Autonomy and Theonomy Again

If you don’t grant autonomy from religious authority to the political realm (including to political actors to behave in ways different from religious duties), do you wind up with Omar Mateen? Adam Garfinkle thinks so:

… defined properly, there just isn’t very much Islamist ideology. As that term is commonly used in the West, at a minimum an ideology needs to specify: some ideal political economy; some ideal relationship between society, state, and authority; and some ideal relationship between a given society and the world outside it. There is nothing special in these regards about current Islamist thinking. There are a few innovations of note that distinguish it from traditional Islam—the very strict segregation of the sexes in public spaces; the insistence that non-Muslims cannot hold public office; the re-merging of religious and temporal authority in the caliphate—but there are too few and too marginal to create much of a difference from the standard traditional Muslim understanding of the relationship of religion and politics. Hence, for example, the supremacist assumptions of Islamism are also characteristic of mainstream traditional Sunni Islam, making it impossible for us to “message” against it without alienating Sunnis who are not our enemies and who are critical extent and potential allies.

This reflects the key fact that there is nothing specifically ideological—again as we understand the term—about Islamic attitudes about the intersection of religion and politics. Neither Islamist nor Islamic “ideology” is commensurate with any system of Western political ideas. Liberalism as the epitome of the Western way of thinking about politics is based on deeper philosophical currents, but it is not a mere lesser-included case. It has its own weight, its autonomy, its own discourse. The political world is a lesser-included case within Islamist (and Islamic) thinking. It is not autonomous but derivative. It does not have its own credentialed authorities and discourse, only the authorities and discourse of the clergy whose concerns far transcend politics.

Islam, in other words, has little capacity to develop the spirituality of the mosque. Christians who oppose the spirituality of the church should be very careful.

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2 thoughts on “Autonomy and Theonomy Again

  1. Sometimes Protestants and Muslims find common ground, though:

    In the sixteenth century, Protestants and Muslims alike had a common enemy in the Catholic powers, mainly the Habsburg Empire and Spain. At various points, a Muslim-Protestant alliance seemed highly desirable, but some leaders tried to go beyond just a mere working partnership. In 1574, the Ottoman Emperor Murad III sent a friendly note to the Protestants in the Netherlands and elsewhere who were in full rebellion against Spain. (He actually addressed it to the “Lutherans,” which was not quite right). Part of it reads as follows, and it was meant as high praise:

    As you, for your part, do not worship idols, you have banished the idols and portraits and bells from churches, and declared your faith by stating that God Almighty is one and Holy Jesus is His Prophet and Servant, and now, with heart and soul, are seeking and desirous of the true faith; but the faithless one they call Papa does not recognize his Creator as One, ascribing divinity to Holy Jesus (upon him be peace!), and worshiping idols and pictures which he has made with his own hands, thus casting doubt upon the oneness of God and instigating how many servants to that path of error.

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