Civilization and its Discontents

Blaming the Victims
Christians in ancient Rome went to their deaths to avoid burning a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar or the other deities worshiped in the Roman State.  A friend of mine, who is ordained in a “mainline” protestant body, said he didn’t think that would be an issue now: it’s only a pinch of incense, after all, and we know – St Paul taught – the Roman deities were not deities at all. It was a worthless exercise that would have been as meaningless to us as to them: they knew that Caesar was not a divine immortal! I called bullshit on my friend: burning a pinch of incense to Caesar was saying the Roman lie was true: the state could tell us what was religion.  Christians believed that “God is the Lord and has revealed himself to us.” Truth himself is our spouse. Why would we even pretend to play with Roman lies?
It is a commonplace to say that terrorists are attacking Western Civilization. A List of Rights has been paraded about, sometimes as an answer to “Why do they hate us?” Some Honorable Personage has said “We will stand through this and freedom will spread further and further!” And there has been many cheers and tears. It will be followed, with all due speed – indeed has already been followed – by propaganda insisting that an attack on Western Civilization is an attack on Christianity.  This will be spread by Christians, as well as by politicians, and in some cases, by the terrorists as well!
It shouldn’t take much digging to realize that, short of a bomb in a Church (and sometimes not even then) no attack in any major Western City is an attack on Christianity at all.  This is because nearly no one in the West lives in what would have been called in ages past, Christendom.  Even those nations like in the British Commonwealth (with state churches or former state churches) or “Wholly Catholic Ireland”, Austria or Spain which even today enjoy the reputation of “Catholic” cultures are not. The Scandinavian cultures are not Lutheran. Even the city of Rome outside of the Vatican state, is not Roman Catholic.  In all these places it is the religion of the Enlightenment, the credo of Charlie Hebdo, of the New York Times, the Fox network, MGM, the credo of the entire modern Western world that has taken over: secularism.
Dante, I think we can agree, was an Artist.  Certainly there was some humor in his work and not a few moments of literary revenge, but, on the whole, his Divine Comedy is a very artistic rendering of Mediæval Roman Catholic teaching.  I’d go so far as to say it is a masterpiece, in the classic sense of a greatest work of his career as well as one of the greatest of all time.  In that masterpiece Dante depicts Mohammed in hell, his front splayed open like a spatchcocked chicken, because of how his false teachings had divided the world.  It is, perhaps, fair to say that no secular College Professor today would let Dante graduate with a term paper like that:  It might offend someone.  But to Dante, Mohammed wasn’t teaching a new religion: since he made false statements about Jesus and the Blessed Virgin (among other things), Mohammed was teaching heresy, pure and simple.  He’s the original Protestant, a thousand years before Luther.
I am unaware of any Muslim attempt to stop the teaching of Dante.
In our society, we don’t critique Mohammed’s religion (or any other religion) because it’s wrong.  Religion is denied this honor. We make fun of religion because it is religion. In this culture we are forbidden to engage with religion at all on its own terms. We cannot publicly acknowledge the truth claims of any religion or the conflicting truth claims of competing religions. As a French editor said on the BBC, “We cannot criticize religious believers, only religions.” That is what we all do.  Our gov’ts tell us that we cannot use our religion to make choices in public space. Our coworkers tell us we cannot be religious at our desks. Our neighbors complain when our religious observances are injected into the public space.  A religious minority is protected as a minority until it becomes religious. Ask the Mormons how they managed to get statehood for Utah.
This is what comes of a radical, secularist agenda running amok.  Fundamentalism and Fascism are the results of Secularism.  They are not two ends of the spectrum: they are in effect the same thing.  They are both the result of the fear generated by the lack of norms, morality, and God in a secular world.  This is what happens in a secular society.  We are forbidden to engage Mohammed  his own terms, so we have to treat it with a feigned polite seriousness or else make fun of it.  The same is true of Christianity which enjoys no media attention except to make fun of it, or to misstate its historic tenants based on an American invention crafted whole cloth less than 200 years ago – or some combination of the two.
Terror attacks are attacks on Western Civilization.  But Muslim attacks in Europe are not attacks on Christianity.  They are attacks on a secular fascism running all the religions out of town and trying to name its own gods. 
When France bans the wearing of of veils in public, or English workers cannot wear crosses to work; when the Native American religion is forbidden its Sacraments or American workers cannot say “Merry Christmas” in business transactions, we are crossing a line together.  It’s not the war of Muslims against Christians we’re fighting.  All religions are the victims of this state-sponsored Secularism.  Read up on Mexico’s Cristero war.  France has been fighting religions since their revolution.  Orthodox and orthodox Christians in the USA have much more in common with the oppressed Muslim minority in France than we are willing to admit.  The application of law to force of service providers against their conscience is exactly the same issue: it is the state saying “play by our rules or else”.  Or else you must suffer a two-bit band of cartoonists making fun of your religion, or else you must bake cakes for weddings you abominate, or else you must take pictures you would classify as sinful: it is only a pinch of incense after all.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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