Friday, September 21, 2007

Derb, Islamophobophobe

This is not meant to extend a Mass'keteer in-house wrangle. I'm just posting in passing that, re: the ongoing Derb-Spencer debate, John Derbyshire gives a summation of note over at NRO. I've never been a fan of Derb (that ole red-in-tooth-'n-claw paleo-con) , and I'm much more mellow on immigration (not the same thing in the U.S. as in sad ole Europe), but I must say that I think Derb gets the better of Spencer here insofar as the roots of current-day jihadist violence are (IMO) not to be found traditional, cultural or textual Islam. (Derb's case could be made even stronger if he got into the modern, ideological components, but Derb's got his own hang-ups on the essential irrationality of religion in general. If he's different from Hitchens there, it's more a matter of degree than kind.)


Athos said...

Well, brother Porthos, here are my two bits: it is Derb's style that you admire: cool, intellectual, broadly intaking of a host of factors, not leaping quickly or passionately (operative word, for him, to avoid) to an inference, keeping options open. Spenc, otoh, is passionate, certain, made-up-his-mind and that is that from which he lays out his all-bad critique of Islam.

At the heart of Derb, with whom I have great agreement, there seems (to me) to be a notion that one truly can hold oneself aloof from such balderdash as, say, Girard would raise in the matter of mimesis: sort of a British disdain of fellows who "go native" rather than faithfully serve the Empire or observe tea time even as the locals carry out their tribal mumbo jumbo. A "I say, do you really think I'd be one to be snookered into such falderal, old chap?" And, maybe it's a fear of being "cornered" too.

Well, the doctrine of Original Sin presumes Spencer is more correct here, I'd say, if my discernments of Derb are close to the mark. And, too, Girard's MT exposes in a manner too close for comfortable distance the gears and mechanisms of capital 'S' Sin. The former encloses all of us in its grip; the latter, as infuriating as it may seem, does neat work in showing how it occurs.

I'm afraid I can't quite give Derb his urbane objectivity. But that's just my opinion.

Athos said...

BTW, probably the most profound comment I have heard on where to meet and speak in interfaith dialogue was (of course) by Bailie. His point was that Christianity centers around a theological and anthropological reality; namely, our human fallen-ness, the weakness of even the greatest of us (St Peter), AND God's grace to convict, convince, and re-establish right relation (state of grace) when/if we have remorse and repent of our sin.

Therefore, will it be possible, Bailie asked, for other world religions to meet Xtns and talk about these kinds of experiences in THEIR religious life -- exemplars of remorse, contrition, repentance, return?

One need not make Christians out of those of other beliefs, but find a common ground of such basic human experience.

Porthos said...

Sounds right to me (inter-religious dialogue). Thanks 4 the comments!

Athos said...

A friend of Spenc, whom he quotes at Jihad Watch, replied to Derb with this:

A fascinating piece, but let me play Devil's advocate a bit. I think what I'm up against in a way is the positive version of your mild anti-Catholicism, and any riposte to your essay will fare about as well as an attempt to make you a fellow traveller of Pope Benedict!

Greco-Roman civilization and Christian civilization were open-ended and forward looking. Chinese civilization and Hindu civilization were more static but not closed to influence from outside, so that they could incorporate the forward looking elements of Western civilization with relative ease.

Islamic civilization is a "whole system," as a Muslim friend told me recently. It tends toward totalitarianism, and toward constant renewals and self-purifications that push Western-type influences out. It's much more like (but not completely like) communism. When communism learns to incorporate economic dynamism and individual rights, it ceases to function.

Perhaps part of the reaction of Islam today is not just religious pride in the ordinary sense of the word. Rather, it is a last-gasp defense of people with a religion that cannot adapt to the influence of free-market democratic secularism, and so feel the lime between the bricks dissolving.

One can be sympathetic with that to a large extent. But I think your mental image of non-intellectual Christians doesn't quite fit the bill. You're thinking of cultural Catholic and Anglicans and Orthodox, whose religion is more or less inherited.

Perhaps you'd do better to think of evangelical Christianity in the US. There is a constant tendency among evangelicals to "get religion," though not all of them do. When they do, there are certain text-based core ideas that they will return to again and again.

Read more here.