Monday, June 18, 2007

Religion: whatever I say it is!

Perplexing many, Episcopal priest announces she’s a Muslim, too. This craziness has been all over the internet and I really probably should just ignore it. I mean, it's not as if anyone is still under the impression that North American Anglicans, or Episcopalians, are Christians anymore, right? Well, not quite. It remains important to ask how we have gotten to a state in which supposedly educated people, people who are paid to teach theology at our universities, don't know what a Christian or Muslim is.
[Ann Holmes] Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”

Redding doesn’t feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can’t even agree on all the details, she said. “So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God – the meaning of the word “Islam.”

“It wasn’t about intellect,” she said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

Redding’s situation is highly unusual. Officials at the national Episcopal Church headquarters said they are not aware of any other instance in which a priest has also been a believer in another faith. They said it’s up to the local bishop to decide if a priest could continue in that role.

Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet.

Some Muslim leaders are perplexed.

[...]But Redding, 55, has been embraced by leaders at the Al-Islam Center of Seattle, the Muslim group she prays with.

“Islam doesn’t say if you’re a Christian, you’re not a Muslim,” said programming director Ayesha Anderson. “Islam doesn’t lay it out like that.”
(Gee Whiz, I wonder what all that infidel bashing in the Koran is about? the Jooos? )
Aside from the established sets of prayers she recites in Arabic five times each day, Redding says her prayers are neither uniquely Islamic nor Christian. They’re simply her private talks with God or Allah – she uses both names interchangeably. “It’s the same person, praying to the same God.”

Some scholars are skeptical.

“The theological beliefs are irreconcilable,” said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. “For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy.”

Redding knows there are many Christians and Muslims who will not accept her as both.

“I don’t care,” she says. “They can’t take away my baptism.” And as she understands it, once she’s made her profession of faith to become a Muslim, no one can say she isn’t that, either.

While she doesn’t rule out that one day she may choose one or the other, it’s more likely “that I’m going to be 100 percent Christian and 100 percent Muslim when I die.”
I don't care what anyone else thinks: the religion of the brave new generation! Talk about playing God. How can such an autistic performance of an inherently collective phenomenon (is it a real revelation if I can't convince others to share it and hold on to it across generations?) get past the national church and the local Bishop who is excited about the interfaith possibilities? Well, the greater religion at play here is obviously neither Christianity nor Islam, but postmodern liberalism or White Guilt, the great destroyers of anything reeking of Western "privilege".

While we might think that Redding's claim, that praying to the personal God of Christianity and to the unknowably Other Allah is all praying to the same thing, might require a multiple personality, perhaps she is really just a confused Jew... But there is nonetheless a serious point to be made here. The more that Eastern and Western peoples and cultures interact through global migrations, there will be an inevitable mimetic interaction and rivalry between religions leading all kinds of people to attempt greater syntheses of West and East to transcend the rivalry. To the extent this can be achieved, which would likely entail the greater truth of one historically particular faith subsuming the truths of a less successful competitor, we might welcome it. But to the extent that mixing oil and water is impossible, as Kipling said, the attempt will render both constituents corrupted, confused, and unable to perform essential human tasks. And if a nihilist all things to all people liberalism can't pick up the pieces, it will likely get ever more tyrannical before collapsing into the new global Balkans where today's inherited wealth and institutional presence of the Episcopalians and universities will no longer be able to feed and protect the Reddings of this world.

"Multiculturalism" in the form of the Anglican war against the Jews, and the perhaps not un-related dispute over homosexual clergy and "marriage", have grabbed the centre of attention in stories about the corroding integrity of the North American Episcopalian church. But there is a deeper unease with Christianity and its traditional theologies behind it all. How long before we allow this undisciplined rejection of Western particularity, in a vain desire to embrace the universal without going through any particular discipline (which is the only way we can ever know universal truths - we must be embodied in a particular culture or religion to access them) to destroy our particular nations too? The destruction won't be warm and welcoming to all; it will likely entail a return to some vicious neo-tribalism and paganism.


dag said...

I grew up as a middle-American middle-class Presbyterian Democrat. I'd never met an Anglican or a Catholic till I was 20. My understanding of an Episcopalian was "The Republican Party at prayer."

Now that I've been out and about for a while I seem to recall that the services of all three churches begin with a recitation of the Nicene Creed. I seem to recall that it was created to distinguish Christians from Gnostics. But my recall is worthless in this day and age. I am left behind on a planet that bears little or no resemblance to the one I was born into. My own church, my own nation, everything that was normal and decent is now so weird I can't breathe for choking from the fog of insanity that covers the world.

I could look back to my grandfather saying such things about his youth in comparison to the times he lived in as a man my age, and I could repeat his complaints about the changes in my life time by saying as he did: "They sure don't make kids the way they did in my day."

Oh, grampa, please stay dead. The shock would kill you.

The humor of the situation of our world is long faded. And I'm not merely a cranky old guy like my grampa was. It's a serious problem that threatens our existence. This isn't amusing, or something kids will grow out of. This is a major problem, and adults, the serious ones, have to retake control of our nations-- damned fast.

It's time to start anew, to take back control of reality from the pot-smokers of our day, and make a world that works rather than this ugly pose-world of lunatics and self-indulgent dhimmis.

Serious people had better start taking control of government and our culture or we'll be doomed to slavery worse than the tyranny of this idiot elite we have now. If you can stomach this crap we get, then you are not a serious Human being. those who are had better start cracking, and I invite you again to our meeting if only as a start of a protest against the lunacy of our time. Just sit and be seen. I'll even buy the coffee. Yes, I'll pay for a large cup, and you can have cream and sugar.

It's time to stop the parade of fools we have in charge of our nations. It's time to take charge. Begin by sitting with us.

maccusgermanis said...

For true conviction the replacement "passion" is now popular. The idiot, that is referenced in the article, does likely have equal passion for each faith, regardless of how divergent the tenets of each faith is. And, she has the conviction of neither. Each is a feel good conceit that helps her feel sufficiently religious and twice as understanding than a person of any one true conviction.

Those that would attempt to peirce the comfortable fog between passion and conviction are villians to those that find all things forgivable but honesty.