Monday, October 08, 2007

Blind Faith Decapitates Madonna in French Church

France's churches are frequently the target of graphitti and vandalism. Sometimes the destruction is petty in scale, while other times, such as this time, it assumes a larger, more symbolic turn, as a medieval statue is decapitated by unknown vandals.

From the news site La Depeche [my translation]:

The break-in took place on the night of Sunday to Monday, in the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Marceille at Limoux. The coat and the head of the virgin of Marceille were stolen. Only the Jesus that the black madonna carried in her left arm remained intact. According to first estimates, no other object had been stolen from the basilica that night.

What is it that the vandal thinks he is destroying, as he rips out the robe of a long-cherished statue, as he tears off Mary’s head, robbing the parishioners of her smile?
Does he think those who can have faith in God see that faith as a shield against evil, so that by destroying their hollow statue the vandal sees himself as destroying a hollow faith..?
Does he see those placing their faith in an unseen God as blind people stumbling in the dark, and that his act of destruction is an act to illuminate their world, freeing them from a “blind faith” in a divine goodness breathing life into an otherwise empty existence?
Does he think that only wordly repercussions may follow from his actions, denying even the remotest possibility that he may pay a price much more perpetual than the suffering he seeks for fellow human beings in this life?
Who, really, is the one with blind faith?

As I sat through Mass this Sunday I took the time to cast my eyes about my church, and imagined myself following a Liturgy in a much older church now decorated by a headless statue. What does such a sight do to the faith of those parishioners? What do the faithful look to in order to strengthen their faith, when violent acts such as these, or worse, make it so difficult to persist in continuing this most passionate of commitments?

Probably they affirm their faith through the same technique that works so well for us on this side of the world: the summoning of a sense of sincere gratitude.
Seeing hope in the future by clearly seeing the past.

When memory is properly exercised, when history is sincerely studied, then one can’t help but feel grateful for all the incalculable gifts and blessings that have come our way.
Ignoring the past is key to hiding from the future, for to remember even our own personal youth would beg us to recall a time and age when we didn't know everything there was to know, where we could never know all the kindnesses and sacrifices made on our behalf, the many times that we were watched over while we slept, blindly innocent of the scope of the good around us.

Easy for me to hope the parishioners facing a faceless Mary can renew their commitment to their faith; yet days like yesterday, a day of Thanksgiving in Canada, make it so much easier for us to assert belief in a positive future, as we take the time and make the effort to appreciate our blessed past.

Having a faith in one’s future can’t be classified as “blind”, surely, when such commitment is based on as strenuous an effort to continually see things as clearly as possible. It’s by anchoring oneself in the past, that the best estimates can be made for one’s future. If we’ve grown before, surely we may do so again. If we’ve been blessed before, why not presume the likelihood of being blessed again? History may not repeat itself in exact detail, but honesty demands we acknowledge that it does recycle itself in outline, in pattern. Gratitude for one’s past, affirmed through clear memory, is the best preparation for the soul to feel hopeful for the future; where else can such confidence come from, but from familiarity..?

It was not through any blindness that I was able, yesterday evening, to see the scope of the bounty of gifts that have come my way through my short life. It was with clear vision that I could see the scale of the homemade Thanksgiving Dinner that my wife and I shared with those valued customers whose appreciated patronage allows me to pay my bills.
My faith is not a wall between me and reality, as the faithless vandal might see it; it is a window, letting me truly savor all the Goodness that fills this world.

Too bad the vandals of this age can’t see what we see, trapped as they are within the cage of an eternal present tense, empty of past, empty of future... it is tempting to even pity them, for there are none so blind as those who will not see.


Sean Orr said...

"What is it that the vandal thinks he is destroying"

He just knows its fucking fun to break shit, and that geeks like you will be asking forced rhetorical questions trying to find some existential purpose to the act, when, destruction is its own reward.

dag said...

Well, it's so refreshing to see Sean being honest for a change.

Sean is a shining example of the kind of person we all write about in our various styles and to illustrate our various points. But Sean in himself is glowing and perfect as who he is and what we face. We couldn't hope to pray for someone as paradigmatic as Sean.

Thank you, Sean, for just being you.

truepeers said...

Destruction is its own reward? In other words resentment entails nihilism. Profound. But that is an existential observation. It only waits for sean to see that all resentment is inherently delusional and the loving geeks are closer to intellectual and spiritual truths, precisely because the very language on which sean depends for his muttering consciousness could only have emerged in love and not in acts of destruction. If Nietzsche could have foreseen Sean, he probably would have given up and gone to church and begged forgiveness. It's either something like that... or the suicide (by cop?) club...

