Civilization Goes Better with Christ

That is yet again the message of Joseph Pearce after the trial of Britain’s first Muslim mayor, Lutfur Rahman, “who is accused of ‘subverting democracy,’ running a ‘den of iniquity’ and ‘systematically stealing votes’ as he turned the London borough of Tower Hamlets into his own private fiefdom.” But it turns out that the abuses of which Rahman is apparently guilty are no worse than those of the “hell-hole” into which British society has descended (cue David Robertson):

I see nothing worse about Islam than I do about modern Britain. It is a choice between false gods and godlessness. It is akin to choosing between the arrogant stupidity of the Montagues and the arrogant stupidity of the Capulets. Asked to make such a choice, we should echo the words of Mercutio and call down a plague on both their houses.

And as Mr. Pearce is wont, the origins of the descent are the abandonment of Roman Catholicism:

Heresy has not been a sin in Britain for almost five hundred years, ever since the days of Tudor “savagery” that she rightly condemns. What has been a sin ever since the time of Henry VIII is not heresy but orthodoxy. [Allison Pearson] does not mention, and probably does not know, that Catholic priests were hanged, drawn, and quartered in Britain for a period of 150 years. Without going into the gory details, it could certainly be argued that this form of execution carried out by the secular state against its Catholic victims was as slow and tortuous as being burned alive. And while it is true that we do not burn people alive in Britain any more, we do threaten to imprison them for the public expression of traditional views on marriage and sexuality. It is no doubt a mark of our “civilized” times that it is now considered a hate crime to suggest in public that there is nothing gay about being “gay.” And, of course, there is the question of the millions of unborn babies being slaughtered in the womb, an abominably barbaric practice that would never have been condoned by our “savage” ancestors.

Pearce adds:

Need we remind Ms. Pearson of Chesterton’s quip that when people stop believing in God they do not believe in nothing but in anything? Need we remind her that the replacement of God with godlessness has led to the Guillotine, the Gas Chamber, and the Gulag Archipelago? Do we need to remind her that the last century, the most godless in human history, was also the bloodiest and most barbaric? What, one wonders, would Ms. Pearson call the horrors of trench warfare or the development of poison gas? What about Blitzkrieg, the Holocaust, or Hiroshima? Perhaps these deplorably modern things, unknown to our ancestors, are examples of “the slow, patient development of what we call civilization.”

Cherry picking alert. How civilized were the Crusades? Maybe you can justify that by lower numbers or just-war theory, but then what do you do with European explorers and settlers of South and North America? For whatever reason, western Christians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, assumed a kind of superiority that allowed them to conquer the planet and make civilization global. From the first encounter during the fifteenth century of native Americans, to the carving up of the world after World War II, Europeans — with all sorts of encouragement from the global pretensions of both Rome (think papal universal jurisdiction) and Amsterdam/Washington (think w-w and seeings thing whole or some version of the universal rights of man) — have felt called to run the world often times without the consent of the people being run.

Determining how much of this owes to European self-conceit or Christian overreach is why they pay historians modest bucks. But for Mr. Pearce not to notice the problems of Christian civilization (both in thought and deed) is itself of the sort of pride that comes with the rise of thinking cult or w-w is the basis of culture.

Are Christians as Scary as Muslims?

In the current issues of New Horizons, I ran across an editorial note about the Islamic presence in Britain. According to the Gatestone Institute, an international policy council:

. . . Sharia courts, which operate in mosques and houses across Britain, routinely issue rulings on domestic and marital issues according to Islamic Sharia law that are at odds with British law. Although Sharia rulings are not legally binding, those subject to the rulings often feel obliged to obey them as a matter of religious belief, or because of pressure from family and community members to do so.

I understand that Presbyterianism has never enjoyed a glowing reputation among the English — the 1640s and all that — but would it not be the case that Presbyterian courts also issue rulings on domestic and marital issues according to biblical teachings that are at odds with British law. For instance, Presbyterians likely believe that divorce is a sin. British law, I suspect, does not forbid divorce (even if it regulates it).

Same goes for here in the U.S. The OPC has a constitution that requires sessions, presbyteries, and assemblies to make rulings that do not follow the laws of individual states or federal law. So, part of the OPC’s constitution (Book of Church Order) reveals a way of thinking about marriage and its norms that is not the same as U.S. law:

Accordingly, God has designed marriage for the enrichment of the lives of those who enter into this estate, for the orderly propagation of the human race, for the generation of a holy seed, and for the avoidance of sexual immorality, all to the glory of the covenant God. Husbands and wives thus have responsibilities befitting God’s purposes for their relationship. The Holy Scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for [her].” The husband is to love his wife as his own body, to care for her, and to cherish her. The Holy Scripture says also, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” The wife is to submit to her husband, to respect him, and to entrust herself to his loving care. Both husbands and wives are to be faithful to each other, to assist each other in all good things, to heartily forgive each other their sins and shortcomings, and to love each other as themselves. Thus united in love, they will more and more reflect in their marriage the unity of Christ and his church.

The question, then, is whether Christians either are capable viewing themselves as outsiders under a secular government or recognizing Muslims as sharing a position similar to ours within a secular nation.