Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Table of Contents

Former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Archbishop Charles Chaput, recently wrote that, “Some 70 percent of the world's people live in nations – regrettably, many of them Muslim-majority countries – where religious freedom is gravely restricted.”

To understand the tension between the Middle East and Western Civilization, it is essential to grasp the underlying and historic tension between Islam and Christianity. In a secular society, religion is either considered to be a taboo topic or dismissed as unimportant all together. Nevertheless, what lies beneath the surface of the daily news are spiritual and theological principles at work. These principles inform, and in large part, shape international politics. When we gauge politcal developments within a religious context then U.S. relations with Egypt, Iran and the Middle East comes into sharper focus. Conversely, a world view based only on political considerations is shortsighted and harmful to American interests.

For instance, when the political force of Islam seemed to be dormant and a non-factor in 1938, Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, predicted its resurgence (read his quote in the first blog of this series). He maintained while the political power of Islam seemed negligible, the religious intensity of Muslims never waned. This religious intensity, he continued, would eventually prove to be politically advantageous. Whereas in the West, the opposite was true: America and Europe’s political and military superiority made itself felt all over the world. However, the religious seriousness among Westerners decreased considerably during this period. Because Belloc understood the importance of religion as an index of future political developments, he was able to anticipate what others in the secular West dismissed.

Below is the series of blogs entitled Islam, Democracy, and Dictatorships. As you scroll down keep in mind that the most recent is on top and at the bottom is the first blog of the series. As such, the table of contents will be in the reverse order (as you see them scrolling down). You can either scroll down or click the title on the right hand column in the February archives. Below, are the title of the blogs with a brief description:


Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Tension between Church and State VIII:

In the eighth blog of the series, the difference between Mohammad, the founder of Islam and Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity is explained. The former was a political and a religious leader; the latter claimed to be first and foremost a spiritual leader. In addition to their teachings, the religious and the political character of these two founders would give shape to the Church and the State relations among their followers.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Difference Between Allah and the Holy Trinity VII:

In the seventh blog of the series, the doctrine of Allah is contrasted with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Here, the emphasis is given to how the Three Persons in one divine nature relate to one another and how this divine relationship determines the order of creation, redemption and what effect it had on the political order.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: To Rule as a Father and Servant VI

In the sixth blog of the series, we see how the God of Christianity is ”incarnational” in that he communicates his life and message through people. In his wisdom and mercy the Lord has chosen not to act alone but rather to require an active cooperation with man. In the Genesis account, the seeds of representative government were established when the Lord delegated his authority to Adam in naming the animals. Fast-forwarding to the Gospels, Christ demonstrates to the Apostle what religious and civil authority is in the washing of the feet at the Last Supper. He further bid them not rule like the Gentiles did- lording over others and making their authority felt. Rather, any God-given authority is meant to serve; not to be served.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Brutality in an Unbaptized World V

Fifth blog: In the book of Malachi and then again in the Gospel of Luke, part of the mission of the Messiah and his forerunner, St. John the Baptist, is to turn the hearts of fathers toward their children. The implication is that before Christ father’s hearts were not turned toward their children. From reading ancient literature and even the Second Book of Kings we can easily surmise that the hearts of fathers had grown cold after Original Sin. Of course there were exceptions, but by and large men were not family friendly; especially when we consider the universal practice of child sacrifice. This barbaric ritual was not only practiced among Gentiles or pagans, but the Israelites were seduced by this cult when they fell away from the worship of Yahweh. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, hearts of stone were turned into natural hearts. Fatherhood, according to the plan of God, became a reality and subsequently served as a model for State rulers. With that said, the religion of Islam lacks this dimension both in its theology and its politics.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Plight of Women IV

The fourth blog: It is said that Islam bears much similarity to Judaism in the Old Testament; not in its rituals as in its male dominance. There is a biblical reason why women were suppressed and assumed a second class status, not only in ancient Judaism but in the Greco-Roman civilization. The plight of women was changed, however, with the Incarnation of Christ and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. With the fullness of Christ’s redemptive power, he chose Mary as an instrument in restoring the original God-given status of women; this honorable social status was Eve’s for the keeping before she forfeited it through her disobedience to God. But when the public ministry of our Lord began, the social effects of grace began to materialize with his respect for women. In the years that followed, with the redemption of the feminine principle, women were in a position to refine and better the violent and aggressive extremes of masculinity; extremes which was so common in the ancient world.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Ishmael the Father of Arab Muslims III

The third blog: Arab Muslims trace their ethnic and religious heritage back to Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar. The profile of Ishmael, in part, traces out the antipathy that would play out between the Arab people and the surrounding nations. In addition, the discussion of the character of men in the Old Testament is introduced. Not only women were at a disadvantage from the suppression of their gender, but men did not benefit from all that the strengths of femininity could bestow.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Three Basic Characteristics II

As the political, economic and military power of Western civilization increased, the practice and influence of Christianity was relaxed. But just the opposite was happening in the Middle East. In addition, the three characteristics of this series of blogs on Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships was introduced.

1. The religion that Mohammad founded was fashioned in likeness of Old Testament Judaism; thus putting a strong emphasis on the masculine dimension of God. This lent itself to male dominance in Islamic civilization (its counterpart is to be found in Western Civilization where a feminization is pronounced).

2. The theology of Islam, that is, what the Koran teaches about God's rule over the human race, is essential in understanding whether or not Islamic civilization is adaptable to democracy.

3. Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a religious and political leader wrapped in one. It followed, therefore, that in the religion of Mohammad there is little distinction between Church and State.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Why Religion Matters

Again: If you want to understand the tension between the Middle East and Western Civilization, it is essential to grasp the underlying and historic tension between Islam and Christianity.