Somewhere between the Crusades and the National Council of Churches

That somewhere is the Land of 2k.

The reason for this reminder stems in part from a post over at Rorate Caeli about modernized Roman Catholics who don’t have much to offer Muslims:

What does modernized Catholicism do faced with Islam and its terroristic religion of violence?

Does it ask Islam to accept modernity? Does it ask it to put the person at the center in the place of God? Does it ask Islam to accept the trinomial of the Revolution, freedom-equality-fraternity? Modernized Catholicism, reinterpreted, has the audacity to expose itself, by submitting that the Catholic Church, after an erroneous refusal of 200 years, has [finally] understood how to embrace modernity, by restructuring itself into a more mature phase of religion. Consequently, the modernized Church is asking Muslims to try and take the same steps, so that they can join the assemblage of the modern religion which puts man at the centre.

What will real Muslim believers understand from this invitation? They will understand that we no longer believe in God, that we have become agnostics, that the dogmas of the Masonic religion, which support the centrality of Man, have thrown out the true dogmas – the dogmas of God!

What a disaster!

The Muslims will be confirmed in their idea that the Christian West is immoral and should be opposed.

Conservative Protestants know the feeling. If you asked Protestant modernists what they offer to Muslims, you’d also likely want to duck if you were the one to deliver the answer to the inquiring Muslim. But when this Roman Catholic op-ed writer says that Traditional Roman Catholicism has the right proposal for Muslims, you do wonder what he or she means by traditional. As much as Pope Benedict XVI might have proposed reason instead of power, plenty of popes well before Benedict showed muscle rather than intellect to Muslim infidels — think Crusades and Inquisition.

In which case, the alternative to a modernist Islam is a spiritual Islam — one that regards the spiritual as more important than the temporal. The papacy may have learned this lesson the hard way after 1870 when the pope lost his temporal estates. Even so, between 1870 and 1962, the papacy did seem to know implicitly that its power was spiritual not temporal, and it still ran a conservative church with lots of condemnations of departures from the truth.

The Turkish Republic may have also taught Islam a similar lesson when it abolished the caliphate and turned the nation’s mosques into centers of religious as opposed to political life.

Separating the spiritual from the temporal also bears on the recent discussion between Rod Dreher and Noah Milman about whether Republicans have anything to offer social conservatives. In response to Dreher’s earlier suggestion that social conservatives may need to adopt the Benedict Option of cultural withdrawal, Milman points to a Jewish community that did withdraw and is still as politicized as an Blue or Red state constituency:

Consider Kiryas Joel. This village in Orange County, New York, was designed as an enclave of the Satmar Hasidic sect. Satmar are the most insular of Hasidic sects, going to enormous lengths to keep themselves uncontaminated by the larger culture. But they participate in commerce – and they most certainly participate in politics. Specifically, they vote as a bloc for whichever candidate best-supports the narrow interests of the community.

And, funny thing, but politicians respond to incentives. This is a community that rigidly separates the sexes and imposes a draconian standard of personal modesty – and that strives mightily to impose that norm as a public matter in their community. Don’t even talk about homosexuality. But none of that prevented a Democratic candidate for Congress from earning their support by promising to help them with facilitating the community’s growth. And with their help, he narrowly won his election against a Republican who had previously earned the Satmar community’s favor.

I am not writing a brief for Kiryas Joel or Satmar. I think that kind of insulation is extremely destructive, not only for the individuals involved but for any kind of authentic spiritual life. But it seems to me that this is what the Benedict Option looks like in the real world – or, rather, this is a somewhat extreme end of what it might mean.

And my real point is that that approach – a focus on nurturing a spiritual community, maintaining however much integration with the rest of the world as is compatible with that priority, and orienting one’s politics on the specific needs of your community – is completely compatible with playing the two parties off against each other. Satmar stands opposed to basically everything the Democratic Party stands for. Heck, it stands opposed to basically everything America stands for. For that matter, it stands opposed to basically everything the rest of the American Jewish community stands for as well – it’s resolutely anti-Zionist, extremely socially conservative, refuses to cooperate with non-Hasidic groups – it even has a hard time getting along even with other Hasidic groups. And it still gets courted by Democrats.

The really funny thing may be the recognition that confessional Presbyterian communions like the OPC get courted by neither Republicans nor Democrats. Part of that owes to the fact that Orthodox Presbyterians do not inhabit a Congressional District. But it also has to do with the doctrine of the spirituality of the church (still disputed in OPC circles, mind you). If the church is a spiritual institution with spiritual means for spiritual ends, and if the temporal matters of this life are just that — temporal — fading away in comparison to what is coming on That Great (not Pretty Good) Day, then the best alternative to either a sword-wielding pope or caliphate, or a pandering set of pastors or bishops, is a spiritual church. That means, a group of believers who worship together each week under a ministry reformed according to the word of God and who know that in the light of eternity political parties, geographical territories, and military conflicts don’t matter.


9 thoughts on “Somewhere between the Crusades and the National Council of Churches

  1. Darryl,

    Thanks also for posting to old posts at OLTS that you found went well (whether the post you made or the subsequent comment section discussion).

    I’ll be reading. Take care.


  2. So I want to wear a black muscle-T shirt with “Embrace the Suck” emblazoned on it, but it needs a scripture reference on it. You know, for drive-by witnessing.

    What verse should it be?


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