Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Drink and forgiveness: the secrets to Western success says Roger Scruton

Wretchard has a look at Obama's nascent foreign policy and concludes that since Obama has no clear vision of where he wants to be going, he is taking his cue from America's enemies and asking them what they want: Belmont Club » Stratfor on Obama’s diplomatic ‘reset’ buttons

Roger Scruton would probably frown on this as he says what we Westerners need right now is a renewed sense of who we are and what we stand for. This speech Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation | Azure is full of keen insights. Here are some excerpts:
In both America and Europe there has been a growing desire for appeasement: a habit of public contrition; an acceptance, though with heavy heart, of the censorious edicts of the mullahs; and a further escalation in the official repudiation of our cultural and religious inheritance. Twenty years ago, it would have been inconceivable that the archbishop of Canterbury would give a public lecture advocating the incorporation of Islamic religious law (shari’ah) into the English legal system. Today, however, many people consider this to be an arguable point, and perhaps the next step on the way to peaceful compromise.

All this suggests that we in the West stand on the edge of a dangerous period of concession, in which the legitimate claims of our own culture and inheritance will be ignored or downplayed in an attempt to prove our peaceful intentions. It will be some time before the truth will be allowed to play its all-important role of rectifying our current mistakes and preparing the way for the next ones. This means that it is more necessary than ever for us to rehearse the truth and come to a clear and objective understanding of what is at stake. I will, therefore, spell out in what follows some of the critical features of the Western inheritance which must be understood and defended in our current confrontation. Each of these features marks a point of contrast, and possibly of conflict, with the traditional Islamic vision of society, and each has played a vital part in creating the modern world. Islamist belligerence stems from having found no secure place in that world, and from turning for refuge to precepts and values that are at odds with the Western way of life. This does not mean that we should renounce or repudiate the distinguishing features of our civilization, as many would have us do. On the contrary, it means that we must be all the more vigilant in their defense.
[...]
Scruton then discusses citizenship, law, nationality, and Christianity:
I have no doubt that it is the long centuries of Christian dominance in Europe which laid the foundations of national loyalty as a type above those of faith and family, and on which a secular jurisdiction and an order of citizenship could be founded. It may sound paradoxical to identify a religion as the major force behind the development of secular government. But we should remember the peculiar circumstances in which Christianity entered the world. The Jews of first-century Judea were a closed community, bound by a tight web of religious legalisms but nonetheless governed from Rome by a law which made no reference to any God, and which offered an ideal of citizenship to which every free subject of the empire might aspire.

Jesus found himself in conflict with the legalism of his fellow Jews, and in broad sympathy with the idea of secular government. Hence his famous words in the parable of the tribute money: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” After his death, the Christian faith was shaped by Paul for communities within the Roman Empire that sought only the freedom to pursue their worship, and had no intention of challenging the secular powers. This idea of dual loyalty continued after Constantine, and was endorsed by Pope Gelasius I in the fifth century in his doctrine of the two swords given to mankind for their government: that which guards the body politic, and that which guards the individual soul. This endorsement of secular law by the early Church was responsible for subsequent developments in Europe, from the Reformation and the Enlightenment through to the purely territorial law that prevails in the West today.
During the early centuries of Islam various philosophers attempted to develop a theory of the perfect state, but religion was always at the heart of it. The tenth-century polymath al-Fârâbî even tried to recast Plato’s Republic in Islamic terms, with the prophet as philosopher-king. When all such discussion stopped, at the time of Ibn Taymiyya in the fourteenth century, it was clear that Islam had decisively turned its back on secular government, and would henceforth be unable to develop anything remotely like a national—as opposed to a religious—form of allegiance. Indeed, the most important advocate of Arab nationalism in recent times, Michel Aflaq, was not a Muslim but rather a Greek Orthodox Christian, who was born in Syria, educated in France, and died in Iraq, disillusioned with the Baath party he had helped to found. If national loyalties have emerged in the Muslim world in recent times, it is in spite of Islam, and not because of it. And it should come as no surprise if these loyalties seem peculiarly fragile and fractious, as we have noticed in the case of Palestinian attempts at national cohesion, and in the troubled history of Pakistan.
[...]
This habit of self-criticism has created another critical feature of Western civilization, and that is representation. We in the West, and the English-speaking peoples preeminently, are heirs to a longstanding habit of free association, in which we join together in clubs, businesses, pressure groups, and educational foundations. This associative genius was particularly remarked upon by Tocqueville in his journeys through America, and it is facilitated by the unique branch of the English common law—equity and the law of trusts—which enables people to set up funds in common and to administer them without asking permission from any higher authority.

