion, and Constantinianism, because it's a false Christianity.

Now wait a minute someone might say….Republican France can hardly be called Christian. True. I would say the same of Imperial Britain or Imperial America. But to people of other Sacral cultures, Western power, Western symbols, and certainly Western history are all tied in with Constantinianism. Just because the people don't go to church doesn't mean anything. Lots of Muslims don't bother with the mosque either. They're thinking in terms of cultures clashing. Many Christians are mistakenly doing the same thing.

Groups like the Copts, Assyrians, or Armenians throughout Muslim history have lived mostly at peace with their neighbours. I won't deny there were troubles from time to time. But for the most part centuries of co-existence and tolerance passed without anything approaching what we have today. Islamic culture was and is Sacralist, but it was not radicalized. There was not the push toward a mono-culture.

Over the past century, people in the Middle East have grown increasingly frustrated with the Western Powers that have dominated them. They've grown angry watching Muslims suffer in Palestine because of a nation which could not exist without Western backing. They're tired of their Western backed rulers stealing from them and oppressing them.

There were warnings. The Suez in 1956. The Embargo in the 1970's. These were warnings that even some who wielded power were growing tired of the arrangement. Iran in 1979 was the big wake up call for the West, but they still didn't get it as they armed Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

The powder keg finally exploded when George W. Bush, a Constantinian-tongued American president launched two destructive wars that have led to tens if not hundreds of thousands of deaths.

So now all over the world, they're fighting back. They hate the Empire which dominates the world in terms of military, political, economic, and certainly cultural might, but they also blame and loathe the Traitors, for the Mubarak's, Karzai's, Jordanian Hussein's, Saud's, Turkish and Pakistani military are just that…to the extremists they are collaborators and traitors.

And the "Christians" while we sympathize, many of these groups being more ethnic bodies than true Biblical Christians, are viewed as a Fifth Column. They were tolerated for centuries, but now the radicals view the solution as mono-culture. Sacralism always wants a unified, conforming culture….language, dress, custom etc……

Middle Eastern Christians, groups like the Maronites or Assyrians often don't fit the mold. Watch an Assyrian wedding and you find scantily clad women (even by American standards,) mixed dancing, and flowing alcohol. Looks pretty to Western to someone who is trying to eradicate a competing Sacralism.

They also don't like these groups erecting religious buildings in their towns. They don't like seeing their women not dressed the right way, a lot of them travel to countries they don't appreciate, sometimes they speak non-mainstream languages….whew, glad that sort of thing doesn't happen here with our Sacralists!

Although you can find Muslim Palestinians and Egyptians looking and behaving very much the same in private (dancing, drinking, kids listening to Britney Spears,) at least they're not Christian. The extremists are also angry at those 'bad' Muslims, much in the same way Constantinians get mad at what the latest Barna survey tells them about Evangelicals. Colson will tell us they surveys show that American Evangelicals aren't thinking with a Christian Worldview. It shows me that most American Evangelical Christians simply aren't Christians at all. And the fact that Colson can't discern this, makes me question what his understanding of Biblical Christianity is.

Too often these Christian groups have collaborated with the Western Imperial Powers. The Armenians did during the Crusades, and in modern times, Middle Eastern Christians have as well, even if merely serving as translators. That certainly doesn't help. Your neighbours who have lost family members to Western guns and bombs aren't interested in pluralism, if that means their neighbour gets to help the enemy.

So, because Muslims are unregenerate and they've been abused and dominated by Western Powers for a century, is it any surprise that some of them have turned to violence against the West? Is it any surprise some have turned to violence against the people who hold what is perceived as a Western Religion in their midst? Remember Sacralism can't divorce religion from culture…

Christianity shows it grasps this as it sends out missionaries, but then shows it does not when Christianity means….industrial society and American culture. Or in the past…when part of the conversion meant dressing in an Eton collar, hooped skirt, or eating with a fork.

