19 August 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood, the BJP, and Prophetic Minorities

Americans are certainly concerned about the frightful collapse of order in Egypt. Popular discontent with the military autocracy of Hosni Mubarek led to the election (by a distinct but highly organized minority) of first a Parliament and then a President of the Freedom and Justice Party, a/k/a The Muslim Brotherhood. When the illiberal bona fides of Mohammed Morsi became clear, popular discontent led to his ouster and to what may turn into yet another period of autocratic rule (although the results are hardly yet clear).

Go here if you'd like to read of what Frank Raj thinks of this and what he fears is a comparable situation developing in India. I only recently came across Raj, author/journalist/blogger and his is a distinctive if typical Indian voice on the value of "faith" in distinction from the dangers of religion. Regardless of the validity of his spirituality-centered point of view, Raj's insights as an NRI (non-resident Indian) living in the Middle East on the situations in both parts of the world are valuable. His concerns about Islamism and Hindutva are the same: "People gripped by 'religionism,' are trapped in religious slavery, evident as programmed or affected zeal in people inclined to obey specified forms of controlled ritual piety." (Emphasis added.) Raj is concerned that the current assaults on a Christian minority in Egypt motivated by cynical religious/political leaders may come to pass with India's next election cycle by the even-more cynical religious/political leadership of the BJP. While Muslims have been the common object of organized religious violence in India, Christians come in for their share of localized attacks.

Turning to the Western hemisphere, the WSJ has an excellent piece here about Russell Moore, the incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. One of Moore's comments rings particularly significant in the context of Egypt and India: "'There is no Christian position on the line-item veto,' Mr. Moore says. 'There is no Christian position on the balanced-budget amendment.'" In other words, one need not be a two-kingdoms ideologue to believe that there is no specifically Christian answer to every political question. A polity dominated by Christians should leave plenty of room for not only those who disagree politically but also those of other religions. Identification of Chrisitanity with a political party in the American context will in the long run do more damage to the Church than whatever immediate gains may be achieved.

According to Moore, rather than focusing on the accumulation of raw political power, the most important "political" activity of contemporary American Christians should be to "return to the days when they were a moral example and vanguard—defenders of belief in a larger unbelieving culture." One might, echoing Alasdair MacIntrye (an early article--Mission Possible--in which I made significant use of MacIntyre is available for download from my law school web page here), had hoped for a more Church-centered observation but even so, Moore's broad point is well taken.

Which leads me here where we can read Jamie Smith's interview of David Brooks in which the same point is made implicitly. With some select exceptions, Smith and Brooks seem to agree with Moore that faithful living where we are portends better days for the affairs of society than strategizing about a return to power and tedious whining about the minutiae of governing.

One might hope that there's a third way, one that eschews a religious diktat on the line-item veto but recognizes the reality of human nature as a "given" and that there is a substantive notion of the Good. Such presuppositions frame the identification of social issues but rule out using politics to solve most of them. Moreover, such important but high-level principles rule out only a relatively few solutions even with respect to those issues for which the political process is the appropriate forum, leaving the identification of the "right" answer to a legitimately political issue to an amalgam of wisdom and historically-informed prudence.

No comments:

Post a Comment