This associative habit goes hand in hand with the tradition of representation. When we form a club or a society which has a public profile, we are in the habit of appointing officers to represent it. The decisions of these officers are then assumed to be binding on all members, who cannot reject them without leaving the club. In this way, a single individual is able to speak for an entire group, and in so doing, to bind it to accept the decisions made in its name. We find nothing strange in this, and it has affected the political, educational, economic, and leisure institutions of our society in incalculable ways. It has also affected the government of our religious institutions, both Catholic and Protestant. Indeed, it was among nineteenth-century Protestant theologians that the theory of the corporation as a moral idea was first fully developed. We know that the hierarchy of our church, be it Baptist, Episcopalian, or Catholic, is empowered to take decisions on our behalf, and can enter into dialogue with institutions in other parts of the world, in order to secure the space that we require for worship.

Association takes a very different form in traditional Islamic societies, however. Clubs and societies of strangers are rare, and the primary social unit is not the free association, but the family. Companies do not enjoy a developed legal framework under Islamic law, and it has been argued by Malise Ruthven and others that the concept of the corporate person has no equivalent in shari’ah.2 The same is true for other forms of association. Charities, for instance, are organized in a completely different way than are those in the West: not as property held in trust for beneficiaries, but as property that has been religiously “stopped” (waqf). As a result, all public entities, including schools and hospitals, are regarded as ancillary to the mosque and governed by religious principles. Meanwhile, the mosque itself is not a corporate person, nor is there an entity which can be called “the Mosque” in the same sense as we refer to the Church—that is, an entity whose decisions are binding on all its members, which can negotiate on their behalf, and which can be held to account for its misdeeds and abuses.

As a result of this long tradition of associating only under the aegis of the mosque or the family, Islamic communities lack the conception of the spokesman.3 When serious conflicts erupt between Muslim minorities in Western cities and the surrounding society, we have found it difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate with the Muslim community, since there is no one who will speak for it or take responsibility for imposing any decision upon it. If by chance someone does step forward, the individual members of the Muslim community feel free to accept or reject his decisions at will. The same problem has been witnessed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries with radicalized Muslim populations. When someone attempts to speak for a dissident group, it is very often on his own initiative, and without any procedure that validates his office. Like as not, should he agree to a solution to a given problem, he will be assassinated, or at any rate disowned, by the radical members of the group for whom he purports to be speaking.
This point leads me to reflect once again on the idea of citizenship. An important reason for the stability and peacefulness of societies based on citizenship is that individuals in such societies are fully protected by their rights. They are fenced off from their neighbors in spheres of private sovereignty, where they alone make decisions. As a result, a society of citizens can establish good relations and shared allegiance between strangers. You don’t have to know your fellow citizen in order to ascertain your rights against him or your duties toward him; moreover, his being a stranger in no way alters the fact that you are each prepared to die for the territory that contains you and the laws which you enjoy. This remarkable feature of nation-states is sustained by the habits to which I have referred: self-criticism, representation, and corporate life, the very habits not to be found in traditional Islamic societies. What the Islamist movements promise their adherents is not citizenship, but “brotherhood”—ikhwân—an altogether warmer, closer, and more metaphysically satisfying thing.

And yet, the warmer and closer an attachment, the less widely can it be spread. Brotherhood is selective and exclusive. It cannot extend very far without exposing itself to sudden and violent refutation. Hence the Arab proverb: “I and my brother against my cousin; I and my cousin against the world.” An association of brothers is not a new entity, a corporation which can negotiate for its members. It remains essentially plural—indeed, ikhwân is simply the plural of akh, “brother”—and denotes an assembly of like-minded people brought together by their common commitment, rather than any institution which can claim sovereignty over them. This has significant political repercussions. For instance, when Nasser’s successor as president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, set aside seats in the Egyptian parliament for the Muslim Brotherhood, they were immediately occupied by those judged suitable by the president, and disowned by the real Brotherhood, which continued its violent activities, culminating in Sadat’s assassination. Simply put, brothers don’t take orders. They act together as a family—until they quarrel and fight.

