Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Faith, Reason, & the War Against Jihadism

An very good interview with George Weigel about his extremely important book.


David Nybakke said...

Anthropologist Foresees a Christian Renaissance "Ideologies Are Virtually Deceased," Says René Girard

Girard said: "I believe we are on the eve of a revolution in our culture that will go beyond any expectation, and that the world is heading toward a change in respect of which the Renaissance will seem like nothing."

the French professor states that "religion conquers philosophy and surpasses it. Philosophies in fact are almost dead. Ideologies are virtually deceased; political theories are almost altogether spent. Confidence in the fact that science can replace religion has already been surmounted. There is in the world a new need for religion."

I hold onto Girard's look at our current and future crisis more than I do ideas based in philosophies or ideologies.

I have not read Weigel's book, though I have great respect for his opinions, and though Weigel freely uses Church references and therefore continues to be useful, I sense that his source of criticism and argument straddles the intelligentsia grounded in ideologies and philosophies that Girard references as becoming endangered.

The trajectory from which one argues an issue will, in the long run, tell more of the validity of his argument then any other factor. And it is here that Girard and Schwager shed light that is more illuminating (in my opinion), in the long run, than the short term ideologies of even our best intellectuals - though their books are a fast read in comparison to the 'heavy' read of Girard or Schwager, whose books swim against the currents of the ideologies and philosophies we were raised in.

Unfortunately sound-bites do not lend themselves to groundedness of the heart, mind and spirit, but here is a sample from "Banished from Eden":

Freedom and Preset Nature

Christian tradition has always understood man as a creature of freedom, even if the Augustinian doctrine of predestination made the Western understanding of freedom problematic in part. But the concrete possibilities of action were very limited because freedom was perceived in the context of an order which was preset by an unalterable human and extra-human nature, which was in its turn grounded in the free creative will of God. In accord with this view, one usually also regarded social institutions as previously given by nature and thus as directly or indirectly given by God.

Within western history the struggle between Caesar and pope in part brought the preset order into question. The long-standing crisis between Church and political authority made the Reformation possible, which caused a deep rift in western society. This opened new ways in which the natural sciences and Enlightenment thinking could originate and gradually develop. The theoretical separation between body and soul (Descartes), and somewhat later between nature and freedom, untied thought on freedom from the bonds of nature for the first time, and at the same time turned nature into an object that could be manipulated at will. This development initially had consequences primarily in the social realm. In place of trust in the political authorities established by God, the idea of self-determination by the peoples (democracy) appeared, and in the toil of work one saw no longer a punishment decreed by God for original sin (see Genesis 3:17-19), but the possibility for the self-realization of one’s own life and for the improvement of mankind’s future (Marx). Progress in science and technology finally led to the gradual substitution of machines for many forms of human labor and to new forms of worldwide communication. In this way expanded windows of opportunity and previously unknown possibilities of creative action were developed.

Athos said...

Hey, Bud, this was worthy of a post! This is important, Aramis. Thanks so much for putting it up!

David Nybakke said...

I thought about making my comment a post, however I did not want to take away anything from your post and the importance, at least in the short term of Weigel's book.

Personally, I have tried really hard to adapt to AA's 11th tradition (not that I want to fall down on any of them) which is "attraction not promotion." The faith is passed on, one at a time, and it is effectively done ONLY through attraction and not promotion.

I also think that in today's world, the attraction of faith somehow has to be intellectually stimulating as well as spiritually invigorating. Though I am very bias here, I do think Girard and Schwager have provided a great deal of material that is grounded in Catholic principles and is rooted in scripture and tradition.

Certainly at times we can bring in and look at the errors of Islam which lead to jihadism, but our constant gaze (being picked up by those around us - mimesis) must stay on Christ and the Triune God as this gaze is reflected back at us, and it is in this gaze that the attraction then is witnessed by the eyes of others. This penetrating gaze that is reflected back at us also reveals the why and how we so often run from it and chase after others, either idolizing or scapegoating (scandal any way you look at it).

So I believe Weigel is one of our best current writers, at least in the short term, throwing out red flags about the error in our neighbors' eyes, but at a longer trajectory, Girard and Schwager give us, in the long term, a more accurate, if not more revelatory glimpse into ourselves, our history and our future.

Again, sorry for the long-windedness here, however I repeat, I do not want to take anything away from Weigel as he is a great writer in our time.

Athos said...

Aramis wrote: The faith is passed on, one at a time, and it is effectively done ONLY through attraction and not promotion


I do not want to take anything away from Weigel as he is a great writer in our time.

Too late on the latter, and, not being a practitioner of AA principles, I wonder what AA would do with Our Lord's commandment:

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature" [Mk 16,15]..

Proclaim and promote are, I believe, the same thing.

I'm not certain where you get Weigel to be an ideologue, or are you just promoting Schwager? IMO, Weigel is setting out a strategy of legitimate defense, in much the same manner that Gil Bailie has from time to time. I've actually read the book, so I do have something to go on here. Sorry.

Schwager is fine, but Weigel goes a bit further than mere "short term" importance, Aramis. I'm afraid the struggle against Jihadism will be a long and arduous one.

Also, I'm not sure even Girard would place MT above human funny business. We've seen how it can be "hot wired" by persons with very unorthodox agendas. Let's say that Girard knows -- and I'm certain he does -- that only insofar as MT serves the deposit of faith taught and safeguarded by the Church's Magisterium, is it in true relationship to the truth that sets free.

I'm nearly finished with BANISHED. I think you'd see that F,R,&tWAJ isn't as ideological and philosophical as you make out in your comments if found the time to read it.

David Nybakke said...

Not to quibble the point, but I do think there is a big difference between proclaiming and promotioning though our world distorts and misuses these words all over the place.

So thanks to your comment on the other post I have 2 perspectives that hopefully will shed a little light on "attraction not promotion".

1) When the priest-celebrant faces the altar, he looks like what he is: the leader of a community at prayer. Everyone is facing the same way; everyone is involved in the same action. When the priest faces the people, on the other hand, he appears to be a performer, with the people as his audience.


2) from AA's 11th Tradition: Let's see how these two contrasting ideas--attraction and promotion--work out. A political party wishes to win an election, so it advertises the virtues of its leadership to draw votes. A worthy charity wants to raise money; forthwith, its letterhead shows the name of every distinguished person who support can be obtained. Much of the political, economic, and religious life of the world is dependent upon publicized leadership. People who symbolize causes and ideas fill a deep human need. We of A.A. do not question that. But we do have to soberly face the fact that being in the public eye is hazardous, especially for us. By temperament, nearly every one of us had been an irrepressible promoter, and the prospect of a society composed almost entirely of promoters was frightening. Considering this explosive factor, we knew we had to exercise self-restraint.

David Nybakke said...

"and promotioning though our world distorts and misuses these words all over the place."

and in the very sentence I promptly distort promoting.