Category Archive 'Christianity'
14 Jan 2010
Rev. Thomas Crowder of St. Columba’s, Warrenton, VA, blessing the Ashland Bassets at their opening meet last October
Personally, I tend to find the survival here in Virginia of the traditional blessing of the hounds at the commencement of the season sufficiently quaint.
In England, one clergyman, at least, has updated the antique practice of blessing the agricultural tools on Plough Monday into the blessing of his parishioners electronic gadgets. I doubt it did anything to improve Vista though.
Reverend Canon David Parrott, of the St Lawrence Jewry Church in London, blesses his parishioners’ gadgets
04 Jan 2010
Clodion, Montesquieu, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Paul Rahe, who has written a book on Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, posts on Montesquieu’s valuable observations on the changes marking the transition into Modernity in politics, religion, and war.
Montesquieu was the first to recognize that, at the end of the seventeenth century, a profound and arguably permanent transformation had taken place in European politics. He saw that commerce had replaced war as the force dominant in international relations; that a well-ordered Carthage could now defeat Rome on the field of the sword; and that, in the wake of the Glorious Revolution, Great Britain – with its separation of powers, its policy of religious toleration, its devotion to industry and trade, and its empire over the sea – had come to occupy a pre-eminence that no existing continental power could hope to challenge. That European monarchy – with its hereditary aristocracy, its ethos of honor, its suspicion of trade, and its appetite for conquest, empire, and glory – could not be sustained in an age in which money had become the sinews of war: this he also knew.
In Montesquieu’s opinion, two successive revolutions, neither likely to be reversed, provided this transformation in politics with its underpinning. The first of these took place in the sphere of religion. Montesquieu was persuaded that Machiavelli was correct in supposing that, when Christianity supplanted paganism, it made classical republicanism obsolete.
When the virtue of the ancients was “in full force,” Montesquieu writes in The Spirit of Laws, “they did things that we no longer see & which astonish our little souls.” If his contemporaries are unable to rise to the same level, it is, he suggests, because the “education” given the ancients “never suffered contradiction” while “we receive three educations different” from and even “contrary” to one another: “that of our fathers, that of our schoolmasters, that of the world. What we are told in the last overthrows the ideas imparted by the first two.” In short, there is now “a contrast between the engagements” which arise “from religion” and “those” which arise “from the world” that “the ancients knew nothing of.” This is why the moderns possess such “little souls.”
Read the whole thing.
27 Sep 2006
Lee Harris, in the Weekly Standard, interprets the Pope’s recent speech (which so thoroughly upset the Saracens) as a message to the modern rationalist secular community of the West.
To the modern atheist, both (the Christian and the Islamic) Gods are equally figments of the imagination, in which case it would be ludicrous to discuss their relative merits. The proponent of modern reason, therefore, could not possibly think of participating in a dialogue on whether Christianity or Islam is the more reasonable religion, since, for him, the very notion of a “reasonable religion” is a contradiction in terms.
Ratzinger wishes to challenge this notion, not from the point of view of a committed Christian, but from the point of view of modern reason itself. He does this by calling his educated listeners’ attention to a “dialogue—carried on—perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara—by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.” In particular, Ratzinger focuses on a passage in the dialogue where the emperor “addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness” on the “central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’”
Ratzinger’s daring use of this provocative quotation was not designed to inflame Muslims. He was using the emperor’s question in order to offer a profound challenge to modern reason from within. Can modern reason really stand on the sidelines of a clash between a religion that commands jihad and a religion that forbids violent conversion? Can a committed atheist avoid taking the side of Manuel II Paleologus when he says: “God is not pleased by blood—and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. . . . Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. . . . To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.”
Modern science cannot tell us that the emperor is right in his controversy with the learned Persian over what is or is not contrary to God’s nature. Modern reason proclaims such questions unanswerable by science—and it is right to do so. But can modern reason hope to survive as reason at all if it insists on reducing the domain of reasonable inquiry to the sphere of scientific inquiry? If modern reason cannot take the side of the emperor in this debate, if it cannot see that his religion is more reasonable than the religion of those who preach and practice jihad, if it cannot condemn as unreasonable a religion that forces atheists and unbelievers to make a choice between their intellectual integrity and death, then modern reason may be modern, but it has ceased to be reason.
Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.
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