complikate

I said I’d post in my holidays and now they are over and all I have posted is two memes. Sorry. I’ve had blogger’s block. Not because I haven’t had anything to write about but because I think I’ve had too much to write about and all my thoughts have been too complicated to express succinctly. This is the catch up post. If you can ride out the tumultuous waves of my thoughts here, you can wade out anything! Game?

Ok. So, there is absolutely heaps I have been thinking about lately. Some of it personal, some political. I’ll start with the political cause it’s easier to express. For those of you who hate political debate, know that I’d appreciate your thoughts and ideas anyway and that I do not intend for this to turn into an argument – although you can disagree with me – , it’s a reflection of my thoughts and an expression of ideas. 🙂

In teaching Studies of Religion to Year 12 last term I have been researching Islam. In the syllabus we are to study a person significant to the development of Islam and the impact of their ideas on the religion. We studied Sayyid Qutb.

Qutb is an intellectual who is interesting for many reasons. His ideas have been said to have influenced fundamentalist Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda. Australians may also be aware of recent claims that Qutb has heavily influenced the controversial Sheik Hilali, ex Grand Mufti of Australia. Yet Qutb’s writings contain a desire for morality that I know many Christians would agree with. For example, read the opening introduction to his book Milestones, the manifesto he was executed for writing:

Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice, not because of the danger of complete annihilation which is hanging over its head-this being just a symptom and not the real disease -but because humanity is devoid of those vital values which are necessary not only for its healthy development but also for its real progress. Even the Western world realises that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind. It knows that it does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence.

I do not know a Christian who would disagree with this. Qutb’s assessment of Western society is spot on. We are materialistic and immoral. Qutb is right. He is a very intriguing character. Intriguing but wrong.

Qutb’s soloution to the immorality and materialism of Western society was to establish an Islamic State governed by Sharia Law established through jihad if necessary. Despite many arguments as to what true Islamic jihad may mean, – namely a personal striving in the way of Allah – Qutb’s writings do define jihad in militaristic terms.

Knowing this caused me to think that we are really waging this ‘war on terror’ in precisely the wrong way. Any military attack on an organisation which adheres to Qutb’s philosophy is destined to make fundamentalist Muslims fight harder. It is clear that this is a war of ideologies. If we are to have any impact perhaps we need to develop ideas and philosophy that address the criticisms Qutb had of Western society. But we’ll never do that because we, in the West, love our materialism and immorality too much. So much that we’ll fight to maintain it. And sadly, we fight for the right to choose how we live our lives thinking we are free when really it is these very things that enslave us. Ironic.

What Qutb failed to note was that we are all immoral, East and West alike because this comes from within us not society, and no amount of military might can save us from this. Nothing can save us from this but the intervention of God Himself, not Allah because he offers no assurance of salvation, but Christ and Christ alone. Knowing this raises this question for me: What as Christians should be our response to the Sayyid Qutbs, Sheik Hilalis and Osama bin Ladens of the world? Is it worth engaging in a philosophical or militant battle? Should we simply recognise that this is a spiritual battle and pray? Should we do a combination of these things?

(I was going to go on with other complikated thoughts but I will leave them for later as this post is arduous enough, I’m sure.)

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7 Responses to “complikate”

  1. marion Says:

    MissM, a wise & thought provoking post. You are right, prayer is vital.

    The free gift of grace, so much better than 72 virgins or whatever…

    & my heart goes out to women who are trapped in it.

    Marion

  2. kim from hiraeth Says:

    Prayer and the Gospel.

    You’re right. It is an ideological issue. Only the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” and only the Gospel can change the heart and mind.

  3. Paul Says:

    Absolutely.

    I’ve had the conversation with Muslims about where evil comes from – that it is in our hearts, not what we actually do, and what we need is a new heart – to be born again, of the Spirit, exactly as Jesus said to Nicodemus, without the trivialising of the term that has happened in our day.

    In actual fact, although Shari’ah may from the point of view of Islamic teachers be a way to achieve a purer society, from the point of view of “the man or woman on the street”, it probably has less effect. It has been suggested that the reason it is considered so much more desirable by Islamic men in western countries is because the values in those countries have undermined the ability of those men to control women.

    Now, how did you get those ideas across to Y12 students?

