The Significance in Populism, Jihadism and Communism

The Significance in Populism, Jihadism and Communism

Why do individuals turn to extreme solutions in their quest for a life of significance?

There is a current running through right-wing populism which links with the insecurity experienced by those in the Middle East who have lashed out against the West. People yearn for a life of significance. To belong to something greater than themselves. This is the offer of religion, which cannot be matched by atheism, scientism or any -ism which strips the sacred from daily life. Read more about The Significance in Populism, Jihadism and Communism

American(ized) #Islam

American(ized) #Islam

Culture and religion, no matter how universal we may want to view the latter’s principles, are inexorably tied. Islam strives to be a religion sans culture, stressing its universality. Due to its founding in the Arabian peninsula, it makes sense that Islamic practice is fundamentally mixed up with tied to the cultures of the Arab world.

But that has not prevented the religion from being adopted in unique ways by non-Arab Muslims around the world. In fact, less than 20% of the world’s Muslims hail from the Middle East. Nigerian Islam and Bangladeshi Islam may share the same underlying principles but their expressions will be different because culture cannot be subsumed under religion.

Region Population Percent of total regional population Percent of world Muslim population
South & Southeast Asia 1,005,507,000 24.8 62.1
Middle East-North Africa 321,869,000 91.2 19.9
Sub-Saharan Africa 242,544,000 29.6 15
Europe 44,138,000 6 2.7
Americas 5,256,000 0.6 0.3
World Total 1,619,314,000 23.4 100

(Source: Wikipedia – Islam by Country/Region)

It stands to reason that American Islam should also have its own character. I’ve written before about the need to find a new way to educate Muslims, that is not so reductive. Richard Mouw, writing in First Things, touches upon a separate complaint that others have brought up:

I read recently that some young Muslims in the United States are complaining that what goes on in their mosques is not “American” enough. They say that the patterns of worship and religious education seem designed to preserve the connections to the countries from which their Muslim communities emigrated, while these young folks want their faith to guide them in their lives in America. Shouldn’t their leaders be doing more, they ask, to help them understand how their faith applies to the country of which they are now citizens?

(H/T as always to Rod Dreher for linking to Mouw’s article). Read more about American(ized) #Islam

Where Have All the Lone Star Liberals Gone?

Where Have All the Lone Star Liberals Gone?

Prajwal Kulkarni makes an interesting statement about diversity in an essay entitled, “Who Speaks for the Black Pentacostal”:

Whatever their differences, they [Christians] should remember that the Church is ultimately one body that is united by the blood and Spirit of Christ above all else. As a first step, such Christian unity is more than diversity enough. That alone would achieve a level of racial and socioeconomic diversity the secular left can’t even dream of.

At that point, after they have realized it’s possible to fellowship and form bonds with people much different than them, white Christian conservatives will hopefully find it easier to relate to people like my deeply Hindu aunt. Maybe then they will see that she considers home-schooling her daughters for the same sorts of reasons some of them do. Maybe then they can also reach some of my Muslim — yes, I did say Muslim — college friends, many of whom valued abstinence as much as the average member of Campus Crusade for Christ. Maybe then they’ll understand that they’re not the only ones uncomfortable with a hyper-sexualized culture, and that social conservatives can include more than white Christians.

Click here to read the whole essay.

The ideological lines of our political parties used to be blurred. When Texas was blue but still socially conservative. When a Tennessean could be liberal, advocate for farm policies and be a Republican and not accused of being a RINO. Such characters still exist in public life but their numbers are dwindling.

Religion symbols

There’s no reason why the current ideological positions of the parties should be so fast and hard. Being religious shouldn’t mean that you automatically have to sell out to free market libertarianism. Being a social liberal shouldn’t mean that you must accede to increasing government regulations on businesses. Rod Dreher describes himself as a Crunchy Con and the subtitle on his first book reads, “How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature… America (or at least the Republican Party).” Read more about Where Have All the Lone Star Liberals Gone?