Charles Henry said...

When someone views their physical life as the only life, then I suppose destruction is the only end result to everything: in the end there is only death, and nothing more.
But that's not even true when we're alive, so who besides someone with the most dogmatic of blind faith would presume it to be so after we die, as well..?
While we live we can feel connected to others around us, or I guess we "geeks" can... we bourgeois middle class values types, striving to build homes and families and businesses, and every other human endeavor built through faith in the future, built through the ability to see things unseen.

We know how deeply we rely on others to help us build our dreams, we feel a glorious partnership with them; not merely a group, more than a team, a sense of family... the ultimate compliment one person may pay to another: "you are like family to me."
The geeks of the world can witness each other's pain and suffering, and reach out to help lift the other out of the gutter, a motivation born of this feeling of connection, a feeling of being part of a larger family.
Our life lives on without our shell even on this world, in the form of memory, and gratitude; it would be inconceivable to we "geeks" to not mourn the loss of family. We remember their experience, as we age we learn even more from that experience than during the brief time we got to share their presence within our lives.
The dead can remain alive in our hearts, and certainly their spirit can live on in the world around us, the one that we build through the inspiration of their example.

Learn to be grateful for what you've been given, and then come and tell me that "destruction is it's own reward." You've been given a lot, you're just too much of an ingrate to appreciate it.

Charles Henry said...

Honesty demands that I reveal how sincerely grateful I am for your occasional comments. They do help me a lot, and this assistance merits being mentioned.

I read your words and hear myself, speaking over 10 years ago, when I was entombed by similar cynicism, buried in a pit from which there seemed no exit, nor even reason to climb. Your words remind me, painfully, of a worthless time in my life I might prefer to forget... and such self-imposed amnesia would only tempt me away from the responsibility I carry to atone for my many years of parasitic uselessness.

I read your words and remember years worth of my own, spoken for the better part of a wasted decade-and-a-half of cynical self-worship, and I see now the many opportunities for service that were lost, even thrown away, due to my former beliefs.
All the things I could have been doing for others, but didn't have the wisdom to do, for lacking the courage to have faith... It's enough to make me weep from shame.

I read your words and thank God that I somehow remembered lessons shared with me from before I "knew everything", so that today comments like yours humble me into
acknowledging how much farther my personal repentance has to go.

Every time I fall prey to enough arrogance to think I'm succeeding in redeeming past mistakes, along comes a providential comment from you, serving to clarify for me, yet again, how I'm only beginning to fix the degree of what had been broken.
I may be on a path, but that's different from being at a destination; there's much remaining for me to do. And increasingly little time in which to do it.

Your ugly nihilism is a burdensome curse for you, but it is a huge blessing for me, for the needed memories that it stirs.

I feel a little guilty benefiting from someone's misery, so it's only fair that I acknowledge that debt.

Thanks for being you. It's appreciated, because it helps me see how to become a much better me. We're not so different, separated only by age, really; I suspect we've lived similar lives, because of how much of my old self I hear in your writing.

There but for the Grace of God would I still be, if not for the clear vision that comes with
humbling oneself to embrace faith.

truepeers said...

One thing that Charles' last comment reminds me of, that was missing from my earlier thought: resentment, however delusional and nihilistic, is nonetheless inevitable and necessary to some degree for everyone. We are all alienated, to some degree, from the sacred Being that some call God and that others would attempt to explain in anthropological terms as a product of humanity's dependence on the collective and inherited human scene that no one can control or reduce to methodical knowledge and technocratic control. This alienation is the source of our resentment, our realization that we cannot fully know the mystery of human existence and the sacred Being that transcends the individual life, and is the eternal meaning of the very words we write. We are all trapped in the delusion that comes from not being able fully to know God, or Being. And even when, as with Charles, we seek redemption for previous folly, we cannot pretend that we are ever going to know fully the nature of God in this world. So we remain dependent on the likes of sean to remind us what we are struggling to move beyond, from lack of a clear vision of where we are going, the horizon that recedes the more we approach it. But this need for resentment is no reason not to recognize that love is the basis for the worldly transcendence that gets us a little closer to the truth. Love is the basis for having the faith to share in the covenant by which we can partner with "God" and thus become human.

truepeers said...

BUKAVU, Congo — Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore.

Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.

“We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic. “They are done to destroy women.”