    Paul

  4. Steve G Says:

    Very good insights there Mel,
    I would go further to say that the current culture war with islam is a direct result of the failure of Christian churches to take seriously the mandate to take the gospel into all the world.
    Yet, consider what can be acheived when one man takes the Lord’s mandate seriously.
    You may not be aware that Ethiopia experienced significant ongoing revival over many years, and the man God chose to use was an Australian. Dick McLellan has written a significant book “Warriors of Ethiopia” which highlights this man’s deep heart commitment to bringing the gospel to the lost.
    Through his ministry a church planting/revival movement took up that survived and even flourished under communist persecution of Christians under the Derg. Major regions were changed from darkness to light, as the gospel flourished through the work of SIM and Gospel (now Language) Recordings.
    I chanced to meet a missionary to Kenya in Nashville TN some years ago who said “Next to David Livingstone, this man will go down in history as having the most significant effect on East Africa of any missionary.”
    When we think of islamic insurgency, we rarely think of Ethiopia. We always think of Somalia. What made the difference between these two neighbouring countries? One man was sold out to praying for the lost and reaching them with gospel of Christ. And that nation was changed significantly through his witness.
    The warfare is primarily spiritual, and the christian churches have failed to meet their obligation in this conflict.
    Steve

  5. missmellifluous Says:

    Paul, My Yr 12 students stayed with it all pretty well. We read the introduction and chapter 4 of Qutb’s Milestones– well, the excerpts I thought were most relevant – and broke it down, slowly. We discussed what we agreed with in Qutb’s ideology and where exactly we, as Christians, differed. Then it became obvious that the way to fight ideas is not with weapons. Warfare only makes those who think they are acting justly more determined. It in a way proves their opposition barbaric and ignorant. I think we show this when we take a complex ideology and fight it with guns. We’re not fighting the real battle at all.

    I would like to see people, Christian people, address the ideology behind the actions of fundamentalist Islam. Where are our thinkers? Where are our philosophers and ideologists? Where are the Christians who should be saying, “Islamic thinkers have some very valid criticisms of our society: we are too materialistic and immoral. What are we going to do about it?” Sure there is hypocrisy on both sides. Both sides act immorally. But to engage on a purely military level is superficial.

    So, I am left to wonder:
    Where are our thinkers?
    How are our world leaders engaging with the ideas that promote fundamentalist Islamic fervour?

    Do you know of anyone who is doing this?

  6. Paul Says:

    These are questions that need to be asked.

    I don’t believe the people you are looking for can be found in politics, which rather than being consensual, is largely adversarial in the developed world. Similarly in the media.

    Liberal christianity is prepared to dialogue with other faiths, but the price is forsaking belief in absolute truth. “Conservative” christianity may refuse to engage with the rest of the world, for fear of contamination.

    There are reformed/evangelical Christian scholars who take seriously the challenges of our time, and seek to apply the Bible to the world around them. There are various missionaries, who generally seek not to draw attention to themselves, who are seeking to engage with the Muslim community in various places. If they are good missionaries, they will be culturally aware of issues like this. There are Bible teachers who are influencing significant sections of the evangelical church, as well as their local communities. Look at the way in which Francis Schaeffer taught people to engage with the world – and the impact this has had on people like Os Guinness, and hence to us. Tim Keller? – have a look at this article, from which I have picked out this quote. We must not form 1) a sub-culture in which we externally dress and talk (dialect) differently avoid certain gross behaviors, but internally we have the same values as the surrounding culture. (E.g. believers may not smoke or drink too much or have sex outside of marriage, yet in their core beings they may be as materialistic and individualistic, and status- or image-conscious as the society around.) We must also not form 2) an anti-culture in which Christians feel highly polluted by the very presence of the unbelieving schools, entertainment, arts, and culture. In this model they feel they cannot really function in the society without getting the cultural power back through legislation and storming institutions directly. We must also not form 3) a para-culture expecting a miraculous, sweeping intervention by God which will convert many or most individuals and explosively transform the culture. Instead of becoming deeply engaged with the society and people around them, working with others as co-citizens to deal with the troubles and problems, believers concentrate completely on evangelism and discipleship building up the church and their own numbers. Rather we should form 4) a counter-culture. This is the reverse of a ‘sub-culture’–we are to be externally quite like the surrounding culture (positive toward and conversant with it), without ‘jargon’ and other Christians trappings–yet in worldview, values, and lifestyle, they demonstrate chastity, simplicity, humility and self-sacrifice. They are quite different in the way they understand money, relationships, human life, sex, and so on. Hananiah is an example of the ‘para-culture’ in Jer.28; Jeremiah is a proponent of the ‘counter-culture’ in Jer.29.

    Miss, dear heart, what’s really important when you see things like this is to hold onto them, in the presence of God – pray about them, and ask God to use you for his glory. Most people – even most Christians – don’t see these things, and God almost incomprehensibly chooses to work through weak, small people like us. Perhaps you are here for such a time as this ….

  7. missmellifluous Says:

    🙂
    Great quote, Paul.
    Point 4 is where it’s at, I think. In so many areas we need to live counter-culturally. Thanks for understanding what I’m getting at. I’m going to read that article.

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