This brings me to a final and critical point of difference between Western and Islamic communities. We live in a society of strangers who associate rapidly and tolerate each other’s differences. Yet ours is not a society of vigilant conformity. It makes few public demands that are not contained in secular law; and it allows people to move quickly from one group to the next, one relationship to the next, one business, religion, or way of life to the next, and all with relative ease. It is endlessly creative in forming the institutions and associations that enable people to live with their differences and remain on peaceful terms, without the need for intimacy, brotherhood, or tribal loyalties. I am not arguing that this is a good thing, but it is the way things are, and this is the inevitable byproduct of citizenship as I have described it.

What makes it possible to live in this way? There is a simple answer, and that is drink. What the Koran promises in paradise but forbids here below is the necessary lubricant of the Western dynamo. You see this clearly in America, where cocktail parties immediately break the ice between strangers and set every large gathering in motion, stimulating a collective desire for rapid agreement among people who a moment before did not know each other from Adam. This habit of quickly coming to the point depends on many aspects of our culture besides drink, of course, but drink is critical, and those who have studied the phenomenon are largely persuaded that, for all the costs that our civilization has paid in terms of alcoholism, accidents, and broken homes, it is largely thanks to drink that we have been, in the long run, so successful. Of course, Islamic societies have their own ways of creating fleeting associations: the hookah, the coffee house, and the traditional bathhouse, praised by Lady Mary Wortley Montague as establishing a solidarity among women that has no equivalent in the Christian world. But these forms of association are also forms of withdrawal, a standing back from the business of government in a posture of peaceful resignation. Drink has the opposite effect: It brings strangers together in a state of controlled aggression, able and willing to engage in any business that should arise from the current conversation.

The features to which I have referred do not merely explain the uniqueness of Western civilization; they also account for its success in navigating the enormous changes that have come about through the advance of technology and science, just as they explain the political stability and democratic ethos of its component nation-states. These features also distinguish Western civilization from the Islamic communities in which terrorists are cultivated. And they help to explain the great resentment of those terrorists who cannot match, with their own moral and religious resources, the easy competence with which the citizens of Europe and America negotiate the modern world.

If this is so, then how should we defend the West from Islamist terrorism? I shall suggest a brief answer to that question. First, we should be clear about what it is that we are and are not defending. We are not defending, for example, our wealth or our territory; these things are not at stake. Rather, we are defending our political and cultural inheritance, embodied in the seven features which I have singled out here for attention. Second, we should be clear that you cannot overcome resentment by feeling guilty or by conceding fault. Weakness provokes, since it alerts your enemy to the possibility of destroying you. We should therefore be prepared to affirm what we have, and to express our determination to hold on to it. That said, we must recognize that it is not envy but resentment that animates the terrorist. Envy is the desire to possess what the other has; resentment is the desire to destroy it. How do you deal with resentment? This is the great question that so few leaders of mankind have been able to answer. Christians, however, are fortunate in being heirs to the one great attempt to answer it, which was that of Jesus, who drew on a longstanding Jewish tradition that goes back to the Tora, and which was expressed in similar terms by his contemporary R. Hillel. You overcome resentment, Jesus told us, by forgiving it. To reach out in a spirit of forgiveness is not to accuse yourself; it is to make a gift to the other. And it is here, it seems to me, that we have taken a wrong turn in recent decades. The illusion that we are to blame, that we must confess our faults and join our cause to that of our enemies, only exposes us to a more determined hatred. The truth is that we are not to blame; that our enemies’ hatred of us is entirely unjustified; and that their implacable enmity cannot be defused by our breast-beating.

There is a drawback to realizing this truth, however. It makes it seem as though we are powerless. But we are not powerless. There are two resources on which we can call in our defense, one public, and the other private. In the public sphere, we can resolve to protect the good things that we have inherited. That means making no concessions to those who wish us to exchange citizenship for subjection, nationality for religious conformity, secular law for shari’ah, the Judeo-Christian inheritance for Islam, irony for solemnity, self-criticism for dogmatism, representation for submission, and cheerful drinking for censorious abstinence. We should treat with scorn all those who demand these changes and invite them to live where their preferred form of political order is already installed. And we must respond to their violence with whatever force is required to contain it.

In the private sphere, however, Christians should follow the path laid down for them by Jesus: namely, looking soberly and in a spirit of forgiveness on the hurts that we receive, and showing, by our example, that these hurts achieve nothing save to discredit the one who inflicts them. This is the hard part of the task—hard to perform, hard to endorse, and hard to recommend to others. Nonetheless, it is the task at hand, and in a battle the stakes of which are so high, it is a task that we cannot fail to undertake.
Maybe the Covenant Zone should consider shifting its Thursday meetings away from the cafe and into the pub. What is the future of our cities now that cafes for solitary laptop thumpers are taking over every corner and our old drinking culture is being marginalized?