Destruction is its own reward. This is what happens to young men, sooner or later, when they have nothing but their own resentment and nihilism to believe in, and all pretensions to fighting for "social justice" are nothing but a hazy memory of a never very coherent ideology. How much longer before we see such things in streets Beyond Robson?

According to victims, one of the newest groups to emerge is called the Rastas, a mysterious gang of dreadlocked fugitives who live deep in the forest, wear shiny tracksuits and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and are notorious for burning babies, kidnapping women and literally chopping up anybody who gets in their way.

United Nations officials said the so-called Rastas were once part of the Hutu militias who fled Rwanda after committing genocide there in 1994, but now it seems they have split off on their own and specialize in freelance cruelty.

Honorata Barinjibanwa, an 18-year-old woman with high cheekbones and downcast eyes, said she was kidnapped from a village that the Rastas raided in April and kept as a sex slave until August. Most of that time she was tied to a tree, and she still has rope marks ringing her delicate neck. The men would untie her for a few hours each day to gang-rape her, she said.

“I’m weak, I’m angry, and I don’t know how to restart my life,” she said from Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where she was taken after her captors freed her.

She is also pregnant.

While rape has always been a weapon of war, researchers say they fear that Congo’s problem has metastasized into a wider social phenomenon.

“It’s gone beyond the conflict,” said Alexandra Bilak, who has studied various armed groups around Bukavu, on the shores of Lake Kivu. She said that the number of women abused and even killed by their husbands seemed to be going up and that brutality toward women had become “almost normal.”

Anonymous said...

I’ll sort of agree with Sean here, in as much as I thought he was trying to explain rather than defend vandalism. The church story sounds like sin for the sake of sin. Not unlike Augustine wasting pears. I can’t say I have any stunning insight on this type of anti-social act. The Confessions has a few worthwhile (if overly dramatic) thoughts on the matter though. [Yeah, I referenced Confessions. Geeky.]

dag said...

NA might well be right about Sean merely critiquing the the nihilism of those responsible for vandalizing a Medieval artwork, but really, given the text I have to wonder how likely that is. In fact, I'm totally unconvinced that Sean is anything but envious of those who smashed and destroyed for "fun."

I didn't look to Augustine for insight, I turned to Milton, to Satan saying that if he can't make anything, and if he can't wreck Heaven itself, then he'll put his energies into ruining a good thing god has made, i.e. people. The first two chapters and chapter nine are excellent studies in the Seanism of our Modern travesty of living.

I can't really bring myself to write the names Sean. And St. Augustine in the same sentence.

truepeers said...

I think we all know that Sean wrote with his usual detached ambivalence. Maybe he is just describing not prescribing. But only half-men, or responsible jurists, really believe in such detached neutrality. All of our responses are a bit of a tease: come on Sean tell us what do you love, show us that you are not just the man of resentment (who, despite refusing ever to admit it, actually loves the scene on which his resentment depends - if he really hated it he would just walk away and never be seen or heard again... a vandal is not indifferent: the object he hates must be something that powerfully attracts)

najistani said...


Islam is the only religion which is more obsessed with unbelievers than it is with its own followers. Muslims define their own identity solely in opposition to the Kuffar. Islamic accomplishments are so negligible that they have no positive cultural features with which they can identify. Hence the unceasing and implacable aggression toward civilized peoples and envy of their accomplishments. The development
and deliberate cultivation of hatred
is such a central feature of Islam that there is nothing that we
Kuffars can do, or not do
, that would make our univited guests hate us any less or any more.

Rage is so intrinsic to Islam that external events are irrelevant. Hatred of non-Moslems is the pivot of Islamic existence. Muslims are bound together by a shared and carefully nurtured animosity to 'The Other' developed from earliest childhood, which ignites a permanent fire of tension between Moslems and non-Moslems. Ever since Jihadists started immigrating into the West, we have become all too familiar with concepts such as 'Killing the unbelievers wherever you find them' and the tribal polarities of Dar al-Harb versus Dar al-Islam , Ummah versus Kuffar etc.

This venom manifests not only as highly publicised murderous attacks - 9/11, 7/7, Beslan, Madrid, Bali etc but as less well publicised local instances of 'street-jihad' - small scale SJS murders, child abductions , rapes and general gangsterism. Muslims do not necessarily want to kill all unbelievers, since Muslim culture is predatory and parasitic and
incapable of sustaining itself. Large numbers of non-Muslims have always been kept as 'dhimmis' - second
class citizens who supported their indolent masters by their labour and payment of the crippling 'jizya' -
the infidel poll tax. But if the kuffar is not killed, it is essential that he must be thoroughly humiliated.

is very important in Islam - second only to killing. Humiliation of the kuffar takes a number of forms:

1) Dhimmitude - economic
and social oppression
bordering on slavery.