For many a poor African and Indian the Gospel more or less meant taking on English dress and manners.

So, no surprise the Extremists (Sacralists all) are taking up arms. White Anglo-Saxons would do the same if the United States was occupied and divided up by the Chinese. If the White House(s) were taking orders from Beijing… if Chinese companies were cutting down the forests…if the Ozark Boys were being strafed by Chinese drones… if white kids were listening to the latest boy band out of Shanghai…if you had to listen to zithers and chanting coming from the Buddhist temple down the street…if these white Buddhists were flying off to Asia to visit Buddhist shrines, and their Mandarin speaking kids were working as translators for the Chinese army occupying Montana where the Dominionist League maintains its mountain fortresses...if these Chinese sympathizers were selling liquor and opium……you'd have Pentecostals taking pot-shots at the Chinese, Theonomists blowing up their un-Christian temple architecture, and Baptists bombing the liquor stores and opium dens.

I know. It would never happen. That only happens in places like the Middle East. Only there do they turn to extremism and violence when their countries are subjugated.

It doesn't excuse the violence, but it also does not validate the past or present Western agenda in the Middle East.

So when I look at the news this morning and see a bunch of Copts were blown up in Egypt, I already know they're not going to talk about Egypt's selling out to the West on the issue of Israel, nor the Anglo domination of their country since the 1800's. The Copts were murdered this morning, but this violence is a result of more than a hundred years of Muslims being murdered by what they perceive as the Christian West. It doesn't excuse it, but there's more to the story. Is it war? Then they're not playing by the rules.

That's been their complaint for generations. They don't think the rules are being kept when their elections are thrown, and their democratically inspired opposition politicians are murdered. Their societies are broken apart, is it any wonder the run to and find inspiration from the mosque?

Do you think if the Chinese occupied America in the way I described that hordes of White Anglos wouldn't find religion, and rally around the church?

Christians should be repenting of their Constantinian heritage and labouring to explain to the world, it is not Biblical Christianity. Instead, more than ever and with unrestrained zeal, Constantinianism is defended and promoted. The Middle Ages are suddenly the object of romanticized wistful desire in the minds of many Evangelicals, and because of all of this common cause and peace is being made with the Roman Catholic Harlot. The agents of Antichrist are suddenly Christian brethren. You turn on Focus on the Family, and Oval Office-aspiring Roman Catholic Senators are not only the guests, they even get to close the show in prayer. They know better than to invoke the Blessed Virgin in Colorado Springs. Leave her out and the money faucet will start flowing.

I am convinced modern American Christianity is nothing more than therapy and politics. And the real conservative people think they're on the right track because they critique the therapy part.

I'm sorry some people in Egypt or Iraq were murdered because some other wicked people thought they were Christian. But I'm more sorry that the Church seems to be dominated by people who think Christianity is supposed to function as a world-dominating political power.

The whole thing is a sorry mess. In the end, if you want the Muslim extremists to disappear and quit gaining new recruits, then you have to quit killing their children and subjecting them to thug regimes that hold the people in fear.

But in America, we have authorities running around as agent provocateurs, goading confused Muslim youth into committing crimes. Young men who are often just blowing off steam, probably half-ashamed that they like their Western lifestyle and riches, feeling like traitors because their fellow religionists are suffering under the political and cultural regime they're growing fat under. They're frustrated because the American dream is within reach, but they know that they'll never really quite fit in. If they were only a little more pale in complexion and didn't have a Persian or Arabic name. Admittedly that's starting to change, but this is lamented by most Christians I know. The Christians I know don't want to visit Niagara Falls anymore….too many turbans, hijabs, and saris.

I think I hear those Kinists laughing. They sure do when they're called racists. They are of course, but a Sacralist calling them a racist…….pardon the cliché but it's very appropriate since we're talking race….is like the pot calling the kettle black.