9 comments:

Dag said...

Roger Scruton writes that "we must recognize that it is not envy but resentment that animates the [Muslim] terrorist."

Bat Ye'or writes: "This war [jihad] is justified by its doctrine of religious superiority and perfection. The feeling that Islam has the duty to govern the world is very pregnant today. This implies contempt for non-Muslims and their vilification. Dhimmis, non-Muslims were always obliged to exhibit signs of respect to Muslims. This behavioral obligations imposed upon death sanctions, form an important body of laws and social customs from the beginning of Islam till today, this is what I call dhimmitude."

Scruton is so wrong, and seemingly always so, that one must wonder why he bothers writing this stuff at all. If it weren't a serious issuem one would be wise to simply ignore him, at least in the field of Islamic critique. But he's not just wrong: he is a menace.

Where does Scruton think Islamic terrorism came from? The shopping malls of New York City and bored and resentful teenagers who couldn't afford hip-hop clothing? From the refugee camps of Ramala? It comes from Medina, c. 622. It pre-dates Roger Scruton and his navel gazing. Resentment? The man is a dangerous fools.

ROGER SCRUTON: YOU ARE A DANGEROUS FOOL.

You can find me, Roger, any Thursday evening at VPL outside Blenz coffee bar from 7-9:00 p.m. and I will tell you to your face, "Sir, you are a dangerous fool."

Resentment? I don't know whether to laugh or spit.

Hamid Mahmood (Oman), Nov 28, 2008, a fairly typical Muslim judging from his writing below, writes at Daniel Pipe's blog:

Islam is absolutely clear of any violance and terrorism.

Most of the educated and elite of non-muslims gentry who have read Islam knows that Islam teaches peace. The question is, then why they dont accept it and follow it. The reason is that then they will have to leave luxurious and sinful life. They want to enjoy this life to the fullest as mostly they dont believe in the life here after. But they fail to realise that the sole in them can not be satisfied by fullfilling animal instincts. They want to be absolutely free to do whatever they like is good for themselves only.

Drinking is legal even though over drinking can not be controlled and many innocent lives are lost due to this evil. Family lives are destroyed and people get sick due to drinking. 12% Americans commet insect (making sex with daughters,sisters,mothers, wives/daughters of their brothers etc), when they do it mostly one or both are drunk. This is the only decease sold legealy in bottles. I have seen some over drunk people in USA, it is shame for a human being to be in such a situation. Why he wants to be drunk and over drunk----- to be happy---but it never comes. Alcohol does not only harm an individual but it has harmful effects on the society, therefore it is not allowed in Islam.

They believe in freedom of sex. Getting pregnant without marriage for a girl or woman is not a crime. She is free to do it. But what about the baby who has no father. Can this child foresee a balanced and a happy life. So is this girl a mother of this baby or a criminal. By giving liberty of freedom of sex to young girls has'nt the society taken the rights of an innocent newborn baby. Islam does not allow sex without marriage.

Who does not know the evils of prostitutuion. Who wants to have a prostitute mother, sister or daughter. Yet they call them sex labours because the healthy and wealthy law makers and politicians' mothers, daughters, sisters and wives are not going to be sex labours but poor ladies of poor men will generally be postitutes so why bother and let it be a legal profession. Islam does not allow prostitution. A mother, sister, daughter and wife is total reponsibility of the father, brother and husband. In their absence Islamic state takes responsbility of helpless ladies of the society.

The non-muslim elite knows that as per Islam killing one innocent life is like killing whole of the humanity and saving one life is like saving whole of the humanity. They clearly know that the so called muslims who are involved in terrorism are not following Islam but following non-believers and behaving like them in taking their reveng. IT IS NOT THE MESSAGE OF ISLAM THAT EVERYTHING IS FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR. AS PER THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM WHEN YOU ARE AT WAR, DO NOT KILL CHILDREN,WOMEN, OLD AND CIVILIANS OF THE ENEMY. HENCE ANY MUSLIM WHO KILLS AN INNOCENT LIFE WHATEVER BE THE CIRCUMSTANCES, IS NOT A MUSLIM BY FAITH.

True muslim has to have patience and wait for the reward in the day here after. We muslims are sent by Allah for others and not for ourselves. We have to teach and preach humanity and set examples for others and spread the message of Islam. We are not allowed to take revenge by killing innocent people. Yes muslims are permitted to fight to seek justice but by remaining within Islamic rules. No inocent killings at any cost.