(2) Sexual predation - historical white
and modern day pedophile rings and rape of 'uncovered

(3) Cultural humiliation - muslim cultural triumphalism and destruction of the kuffars' culture.

Most counter-jihadists are familiar with humiliation
by dhimmitude
and Islamic sexual predation, but cultural humiliation doesn't get as much publicity in the blogosphere, and yet it is a growing danger that deserves far more attention.

At first sight the idea of muslim cultural triumphalism seems absurd. Dar al-Islam produces nothing of any cultural significance that Dar al-Harb wants . But the fact that they have nothing to offer doesn't stop them imposing their cultural presence with domineering and triumphalist structures.

The main expression of cultural supremacism in Europe is the building of large, aggressive 'in-yer-face' mosques in prominent locations. For example, the London megamosque will be next to the
Olympic site
and will be many times bigger than any Christian building in London - an edifice of Stalinesque gigantomania . What Muslims lack in quality they attempt to make up for in size and numbers. Nevertheless, large piles of masonry still can't compensate for the inherent cultural barrenness of Islam, and the main effort in cultural humiliation is directed at destroying the kuffars' culture rather than creating anything new. Constant attempts are made to restrict the public celebration of traditional kuffar festivals, such as Halloween, Christmas and Easter.

Also, and most importantly, the religious artifacts of the Kuffar, especially 'idolatrous' images such as crosses, carvings, statues and stained glass windows, are regarded as Jahiliyya - worthless trash. Today, as all throughout its past, Muslims devalue the civilisations which they attempt to supplant through the defacing of ancient historical and religious sites. Any culture that is pre-Islamic is considered to be jahiliyya, that is, from " the time of ignorance .

As the European Jihadist population increases in number and expands outwards from its ghettos, we can expect escalating attacks on the physical remnants of our culture, especially sacred sites such as churches.

Eventually the architectural and artistic heritage of Europe will go the way of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Islamic multiculturalism will not have produced 'vibrant cultural enrichment' but cultural desolation.

dag said...

"Najistani" is a person who comes from the land of the najis. Najis is the Islamic term, trans-Arabic, meaning "filthy" and is applied to urine, feces, and non-Muslims. Because we are "filthy," because we don't adhere to wudhu, the ritual washing prior to prayers, but particularly because we are "unclean people" by not being Muslim, Muslims refuse to shake hands with us, as an example. As najis, we are on par with dogs and pigs, to the Islamic minded. Women, even Muslim women, are often najis, though not always; but they are filthy so often and innately so that when they reach "adulthood" or the age of reproduction, i.e. eight years old, they are considered shameful and are therefore required to cover themselves to avoid showing their awrah, or vaginal equivalents such as hair and breasts and cetera. Islam is a culture of prepubescent boys, and they are taking over, slowly but slowly. Nothing will change in the world of Islam without change being imposed upon Islam from above. Reason as a lietmotif is too alien to Islam, and it is their enemy. Rather, Islam is the life of the mind of a preeteen boy with an insipid mother and an an absent father. some world we are allowing in our midsts.

truepeers said...

I don't really see how change can be imposed on any culture from above. People have to be convinced, teased, tempted, welcomed to change. They either convert themselves or they refuse to redefine the bounds of us and them. If you can't hope to change people and they are indeed a mortal danger to you, then you have to separate from them. But short of killing them all and thus putting a blight on your own sense of humanity, how do you separate from the Muslim world in the nuclear/ WMD age? I see no option but to engage the Muslim world, making it clear in all kinds of ways to those few or many who will listen that they can choose to ally with the forces of freedom, making the (positive) changes that requires, and enjoying the rewards, or to suffer the brutal alternatives without the welfare of international aid.

I can't agree with Najis' opening premise. Jihad is a central ritual of Islam, but the Five Pillars of the faith don't explicitly discuss it: they are indeed obsessed with the other (internal) ritual practises of Muslims. A full and proper analysis of a religion-political system requires us to incorporate the Muslim's own self understanding with the outsider's ways of objectifying the faith in a context of comparative religion study.

