Conceptions of Moral Society (Islam, Judaism and Christianity)
Exchanges Between Friends
I think Bill Whittle gives a very insightful commentary on the moral nature of Islamic, Jewish and Christian societies. I’m curious as to the reaction here to this use of religion to enlighten thinking on politics/freedom.
Really, a clip of Gingrich talking about moral character? Why not Bill Clinton on responsible sexuality? Why not the Unabomber on civic duty?
It is certainly true that moral virtue is important and that the best discipline is self-discipline. Can’t argue with Whittle’s presentation, though it is elementary to the point of twinkiness.
Regarding Islam he held my attention better in my neck – hairs stood up. Islam regulates your every move, makes you an obedient robot? He’s talking about a religion over 1300 years old with over a billion adherents spread over many cultures, some sophisticated, some not. You can find places in the Qu’ran where the Prophet agrees with Whittle: the greater jihad is the internal struggle for personal righteousness; there should be no compulsion in religion. (I think Whittle would agree with the latter point.) I once came across an English-language Islamic chat group whose participants freely and thoughtfully debated many aspects of the religion. Yes, there are tyrannical Muslim societies where minute religious rules govern every activity of life, e.g., a Taliban-dominated village or all of Saudi Arabia. But now I recall one Muslim, a software engineer, who was totally dedicated to his religion. Even starting his car he would repeat the words “Bismillah al rahman al rahim” (In the name of God, etc.) Maybe that was just on a winter morning. Anyway, he is warm and cordial to adherents of all faiths, and I last saw him in a Conservative synagogue at an interfaith seder. When I think of him and some other Muslims I know, Whittle’s words make me want to spit on the ground. Of course, the Muslim-raised Arab I know best is married to an infidel and has been a Unitarian for years.
Are Jews not so tight-minded? Consider the Hasid in black fedora and coat huddled in the window seat of the subway train to make sure that he is not so much as brushed by the coat of a woman passenger. Hasidim can be as tight-minded as Wahhabis, but as with Islam, that is hardly all of Judaism. I need not go into examples from Christianity. I’m fine with right-wingers advocating moral virtue. It might do some good, even soak into Newt a little bit. I don’t care for the implication that they have a corner on it.
Bill Whittle’s point on inner discipline, or self-control is well taken, but his argument that Christianity has taken us a step further toward this than either Islam or Judaism, is not digestible. Christianity gives us slavery to God (created to serve God, do the will of God, submission to the Lordship of Jesus). Look around at all these poor souls asking “What would Jesus do?” It is hard to swallow this contention that religion promotes the freedom of living by one’s own inner lights. Religion is after all about mediation, if anything.
I go back to what St. Paul teaches in Galatians – I commend this again to Herb: what Paul calls the law is scripture, a written code, religion.
Living under the law is what he rejects, because it is being subject to a child-minder (pedagogue), it is like going to jail, it is human slavery to “the elemental spirits” etc.
The irony is the “new law” of Christianity became more enslaving than the “old law” of Judaism. At least Judaism let you think as you liked. They were concerned with orthopraxy – correct practice. Christian orthodoxy was about right thinking. The church burned heretics – wrong thinkers – at the stake. Even Luther said that a sin against love was not as bad as a sin against faith. That was his greatest folly.