Everybody's Got One
A blog. An opinion. An elimination orifice. A dream. An agenda. A past. A hidden talent. A conceptual filter. A cross. A charism (often the same). A task. A wound. A destiny. A lost love. A blind spot. A bad habit. A secret. A passion. A soul ... okay, maybe not everybody ...
Sunday, June 09, 2002


This is simply remarkable. Clear-eyed politics deeply informed by faith. My excerpts don't do it justice.

This is my hope for the Muslim world, that it will indeed regenerate. Lose your rage and recover your faith! ...

For in the face of almost all the appearances, I have come to at least the hunch that the Muslims today are in something like the fix of the Christians (and the Jews, for that matter). That while it is true there are cells of believers, for the most part faith has been lost. That religious observance continues outwardly as it did in, for instance, late Victorian England, but inwardly people no longer believe, have gone "beyond belief".

Of course this is a wild generalization. How can I read the minds of a billion people, none of whom share my native language or cultural traits? (The reader is always free to dismiss my hunches.) And the truth is, I myself have felt large exceptions: that for instance, the Egyptians are still a religious people, Muslims and Copts alike, that there is "hope in them". But almost everything I can see happening elsewhere in Muslim countries persuades me ... that there is a loss of hope, and that it must be founded in a loss of belief.

They are in a phase which I think is a commonplace of religious psychology. Within the individual human soul, the loss of faith is accompanied by a sense of guilt. Perhaps the same is true within civilizations: that the first few generations after religious belief is gone are informed by an oppressive guilt, internalized but sometimes suddenly externalized, in outpourings of self-righteous fury. I even think we can partially explain the violence with which, in the 20th century, Europe tore itself to pieces, by referring to this commonplace of religious psychology.

A wild generalization, it could be taken too far. But for me, it helps to explain some things that would be otherwise inexplicable. ... The yearning, in so much of the Muslim world, for the various Islamic Golden Ages, the invocations -- of, for instance, Al-Andalus and the glorious city of Cordova, where Europe went in the Middle Ages to learn Greek and some manners, to see paved roads and street-lighting, plumbing and irrigation, ladies in splendid finery, international banks -- is an important part of this sense of loss. For at the heart of every great civilization, and "within" its material accomplishments, is a great spiritual self-confidence; something the Muslims remember they once had. And I think they themselves fear that they have lost the faith to rebuild in such a manner; the faith that can move mountains.

We forget, we Westerners, we post- (or not-so-post-) Christians, how much blood was spilled this past century, both by us and by the imbecile ideologies we spawned and globalized. We almost destroyed our civilization, twice, three times, hacking huge swathes across the rest of the planet, and for the very best and defensible of reasons invented and deployed the weapons that could easily have decimated the entire world. And now as we start slowly, unwillingly, waking up from the nightmare, our arrogant and far-too-ignorant younger brother Islam is careening ever nearer to the same abyss. Armed with the very instruments we used to flail our way through and out of the valley of darkness – ah, blowback! ah, recompense! – he threatens to drag us down with him as he projects his infidelity onto us, thinking our destruction will absolve and save him.

In the parable of the prodigal returned, the father is still alive (and prodigiously forgiving.) But suppose he were dead – or silent – and the younger, having squandered his patrimony, comes home not humbled by failure but enraged by it, threatening to kill the elder and reclaim his rightful place. (Or just to follow his rage wherever it leads.) What, then, does the unsympathetic elder brother do?

We'd better decide.

posted by Kelly | 8:47 PM link