Sunday, February 12, 2006

Will Cartoons, Free Speech and (In)Sensitivity Outwit all American Christians?

The Gospel Lesson for Morning Prayer today is Mark 10:23-31 (NRSV):

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

I am (as usual) heart broken (my breaking heart matters to no one except me) at the “western” response to the violence of the demonstrations in Islamic nations against the cartoons of the Prophet — most especially at the tepid, hand-wringing response from so many “progressive” folks.

In no way do I condone the violence (or any violence — even state-sponsored violence).

But, as usual, westerners who have not been to Islamic countries and who are not in daily contact with people in those countries have little ability to see beyond our sincere but misguided belief that everyone in the world wants politically, socially, economically, and spiritually what we Americans want.

I have yet to see an essay discussing how different a world-view one has whose country has never been overrun (or, more correctly, put in a stranglehold) by the philosophies of Adam Smith, John Locke, and David Hume — and, by extension, Thomas Jefferson, John D. Rockefeller, and Alan Greenspan.

Western capitalism (based NOT, as we suppose, on the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but on the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of PROPERTY” — yes, both Adam Smith and John Locke, the inventors of western capitalism, thought the right to own property was the basic human right — is antithetical to the spiritual foundations of every other religious heritage in the world. Our western thought — such concepts as “freedom of speech” — is a blip on the radar screen of the history of mankind (I am not condemning such ideas, only trying to put them into perspective — you can ask my students how adamantly and staunchly “Jeffersonian” my beliefs are; many of my students find them scary).

Westerners (and for some reason, American Christians in particular) seem to think that western capitalism is somehow a Biblical, God-given arrangement of society, and that any people that does not swallow, hook, line, and sinker, the “enlightenment” ideas of Smith, Locke, Hume, and company is somehow misguided and probably not to be trusted or dealt with as human beings. That westerners who are MORE UNDER THE INFLUENCE of the “enlightenment” than under the influence of the New Testament are caught off guard when the rest of the world’s societies — those that do not think the “right” to own property or “speak freely” are the ultimate expressions of spirituality and humanity and do not accept western materialism and imperialism — is simply shocking. This is not a “culture war.” It is the rest of the world trying to remain free to live by its traditional values in the face of the onslaught of the “globalization” of western enlightenment capitalism, an invention codified ONLY in the seventeenth-century that has little to do with the spiritual tradition of any civilization in the history of the world — least of all with the teachings of Jesus or the Hebrew prophets.

Add to that this country’s constant and consistent support of the Israeli government’s ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian people — now nearly entirely Muslim because the United States has sat idly by while the Israeli government has ethnically cleansed nearly all the Christians from Palestine as well as millions of Muslims — the most insidious and treacherous example of western enlightenment capitalism destroying an Islamic culture — and what does any western European or American with brains or sensitivity expect? This is not rocket science. If I were not myself a western enlightenment capitalist christian, I would say with my Buddhist and Hindu sisters and brothers that it is merely KARMA (“what goes ‘round comes ‘round”). We have for so long assumed that our acceptance of the philosophical inventions of the capitalists is somehow divinely inspired that we cannot see that capitalism is NEITHER CHRISTIAN NOR OF NATURE. Nor can we see that our insistence that the whole world be made over in our image has sown the seeds for our eventual destruction or, more likely, our living out the rest of the days of the republic in fear of “terists” and in self-loathing brought about by our abdicating our real personal freedoms — not the right to own property — to those who purport to save us from the “terists.”

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”