Monday, October 02, 2006

Religious Absolutism

Reading Turbulent Souls led to the following reflection:

One of the less attractive features that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have in common is a significant number of loveless (no hateful) fanatics. Whatever territory they control some of them will to go to any length to protect the purity of their environment.

Stephem Dubner, born in New York in 1963, was in the third generation of a family of Polish Hasidic Jews who had settled in Brooklyn among multitudes of people of the same persuasion.

Stephen's father and mother grew beyond the tribalistic culture of their birth; his father served in the Army in WWII, and his mother began a budding career in ballet. They rubbed shoulders with gentiles, which most of their families had never done. More, they wandered into a community of Catholic youth, and in the course of time they became ardent Catholics; in their language they converted.

Their children were raised just a strictly, not to say rigidly, as they had been, but of a different religion. But these children went into the secular world and did not seem to be affected by the religious rigidity of their Catholic parents or Jewish grandparents.

There had been practically no communication across the first two generations. Stephen studied at Appalachian St. Univ in NC and then moved to New York City. Curious about his ancestors he restablished a relationship (after many lost years) and became better and better acquainted with the Jewish culture.

With Turbulent Souls Stephen Dubner has written a spiritual autobiography of the highest caliber.

Three examples came to mind of religious absolutism at its worst:

1. When Stephen's father became a Catholic his grandfather acted as if he had died and thereafter refused any further contact with him; he forbid his son's name to be mentioned.

2. Large numbers of Christian fundamentalists today support Israel avidly, not through any sense of kinship but because they hope to see them provoke Armageddon, a preliminary to The Rapture, where they expect to be definitively and finally separated from the rest of us.

In the last century bigoted and violent Catholics in at least one large South American country cut off the right hand of any Protestants they could find.

3. We have already been adequately exposed to the excesses of Islamic absolutists.

Thankfully a large proportion (probably the majority) of Christians, Jews and Muslims have not been infected by the aggressively exclusivistic brands of their faith. Love and charity are universal and include not only these three faiths but many others.

1 comment:

Larry said...

"Wal-Mart as [is] a form of cultural and economic imperialism here (in Can. and US). In Honduras it's a form of salvation for people who were living at a starvation scale. My post is an attempt to get people to think globally rather than parochially. So I would have to ask you are you a Canadian Christian or a plain Christian? (trying to preach prophetically!)

Paul, I'm on the fence re globalization, too, but it seems to be coming regardless, like gravity. The alternative is jingoistic nationalism, which would likely lead us to something like the first half of the 20th century--only bigger and better.

I also agree that poverty and wealth can both be bad, but the person struggling to avoid starvation is going to be rather subjective about it (and he is my brother!) I'd equally like to limit wealth--if I knew any way.

Barnett truly believes that what he calls "connectivity" is our best chance to avoid the horrors of WW.
He also paints a rosy scenario.

I'm on the fence about his thesis, too. It's a pretty picture, but he doesn't seem to be aware of suffering anywhere.

Our churches seem to have succeeded outstandingly in bringing people to that comfort level.