The Moral Therapeutic Deism of ISIS

The Moral Therapeutic Deism of ISIS

Rod Dreher, in a characteristically brilliant post entitled When ISIS Ran the American South, reminds us that no society is too far removed, historically-speaking, from the brutality inflicted by the likes of ISIS.  There is a time within recorded memory, not ancient history, when Americans did unspeakable things to each other and made a religion out of their actions. Lest we forget, lest we start to navel gaze too much.

ISIS filmed that poor Jordanian pilot burning to death as an act of revenge and terror. We call those Islamist fanatics animals. But white people did this often, and sometimes even made a public spectacle of it. “The white men, women, and children present watched the horrific murders while enjoying deviled eggs, lemonade, and whiskey in a picnic-like atmosphere.”

By Fred Gildersleeve (1881-1958) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The whole post and the comments section are well worthy of your time. Of particular import is this comment:

I had to understand how all of this happened. How could Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians in the South NOT have put a stop to this when they had the social and cultural power to do so? Why did Southern Evangelicals become chaplains to the racist South? So, I investigated it and wrote a book about it. I had to get answers. What I ultimately found is that their main concern, initially, was that they protect their own way of life and their own prosperity. Racism was a way to do that for Southern whites and religion became useful when it was seen as was a way to give their impulse sanction. But, we still do this today. We still remake God in our own image and see Him as a means to an end – our own end of blessing our life. That is what Southern Christians (and non-Christians did – but you know like I do that everyone thought they were a Christian, or claimed to be. Almost everyone, anyway). They were the original Moralistic Therapeutic Deists. They devised a religion that worked for them and supported them in the construction of the society that they wanted. It was a mess. [emphasis mine]

It occurs to me that this is the very thing which ISIS is doing. Not simply that they are using my religion, but that they are constructing their very own religion. Years ago, while traveling through Morocco, I watched a BBC Asia interview of a Malaysian Islamic terrorist who was serving a long prison sentence. The interviewer held up a Qur’an and asked the man to point out what passage he used to justify his violent views. The terrorist declared that his justification lay not in the Qur’an. But that he and his ilk were following the teachings and orders of Osama Bin Laden and other ‘leaders’ who had called for violent jihad. It’s worth repeating the comment from above:

They devised a religion that worked for them and supported them in the construction of the society that they wanted. It was a mess.

Read more about The Moral Therapeutic Deism of ISIS

Bite Me, Tiger Mom

Bite Me, Tiger Mom

One of the commenters over at Rod Dreher’s blog made such an astute and balanced thought that Rod had to single it out. And so do I:

Speaking as a Korean-American who was raised in a high-pressure home environment (though not to the extreme of Tiger Mother, which my mother found much too harsh), there are definitely diminishing returns to the methods described by Chua. Success appears defined in narrow, materialistic terms, and thus the only incentives appear to be either increased wealth or improved status. As Engineer Scotty points out, there seems to be little room to consider the common good, and how best one can serve it. But acquiring wealth and status are different things from finding one’s vocation, of committing oneself to work that one loves or that is rewarding because it helps others. Being under stress to excel academically tends to destroy the joy of learning and make one averse to taking risks or to trying something new. To truly excel at anything, one must learn how to challenge oneself, rather than respond to external pressure or even material incentives. There is a barrier to true and substantive achievement beyond receiving top grades or academic recognition that can only be cleared by the love of one’s work and a sense of duty to one’s discipline. Dangling prizes like money and status is a substitute for true accomplishment, and achievement that is purely directed toward material gain and social status is not likely to be lasting. [Bold mine]

I grew up in much the same environment as the commenter – high-pressure to succeed (South) Asian environment but not as bad as Tiger Momma. My parents worshiped at the altar of PhysicsChemistryBiologyandMathematics. All one word, always together. The sciences, anything that can be measured, quantified not qualified. Arts & culture played a role in our lives but were never placed on the same plane as PhysicsChemistryBiologyandMathematics. I can still hear my parents making fun of people who were “Shakespearean Drama” majors. I don’t even know if that major exists. (It probably does).


Read more about Bite Me, Tiger Mom