So these American Muslim youth get on the internet and make noise, talk tough. Along comes the FBI who entraps them into behaviours 99%+ of them would have never seriously entertained.

They set them up real good, and then nail them when they try and detonate a fake bomb. The authorities get to clap themselves on the back, and the public cowers in fear once more and the government can keep up the bombs overseas. And so it goes…..

In the meantime the small number of real terrorists within American borders nearly succeed in their goals. They're stopped not by the authorities doing the job, but because the perpetrators themselves are often green and inept at what they're doing.

Why are they doing it? Because even as lost people they can see something that many Christians can't. The American Empire is a sick and hypocritical lie, a monstrosity. It lives fat and happy while it devours much of the world, all the while telling everyone who good it is. The Soviet Union was evil too, but nobody pours on the self-righteous altruistic line like the Americans. Nobody. And the Soviet Union had no Hollywood, no MTV, no Starbucks, no Levi-Strauss to offer.

As Christians, we have the spiritual apparatus to deal with this. We have Biblically informed wisdom that tells us how to live in Babylon.

Muslims don't, so they respond differently. Quit dominating them and killing them and they'll go away, and those that stay will within a couple of generations be drinking beer and watching the Steelers game. The Racist generation is dying off. There will be a new America in 25 years. Though the Dominionists may try through various means, though they may gain temporary victories, thank God they will fail. I just wonder will we have a vibrant Remnant preaching the gospel in 25 years, or will we have a mass-apostasy when the Dominionist vision collapses. I hope we don't end up with Christian Al-Qaeda, or Baptist Boeremag, but I have a bad feeling we will.

Keep growing the Empire, and more and more of the Muslim world will embrace extremism.

The response of the Christian Right in regard to these issues is dead wrong. Thinkers like Huntington not only have a breathtakingly simplified view of the world, the whole Clash of Civilizations model is dangerous and completely incompatible with a Biblical Christian Worldview.

It is no surprise that Huntington's ideas have been enthusiastically embraced by the intelligentsia of the Christian Right.

For those interested, I wrote a couple of pieces on Afghanistan that deal with some of these same issues. The Sorrows piece, Beasts and Play, and the Vietnam post are good places to start.


Cal said...

Have you ever heard of a Christian missionary by the name of Sundar Sadhu Singh? He was an Indian who came to Christ but ended up, quite quickly, the foolishness that his British brothers were doing (most unaware of the error). Singh realized the people of India were thirsty for the Living Water of Christ, but they had no want nor need of a British vessel. To the Indian, being a Christian was becoming British and a betrayal of their culture. He took the robes of a Sadhu ('Holy man') as to have a position to speak amongst his people (taking Paul's advice of being a Jew to Jews and a Greek to Greeks).

I dont think your prognostication on what will come of the Sacralists is accurate. First off, this culture, like Rome before, has become lazy. Not to the extent of the times of the feuding would-be emperors in Ravenna, but to the point where the only reason to fight would be luxury. Yet there lies a big stumbling block to any American member of churchianity jumping in this fight. As time wears on, there seems to be a growing voice of discontent with the Constantinian take over of the voice of The Church (those truly harboring The Spirit). Though it is still squelched by chest-pounding, guardians of Western civilization rhetoric, it is a voice that will remain. When being a "christian" loses its social privileges. Those that remain will not only have to carry out acts of violence but have an uphill battle in justifying them. I think it would just be easier to take up Islam or some other Constantinian system of polity

Anonymous said...

No I haven't heard of Singh. That's interesting.

As far as my prognostications being wrong...in this case I hope you're right! I'm not sure what will happen. They may have some success or as the older generation dies off we may see the entire Dominionist movement implode and collapse. It's hard to imagine the younger generation of today being very motivated to do much isn't it?

So we'll see. They will fail...but, they might do a whole lot of damage on the way. Christians are and will be despised, but sadly not for the offense of the gospel, but for a host of other reasons.