****

End of Hamid.

Now, what part of that looks to any sane man like "resentment"?
Why is it that Scruton cannot or will not or refuses adamantly to accept that Islam is supreme in the mind of the Muslim, and he hates, HATES, non-Muslims? What part of being a Muslim is so inferiour in the mind of Scruton that he feels it fine to dismiss them as not having opinions of their own, of beliefs of their own, of minds of their own when they conflict with his day-dream bullshit? Muslims hate us. It's simple, it's direct, and it's the reality of Islam. We are najis to Mulsims, filth as in shit or piss. Resentment? The fool is so foolish he will keep on crapping till he chokes us all. Muslims hate us. That's the way it is.

Bat Ye'or writes further: "So what we are seeing now is the OIC policy to prohibit the West to criticize Islam in an effort to establish the rules of dhimmitude in the international arena. This objective motivates the fight against Islamophobia that has been declared a central element in the OIC policy."

REsentment? The Muslims have been at war with non-Muslims continuously from the beginning days at Medina. NOt because they resent others. Because they feel superiour! They like themselves. It's undoubtedly difficult for a fool like Scruton to get it, but those who are different from Scruton can still feel good about themselves. Muslims don't care about Scruton's opinion. They don't need his mark of approval. To Muslims Scruton is shit. They won't swim in the same pool with him. Why? Because Scruton is, to a Muslim, shit. Not resentment. They hate us. They like themselves. What's not to get here?

Dag said...

We cannot have rational discussions with people who care more about their egos and public standing than they do about the truth.

Roger Scruton is a fool. I'm sick of him.

covenant said...

Dag, you are quite wrong about all of this because you don't seem to know what resentment is, even though it courses through everything you are writing here.

I have read the Koran; it's clear to me that resentment plays a fundamental part in that text with its constant cursing of the unbeliever/kaffir. The central precept of Islam - that the Koran is eternal and uncreated - is the central precept of Islam because this was Mohammed's way of reacting to those - Jews and Christians - who already claim to have received the word of the one God. This relationship to the pre-existing monotheisms is one of resentment.

Resentment is fundamental to every human being, and in no sense less so among Muslims towards the non-believer. Scruton is a very learned man who I am sure could readily defend his account of resentment.

You say: Muslims hate us, but they're not resentful? You need to sit down, cool down, and explain how that can be. How can you hate without resentment?

For some reason, you have developed a hate on for Scruton but what justifies it is beyond me.

We cannot have rational discussions with people who care more about their egos and public standing than they do about the truth.

-it is you who is beyond reason in my eyes right now.

covenant said...

Where does Scruton think Islamic terrorism came from? The shopping malls of New York City and bored and resentful teenagers who couldn't afford hip-hop clothing? From the refugee camps of Ramala? It comes from Medina, c. 622. It pre-dates Roger Scruton and his navel gazing. Resentment? The man is a dangerous fools.

-of course there are a lot of poor people in the world and a lot of people alienated in the modern world who don't turn towards terrorism. But to say those who do sympathize with terrorism are simply motivated by a book, however central it is to their hearts and minds (even if many Muslims, not speaking Arabic, have no real understanding of the Koran), is to suggest a view of humanity which is quite unbelievable. Everyone's life is constructed of countless many scenes. Each of these scenes, be it the scenes of the Koran, or the shopping mall, is structured with a centre of attention and a desiring periphery. This centre-periphery structure is what gives us love and resentment. Resentment is what we direct towards those we blame for unduly alienating us from the centre we desire.

The many scenes of our lives no doubt iterate in all kinds of complex ways and re-enforce each other and clash with each other. To say one's experience of the Koran can be neatly separated from one's experience of the shopping mall makes little sense to me. They re-enforce or clash, as the case may be.

You will be a more convincing writer if you can show how things re-enforce and contradict and thus create new levels of reality, if you can show how reality is composed of many layers. If you feel compelled by some ) sense of how to go about political awareness raising to go about insisting on one simple and singular truth, one causal truth, I think you will find many readers will not buy into your account of reality. They will say you have an obsession with a single way of seeing.

maccusgermanis said...

"Resentment" is the wrong word, but as chosen for contrast with "envy," I think the fundamental hate intrinsic to islam was being aimed for. Classicaly, "resentment" does entail a real or imagined wrong, but I think the author more ignorant of this than islam in general. It is important to point out that muslims, for reasons detailed by Dag, are not likely to be envious of what we have, but neither does "resentment" fully convey the "entirelly unjustified" "hatred" inspired by the koran.

truepeers said...

