Saturday, July 5, 2008

Muslims, Natural Law, and the V.c.M.

In Section B, Article III of the V.c. Manifesto, I speak of Muslims reaping material and spiritual rewards for doing "the Christian thing," making specific reference to non-usurious banking and modest dress. I was later challenged on this, and I thought that rather than continue the dialogue in the Comments section, that I would expand on it in the context of a full post. In other words, here.

First let me establish that my position on Islam as an Orthodox Christian is that it is no more and no less than a Christian heresy. As such, there will be much that is of value (our common heritage and belief) but at no time can Islam be regarded as a source of eternal truth or a place to acquire wisdom - these are what Orthodoxy is for. It may be possible for a good Muslim to find God and thus salvation, but it is not something that I would care to bet on. I trust rather to the mercy of God and His love.

Within this context (ie. that Orthodoxy offers Truth but that heterodoxy and heresy do not), I believe that God blesses the nations and peoples of the world according to their adherence to certain basic principles. We might call this blessing Natural Law... that God has so written it into the fabric of the universe that doing the right thing ends in material and spiritual blessing (I include both because we are psychosomatic beings), but that failing to do the right thing results in personal and social disaster.

Some of this is extremely obvious. Killing the unborn results in a population unable to sustain itself, which in turn leads to the collapse of the society. Cheating my clients results in their refusal either to use my services or to recommend me, which in turn voids my business.

So what are Muslims doing right? What do I feel they will be blessed for ... what indeed is the Law undergirding their massive population growth and meteoric rise amidst the nations?
  1. Abortion. Muslims do not abort their young. Christian nations and many Christians do.
  2. Usury. Muslims take the prohibition against usury seriously. We abandoned this prohibition centuries ago, and indeed our societies are predicated upon it.
  3. Modesty. Muslims attire themselves modestly (the burka is a non-Christian interpolation). Our nations, and the vast majority of Christians do not.
  4. Homosexuality. Tolerated if not embraced by our society, practically non-existent in Muslim circles.

How this engages us ...

A. If we want to find a veil for E. to wear to Church, we search in Muslim stores. The very Muslim-looking hijab we avoid, but it is only in Muslim stores that we can find veils, let alone attractive ones.

B. Modest clothing? An internet search will reveal the following three sources: Indian, Muslim, and Mormon. Forget trying a department store.

C. Meat. It is impossible to get hamburger meat (ground beef) from the national grocery stores without finding old meat in the centre, hidden by the new. Our local Muslim butcher grinds his fresh, and the meat is the highest quality lean beef I have ever had.

[As an interesting aside, a block away from my home stands three shops next to each other: a convenience store owned and operated by an Antiochian Orthodox couple, a small grocery store owned and operated by an evangelical Filipina, and the butchery/ convenience store owned and operated by a couple North African Muslims. The Orthodox couple are rude, complain if they have to change larger bills, and cash work cheques for about a twelfth of the cheque's amount, taking advantage of the most poor. The evangelical Filipina is always surly. Meanwhile, the Muslim butchery treats its customers well, provides high quality meat, and if someone is short on money the owners wave it off ("bring it in next time," they say). How strange it is that the proprietor who best models Christ is the non-Christian. By way of consequence I never frequent my co-religionists' establishment, and rarely the Filipina's. It is the Muslim establishment that I frequent.]

D. Usury. Unfortunately, our bank does not offer interest-free (ie. Islamic or Sharia) banking. But other banks do. In a world where loan-taxes on the poor go to line the pockets of the wealthy, monetary systems that follow a Christian ethic are most attractive, even if they are Muslim monetary systems.

E. The families we see. And perhaps this is the sign and symbol of a changing social fabric as one group is blessed over another... Our parks and playgrounds are full of Muslim families - mom, dad, and numerous children, playing and eating together. The white Anglo-Saxon types are nowhere to be seen. Couples biking together perhaps, but the next generation? Taken care of by the Muslims.

- V.


Anonymous said...

In your response to my initial comment on the Manifesto you suggested that Muslims will enjoy spiritual blessings for their ethical practices. I don't doubt there will be material blessings - anyone, for example, can take valuable life lessons from the book of Proverbs - and these lessons when put into practice may bear fruit. Those who get up early, for example, and work hard all day typically succeed.

I take exception to the notion that Muslims may enjoy spiritual blessings. Are any spiritual blessings enjoyed apart from Christ?

One day I was listening to the radio and a Muslim man called in and said that "Christianity is impotent". Right now you and I feel that there is some truth to these words - whereas Muslims appear to be faithful practitioners of Islam, Christians are (often) inconsistent, apathetic and (doctrinally) ignorant.

