Sunday, September 26, 2010

Equal weights, equal measures

President Obama is now arguing in a federal court that he is not only entitled to kill an American citizen without any due process at all, but that the courts have no right even to consider the legality of the action - never mind such small details as the constitutional prohibition against anyone being deprived of life "without due process of law."

Glenn Greenwald has the details here:

I remember that when George Bush asserted prerogatives of this kind all sorts of "progressives" went ballistic - and rightly so. But now the same crowd says we all have to support Obama against those terrible Republicans, and they make excuses for Obama doing what Bush did - only more so. Why, exactly, is it so important to support someone who claims dictatorial power with no oversight whatever and not the slightest concern for the Constitution which he swore to uphold and defend at his inauguration? Why was it so important to get rid of Bush for the same things that must be overlooked in Obama, and worse?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

7 Questions and answers on Islamic community center

My friend John Rankin posed 7 questions to prayer leader Feisal Abdul Rauf regarding the planned community center and Islam. My answers to John below, with a few typos cleaned up since I commented on his blog. To see both the questions and answers, open his in a new window:

There are all kinds of problems in your questions to Rauf, especially in how you compare ideal Christianity to practical Islam, whereas the honest thing is to compare equals - practical Christianity to practical Islam, and ideal Christianity to ideal Islam.


1. Islam is no more a one-way religion than Christianity. Islam states that there is no compulsion in religion, and so people are free to leave, just as Christianity allows. In practice, where Islam captures the state or otherwise dominates culture, it coerces people to remain, and in some places even kills them - and in practice that has been the invariable practice of Christianity for the past 1800 years. In theory, both are perfect in this matter. In historical experience, both are bad, Islam being much less so, being the eastern Mediterranean version of the Reformation, which historical circumstances guided in a somewhat different direction.

2. Cordoba was the most tolerant and religiously equal society anywhere at the time, far exceeding the history of practical Christianity from the moment Christians obtained any political power from around the 2nd century onward. It fell somewhat short of the Christian ideal of the level playing field, but it also fell short of the Islamic ideal - no compulsion in religion. But it is perfectly reasonable for an Islamic cultural center, or a Christian church, to apply the standard of Cordoba on its own premises - protection of others as dhimmis. Christians are in fact quite resentful of efforts to apply secular non-discrimination statutes to their own hiring practices, and rightly so. To conflate Cordoba House's application of Cordoba's principals in its own house with a purported goal of establishing a Muslim caliphate over the US as a whole is simply not honest.

3. The tolerance of Cordoba is insufficient, but so is that of Calvin and the other Reformers, who explicitly stated that it was the job of the emperor to punish heresy, and who murdered people over religious doctrine all the time. That the Reformers were more likely to drown you than burn you as the RCs did was not a truly radical departure. Again, you compare Islamic practice to the Christian ideal. Proceeding that way is by no means beyond reproach.

4. In fact, as you've made clear in your own writings, integrity and wholeness are only found in submission to Allah, so that these are equivalent. Moreover, Paul wrote that we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, which clearly implies that peace derives from submission to Allah, so that peace is lost through rebellion against that rule. The Islamic doctrine of peace through submission to God is in fact a biblical teaching happily preserved in Islam. That this is distorted into religious authoritarianism in Islam is obvious. [sarcasm alert] That's very unusual in the history of Christianity, isn't it?

5. The law of Christ is obligatory for all Christians, and it regulates the minute details of our lives. There isn't anything in a Christian's life that is not to be subject to the lordship of Christ. Shari'a can distort that principle by regulating things with a rule that need to be regulated by relationship, but that's just what happens with Moses in Judaism, and most certainly in every Christian tradition.

Moreover, since the Qu'ran refers to Mary and others long before Jesus as Muslims, it is evident that Islam in Qu'ranic thought precedes Muhammad and is indeed submission to God. And John Rankin, among other Christians including Peter Attwood, holds that true peace can be attained only through submission to God. Hence to hold that belief, which is our own, against Cordoba House is certainly not the use of equal weights and equal measures that is required of us.

6. Shari'a no more implies a top-down government than the statutes of Torah do. In fact, the regulations involved are frequently impossible for any government to police and can easily lead one into conflict with the demands of civil government, as in fact they often have. Top-down governments that regulate the small details of our lives are historically quite impatient with religious codes that do the same thing and which do not look to government for their enforcement.

Do governments like Sa'udiyyah, the "Christian" kingdoms over 1500 years, and the modern state of Israel elect themselves as enforcers of such codes, with the connivance of religious people? Sure do - even now in the States, to wit, the Chino Valley Unified School District - so far as they can get away with it. Is there any evidence that Rauf is entertaining such ambitions?

7. Now there's a good question. Will Cordoba House get a chance to see an expression of Christianity that meets or exceeds what Islam teaches concerning Jesus the Spirit of God and the Word of God, who will judge the world by the law and the gospel in the last day? They won't see it in the statement of the previous six questions in this piece.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Take a Quiz!

From Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse in The American Conservative magazine:

Good to know we don't need anything done here at home!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hard cat news

Gayle's old cat, Maggie, had to be put down last week. She's been around for 18 years, sometimes Gayle's only friend. Her kidneys were completely shot, and there was no more to be said.

Gayle is distressed because she did make some mistakes that made things worse than they would have been if she knew better. Thing is, it seems like in all things we do that really matter, we get to see how dumb we were, and how it would have been better if we had more smarts. Only with trivial things do we ever get to congratulate ourselves on how perfectly we played it. Anything more significant than a game of solitaire, we don't get to boast that way.

Gayle has gotten to look at some issues that she wouldn't have without Maggie's death, and so God has used the death of a cat to cause her to draw nearer to God. Gayle also has said a number of times that Maggie taught her how to love.

A dead cat is close to dead last in the world's estimation. So I am reminded of Paul's assessment: "God has chosen foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that he may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God."