To say that we live a time of extremes would be a monumental understatement. It is no coincidence that extreme forms of political ideology have emerged in the last 50-plus years, equally able to gobble up followers on the Left as well as the Right. Traditional theological movements have found themselves scrambling to find dry ground as the deluge of liberalism and conservatism threatens to wash them away. As a result we see before our very eyes the evolution, or dare I say de-evolution of religious and theological thought. An example is the above image outside of a church located near Culver City, boasting a sign inviting the skeptical with the words, “NO JUDGEMENTOnly Love”.
That most of Christianity has capitulated to the demands of western secularism—few have chosen to take Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option—is undebatable. What is worthy of interrogation is whether or not Muslims will have the courage to chart their own course, navigate and negotiate the demands of American secularism, and have the requisite literacy to understand that there can be no community without sound judgment and morality and the insight to understand there is a fine line between judgment and condemnation.
During the 2018 Blackamerican Muslim Conference there were a few instances when modernity, liberalsim, and progressivism—amongst other ideals—were evoked and discussed. Often these philosophies are discussed in relation to the so-called immigrant Muslim community and how it affects them. But these philosophies and value systems impact the Blackamerican Muslim community as well. As I mentioned in my last post, my hope is to delve a little deeper into these topics so as to raise our literacy on the forces acting upon us. I found Steven Seidman’s phrase, “problems of meaning” aptly titled and insightful. In short, Seidman defines the “problems of meaning” as,
“a pervasive uncertainty regarding ultimate beliefs and values, confusing images of self, society and nature, and the ceaseless conflict over the ends, rules, and norms in terms of which personal and collective life is organized and legitimated.”
“For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality, and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline, and virtue. For the modern, the cardinal problem is how to conform reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.” — C. S. Lewis
There was an interesting interview today on WBUR’s On Point in which Tom Ashbrook interviewed Rod Dreher, author of the new book, “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation“. In it, Dreher articulates something that I’ve heard kicked around in Muslim circles, namely what do we do about, what Zygmunt Bauman termed “liquid modernity”. Bauman felt this term was more articulate than postmodern in trying to describe the phenomenon of a constantly changing society, especially one driven by technology. The interview also showcases some competing ideas between Dreher and his fellow conservative Andrew Sullivan (author of “The Conservative Soul“). I look forward to reading and discussing Dreher’s book at Middle Ground as part of our book club, starting after Ramadan, God willing.
Edward Humes Garbology is a fascinating read. In it, he points to numerous challenges plaguing modern man, namely the issue of waste and how it not only degrades the natural environment but actually cases harm to humans. I know many secular humanists who hold to the notion that, to quote Matt Damon’s botanist, Mark Watney, “I’m gonna have to have to science the shit out of this”.
But what’s most striking is that it’s science, or perhaps more accurately, scientism, that got us into this issue in the first place. I make the designation of scientism, in that it is precisely that humanist strain of science which has sought to divorce itself from religious and spiritual ethics. Humanism, according to dictionary definition is “a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual”. It is specifically this “autonomous self”, detached from the natural world — through its “rational” mechanics — which gives license to itself to treat the world as mere objects, having no sign or significance beyond their molecules and atoms.
So how, precisely, are we going to science the feces out of our conundrum when the malady points to a much deeper diagnosis: schizophrenic god-complex. Schizophrenia in that modern man is caught between expelling God and attempting to be God himself. Thus far, the “science-ing the shit out of this” theory doesn’t seem to hold water.