Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ave, Nathan!

Nathan Bauman writes a very thoughtful post about religion and culture here. He and I share many of the same concerns about the future.

One thing I'll note: while Nathan and I were slaughtering sandwiches at the local Subway resto down the street from Smoo campus, we talked about the phenomenon of religious jurisprudence in supposedly secular cultures. It's not as shocking or novel as one might think, even though the question of Shari'a operating in Western countries has been in the news for a while.

I'm a Presbyterian elder, and my church, the PCUSA, has a two-book constitution: (1) the Book of Confessions, which tracks the evolution of our church's creeds; and (2) the Book of Order, which contains rules regarding how to conduct certain types of church meetings, how to handle disciplinary issues, etc. The Catholic Church, of course, has its canon law, and other churches have their own methods for addressing the varied concerns of a community of faith. These methods and rules are often found nestled inside a larger, pluralistic, Western secular context. Viewed from this perspective, Shari'a isn't quite as shocking as it may first seem (in our discussion, Nathan also mentioned the highly developed Jewish jurisprudential system).

The main difference, though, between Christian and Muslim believers living together in modern Western countries is that Christians are more likely to possess some notion of secularity: that the "law of the land" is, practically speaking, the more binding law (how many laypeople in my church are even aware of how Presbyterian self-governance and polity work?). Islam, still generally lacking any sense of the secular, offers Shari'a to its people as a complete legal system that is not to be considered somehow separate from the rest of a pious Muslim's quotidian existence.

I've advocated injecting Islam with a strong dose of Western-style secularism, but I suspect that, as many folks more knowledgeable than I have argued, the dose will have to be self-administered. Will this happen anytime soon? I doubt it.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words and the link, Kevin.

About church law, I've always thought that in the context of the secular state, church law was more or less "for pretend"--and only for those in the group. I have a funny feeling that that may be incorrect. Anyway, what I don't like is that the values of Sharia would be given tacit approval by the national legal system of Canada, which is what was at stake in Ontario last year.