But it's true that the more one's self-understanding is focussed on opposition to an external Other, the more indeed it is empty and should be denounced by the Other. But I think we do ourselves no favors by believing in easy devils to denounce, however much we should denounce many aspects of Islam. The Muslim's self-understanding is often as much focussed on his internal rituals as on the infidel, and that is why the faith has survived 1400 years even when and where Jihad has not been possible or prominent. And that is why we can't just hope to conquer Islam from above, by proving the failure of Jihad. There is an internal culture that will survive our conquest of Muslim lands; there is a heart and soul that can only be converted, through freedom, to a truer faith.

dag said...

The expulsions of the Jews and the Moors in 1492 didn't bring about any great conversion to Human betterment, nor did the ensuing Inquisition. Expulsion and murder do not answer our problems properly. Unfortunately, they answer better than the status quo. But it's not either/Orr.

Islam is a warrior creed. It is obviously and demonstrably so. It is not a moral creed or a legitimate religion. Islam is only vital and successful in war, and when there is no war to be found, Islam shrinks into dormancy. It is demonstrably so. Fourteen hundred years of practice show it to be so. And then there are the texts.

What is to be done with this mass of peasants who follow a seventh century warrior code in the twenty-first century? If one changes the code it is no longer Islam. There is only negotiation with those who follow a code that is Rational, and Islam is not, cannot be without ceasing to be Islam. People are people, buy not all are the same. Some are Muslims. They prize a different world-view, one at odds with the vision of the rest of the world's communities. They are who they are and believe something different from the rest of Humanity, that something being the command from Allah to conquer the world. Without adherence to that command, they are no longer Muslims but something else. Then we would not be dealing with Muslims at all. But we must deal with them. They are. For them, smashing shit is Religion. The rest of us are simply foolish geeks they hate and would kill if they could. We can't really hope to have a rational discussion with them.

truepeers said...

Islam is only vital and successful in war, and when there is no war to be found, Islam shrinks into dormancy. It is demonstrably so.

I have some sense of this; it is the vision of Islamic history Ibn Khaldun talked about. However, the fact remains that in those 1400 years, most Muslims were not at war, at least not in any active martial sense. So how do we account for the code that actually ruled Muslim societies (however decadent in Khaldun's sense) in the majority of cases where Muslims lived surrounded by other Muslims and were not plotting against the ruler? It's not believable to say Islam is simply a warrior code. Obviously Sharia is trying to lay down a code for the whole of life. In any case, the fact that it is almost impossible to live under full Sharia law, given the necessity of human freedom to solve various social conflicts and crises, as many of our Afghan allies would testify, and given that most Muslim societies are not strictly speaking Sharia-bound societies, suggests there is something missing in your picture: Islam has had to negotiate with other realities - ethnic, tribal, biological, linguistic, pagan, Christian, etc. In its actual existence it cannot always be the warrior cult, or the idealized law or metaphysics its idealists would want it to be, precisely because no society can work under those terms. Islam is Utopian but there's no Utopia; so what, really, is Islam?

The rest of us are simply foolish geeks they hate and would kill if they could. We can't really hope to have a rational discussion with them.

-Well, I'm not sure that's right. First, most simply, they can't kill us all so they will have to come to terms with us. Second, they would prefer us to become dhimmis who continue to provide them with the wealth and technology they cannot provide for themselves. Third, we are not dhimmis at the moment, most of us, and we are negotiating with Muslims, today, all the time. And some of this is surely rational - how else to conceive one's relationship with a Muslim dentist, e.g.? - however much we won't solve ultimate questions in some "interfiath dialogue". But we don't have to solve ultimate questions. We just have to keep our societies free so that people can eventually find the religion that best serves people in free societies. We have to draw up and defend imperatives that meet the needs of maintaining freedom and order. Muslims are certainly human enough to make choices between our imperatives well articulated and defended, as the price of admission to modern realities, and Utopia or war, however much the latter may be made imperative in Muslim texts. You would be foolish to expect all Muslims to choose Utopia or war and we need those realists to divide and conquer the Muslim world.

This is no argument to open up our societies to mass Muslim immigration. But the reality is that we are interacting with Muslims in most every corner of the earth today and for the foreseeable future and so our people need to have the confidence and sense of purpose to do this well, in the cause of freedom, without having their minds occupied with apocalyptic scenarios that only get us stuck with choices we can't make - give in or kill and conquer them all - and thus closer to war.

I still await your terms for a realistic program for dealing with Muslims, one that Westerners as we are or can possibly become in the near future, could pursue.