To my mind, hate is just an extreme form of resentment; resentment is the normal state of man; envy is but one aspect of resentment. The funny thing about resentment is that everyone has it yet few readily admit it.

How about Hamid Mahmoud? Dag seems to think that if someone feels superior to another, that's not resentment. But the man who is truly with little resentment won't even notice the "riff raff" as anything but people who are happily in their place in the proper order of things. Anyone who looks at people and says that way of living is wrong and dreams of a world where everyone bows down to the real god is resentful: resentment results from the process of imagining or observing a scene and not being happy with how it is constituted, of feeling alienated from the way things should be. Love, in contrast, is observing and imagining and thinking, in respect to that which occupies attention, this is right and good. Rich white South Africans who looked down on Blacks as "kaffirs" were resentful: they resented blackness, this inferiority, inhabiting, polluting, the scenes of their lives. Those who were perfectly happy with the existence of a large underclass, sure that this was the way things were meant to be, didn't need to spit out words like kaffir and didn't need to question or bemoan black ways of living. No doubt nobody was like that all the time.

In other words, the movement of the mind between love and resentment is rather frequent and frantic. One second one is imagining what one loves and then creeps in resentment at what is not right with what one would love. Similarly, it is the commonest thing to build an identity in opposition to another, to resent him but almost without any other sense of what one loves, so that one, in a sense, loves what one hates, one positively needs the hate to confirm one's sense of self-identity. Love and hate, love and resentment, same old story. This is why Scruton notes that the religion that has really led to creativity and productivity in this world takes seriously the idea of forgiveness: we become trapped in resentful identities, because we positively love to hate the other, and in order to grow and change we have to make a conscious effort to donate that unproductive resentment, that which is not usefully working to motivate us to keep away from danger or to do something better. The Christian donates his resentment to God, as it were, to the real focus of our desire: the Being which seems to guarantee the existence of a centre of attention and a shared human scene which occupies our minds. Resentment is the fear or sense that one is lacking in one's share of Being. A man who feels distracted, tempted, by consumer society, and hence alienated from the true Being of the scene, as he thinks of it, is a resentful man. He might need a book to guide him how to act on that resentment, but that's not to say that it is the book that creates his resentment, though it contributes in its way. What creates resentment is existence as a language-bound human being, as someone who lives with a scenic consciousness and memory.

truepeers said...

Another thing worth discussing: Dag seems to imply that if one has an "Insh'allah" attitude, if one just fatalistically accepts the world as being whatever God wills, then one is not resentful. That might be how some in Islam idealize overcoming the problem of resentment, but no man can exist without resentment because no man can live without desires (for that which focusses our attention on shared scenes of consciousness): even the ascetic who renounces all desires is still fixated on a meta desire and resents the inevitable creeping in to his mind of worldly desires. If Muslims could truly accept a purely fatalistic idea of "insh'allah", they would not have to reject anything in this world, but of course they are generally taught to think that God's will is that we war with all that is polluted or corrupt.

truepeers said...

Which reminds me that a strength/weakness of Christianity, in contrast to say Buddhism, is that in teaching forgiveness to overcome unproductive resentment Christianity does not try to outlaw desire, to do away with it once and for all; rather it teaches us to get rid of the unproductive desire/resentment and to renew our righteous passion for productive desires and resentments. It tries to send us back into the marketplace, not to blow it up or to walk away.

It is a common thing to see a man who doesn't know what to do because his resentment is such that he cannot accept any possible course of action in the future: the world is so wrong, no feasible course, in this fallen time, in alliance with the kind of people and ideas that are out there today, can make it right. So he fumes in frustration. While a Buddhist might teach "non-violence" i.e. the need to give up wanting to take any course of action, to give up wanting to change the world, the Christian might teach give away your (unproductive) resentment until you are able to accept a possible course of relatively non-violent action, to have faith in the future while knowing that it's going to remain a fallen world, that Utopian isn't around the corner, that you never get the final victory and that dreaming of it is no way to develop practical tactics or strategies.

However, if you can think in these terms, maybe the best course is to choose both Buddhism and Christianity, to be in one faith tradition while taking insight from the other. Because what one needs is whatever it takes to rebuild a working balance between faith in the small differences most of us are limited to making in this world, and the resentment that will motivate or frustrate those possible actions. Those of us in Vancouver live in the heartland of the mixing of Buddhist and Christian worlds.

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