I am frustrated by this and grieved by it... it seems that you are also frustrated.

The Islamic world that you describe sounds almost appealing - but I wonder what those families who you see wandering through the park look like at home. I wonder what kind of oppression those mothers endure at the hands of their husbands. I wonder what its like for those children?

No doubt, there are things that we have in common with those of the Muslim community. But these commonalities are all at the surface. at the very heart and core of our faith we are completely and utterly different.

I know that modesty matters to you; you are unhappy with usury; you reject the practice of embalming - these are all matters of orthodoxy... and yet you embrace a community that rejects the deity of Christ, rejects the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, has no regard for the Trinity and worships a false god. If truth matters surely this matters more than mere usury...

V & E said...

Thank you for your comments, Stephen.

Let me answer your points, one by one.

1. Muslims will not enjoy spiritual blessings, even though they might enjoy material ones.

Upon thinking this one over, I found it hard to imagine a world where material and spiritual blessings were wholly separated - even as we are psychosomatic beings (that is, possessing both body and soul in a mystic union), so also that which blesses one part will bless the other.

2. Christianity is impotent.

Indeed. In isolated pockets here in the West it is not, and in many places in the Third World it is alive and flourishing. But we have drowned it in consumerism and humanism, and suffocate it with our pride.

3. Islam may look appealing, but it is oppressive, and at essence wholly different from Christianity.

Actually, I do not find Islam appealing. There is no Christ therein, and without Christ there is no mercy and no grace.

My comments are not meant to treat Islam preferentially, but to address two main points: a) that Muslims will reap the benefits for living the morality that we discard, and b) that practically, I am obliged to frequent Muslim establishments to get the moral service that I seek.

I care about morality. I do not seek to know whether my grocer worships my God or not - I seek to know whether he repackages old meat or dyes his oranges to hide flaws. Whether my clothier is a Christian doesn't really come into it at this point - I am more interested in whether he uses child slave labour ... and very practically, whether he offers a modest alternative to whore chic.

4. You embrace a community that rejects Christ.

And this is perhaps my principle reason for answering your comment in such detail. I do not embrace this community, if such means endorsing them or joining them or entering into fellowship with them. I do not embrace this community if you mean thereby how I have embraced traditional Orthodoxy. But if by "embracing" you mean merely shopping at their stores or borrowing their model of banking because the practice is moral, then plead me guilty.

Hope this helps.

- V.

Anonymous said...

The answer to our dilemma is, of course, evangelization, in whatever form that takes. I found it inspiring that Pope Benedict in his recent trip to the U.S. spoke about our personal relationship to Jesus Christ over and over. Of course, I have an Evangelical background so that caught my radar, so to speak.

Ethical living is a result of our faith, in the order of grace, but is also integral to it. Any theological disconnect of the two leads to a disconnect in practice. Thus there is an inherent weakness in the Protestant theological construct, and in practical terms there has been theological mischief and apathy in the Catholic world such that the results are the same across the board. The narcissistic society around us has been winning. The recent Pew research report bears that out, I think.

Enter the Muslims. What we are actually witnessing is a snapshot in time, a transition. It stands out in stark terms in practice, but we need to step back to understand it.

In an oversimplification for the sake of clarity, the Muslim lives ethically in fear of God (a capricious God), and the Christian lives ethically for love of God (a rational God). Coercion is natural to the first, and freedom is natural to the second.

It is also true that Muslims removed from the heart and center of Islam in the east, tend to gravitate toward freedom and lose many elements of their strict Islamic living. In the transition, moral living takes time to be corrupted out of them. The fear factor tends to fade when there are not large numbers in a community to re-enforce it. The "honour" killings that we see here on occasion are actually proof of the moving away of the next generation. In the meantime, what we can witness, as you have, is a contrast between our society that has mistaken freedom for license and has become self-centered and surly, and a smaller Muslim community that has not yet given up its ethical practices, and it appears the world is upside down. We had our own period of general public transition in our father's and grandfather's time, when love of God was fading in the heart, but our society was ethical, modest and reasonably safe. Our mistake was in thinking that was sufficient.

God does not revoke his promises and blessings, and he will bless those who live uprightly with their fellow man. We can never forget that Christ's commandment was two-fold, loving God and neighbour, an excellent summary of the Old Testament moral law. In Romans 2:12-16 St. Paul also points out that even the pagans have the Natural Law, which will be their standard when they are judged.