Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NOTES: Faiths in Conflict? by Vinoth Ramachandra

Vinoth Ramachandra, Faiths in Conflict? Christian Integrity in a Multicultural World
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1999)

p. 19 Fred Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: "Whatever else, the image of a timeless 'Islam' is not just the fabrication of fevered Western minds."
(p. 111)
p. 20 Rushdie's Satanic Verses as a dual reflection on a migrant Muslim's alienation from both his new culture and his past culture
p. 21 the myth of the dar-ul Islam
p. 23 dhimmis, religious ghettos for non-Muslims; Bat Ye'or "points out that Islamic civilization 'glowed in the full blaze of its glory', not in Mecca or Medina but 'in the lands of dhimmitude…."
(The Decline of Christendom Under Islam [London, AUP, 1996], p. 217)
p. 24 "The first known scientific work in Arabic was a treatise on medicine, written in Greek by Ahrun, a Christian priest from Alexandria, and translated from Syriac into Arabic in 683 by a Jewish doctor from Basrah (Iraq).
[n. 22: Bat Ye'or, op. cit. p. 233]
p. 25 nizam hukm islami, Islamic government, a formulation that never existed in the Qur'an or the Sunna
[n. 26: Bishara, in The Next Threat, eds. Hippler and Lueg, p. 92]
p. 27 "Azmy Bishara reminds us that the Muslim religion is primarily not one of legislation and law––unlike Judaism, in which halakah orders cultural relations…. ‘The Koran has 6,000 verse, of which 700 deal with religious laws governing ubadah and mu'amalat (i.e. Matters between person and God and matters between persons and their neighbors). Only 200 of these actually prescribe "laws" dealing with matters of conjugal, inheritance and criminal law. In addition, the validity of some verse is canceled out by others, so that, in all, there are no more than 80 verses that can actually be said to "lay down the law" in any unequivocal sense.'"
[n. 30: Bishara, op. cit., p. 93]
p. 27 ijma: consensus, qiyas, a process of analogical reasoning; "It is this humanly evolved and variously codified body of legal material that has come to be referred to by the misleading term shari'a."
p. 28 shari'a like the Hindu concept of dharma, 'good order'; hudud punishments taken from the Sunna and, e.g., the hudud against blasphemy of recent and dubious origin
p. 29 Muhammad Iqbal (1873–1038), revered leader of Pakistan, advocate of separate country for Indian Muslims, "was one reformer who, arguing from a strict position of sola Scriptura, opposed the reintroduction of shari'a penal code."
p. 33 Most modern Muslim states are cosignatories of the UN Article 18 on Human Rights, viz., freedom of religion; "Consequently, those Muslims who demand the adoption of Islamic forms of government and the imposition of laws discriminating against non-Muslims, are not fighting against alien forces bent on colonial domination but fellow Muslims in their own societies…"
p. 34 occidentalism and orientalism both reductive
p. 37 contra Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, "…the fact that such concepts as such human rights and democracy have originated in European societies does not deny their universal validity, any more than in the case of natural science."
p. 38 "Moreover, talk of incompatibility between Western civilization and Islamist militancy is contradicted by recent history, which affords countless examples of American complicity with brutal Islamist regimes and movements."
E.g. US support for Zia ul-Haq in order to give the Mujahidin a base to fight in Afghanistan; "The Gulf War contradicts Huntington's prediction that conflicts between civilizations will be more likely than conflicts within the same civilization."
p. 41–43
1) we should avoid using religious categories to describe and ethnic or cultural group;
2) we should apply the same standards to political phenomena in other societies that we apply to our own;
3) it is hypocritical of nations to sign Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and oppose religious freedom;
4) we must seriously explore the faiths and cultures of others
p. 46 "…it is extremely rare to meet a Muslim who has made a serious study of the New Testament."

p. 50 Hindutva, or Hindu revival, the political assertion of 'Hinduness', in which, e.g., India is not referred to as Bharat, one of the brothers of Ram (mythical)
p. 51
the RSS, Rashtrya Swayamseval Sangh, the National Volunteer Association, was founded in 1925;
rashtra 'nation', "stressed the supposedly common Aryan ethnic and linguistic heritage of those opposed to Muslim expansion.";
the VHP, Vishwa Hindu Parashad, the World Hindu Council, founded in 1964, centrally comprised of sadhus (monks) as gurus;
the BJP, founded in 1980 out of the earlier nationalist party, Jan Sangh; linked to the RSS is the Shiv Sena (Army of Shiva), militant, founded 1966
p. 52 1948 the Indian constitution abolished 'untouchability'
p. 54 Ram and Babur qua Hinduism and Islam; Ram is a manifestation (avatara) of Vishnu, to preserve the moral order (dharma); most amenable to utopian projects, for in the Ramayana he created the state (rajya) that best instantiates righteousness on earth, Rama-rajya; the Ramayana utopianism is pushed as a middle-class ideal of abolishing all 'non-Hindu' elements in India
p. 56 Romila Thapar has written of the 'semitization' of Indian religion: historical prophet, sacred book, geographical origins, ecclesiastical community––all as steps in religious nationalism
[n. 14: Romila Thapar, "A Historical Perspective…", in Gopal ed., Anatomy of a Confrontation [India: Penguin, 1991], p. 159]
but 'Hindu' was not originally a religious term, denoting simply inhabitants east of the Indus River: "None of the Hindu sacred texts even once mentions the word 'Hindu'."
p. 59 Prior to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, whereupon the British restricted Muslims as alleged agitators of the mutiny, Muslims and Hindus had intermingled quite well
p. 60 the Cow Protection Movement of the late C19, initiated by reformists, the Arya Samaj, was "particularly directed at defining the Hindu community against Muslim beef-eaters and British rulers."
p. 62 as late as 1946, the British Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell, confessed he saw the mainspring of Hindu-Muslim conflict as lying 'in the fear of economic determination rather than differences of religion.'
[n. 26: Gopal ed., Anatomy, p. 13, from Lord Wavell to Sir A. Chow, Transfer of Power, vol. 8, Document 414, 7 Oct 1946]
p. 63 ironically orientalist portrayal of Hindu innocence (à la Ashis Nandy) and myths of New Age, vegetarian, tolerant, egalitarian, eco-sensitive ancient India
Intimate Enemy (Delhi: OUP, 1983), p. ix.
p. 'traditional Hinduism' sanatana** dharma ('eternal religion'); "The move from the 'global' to the 'local' and the 'indigenous' is not necessarily a move from tyranny to freedom.";
Fred Halliday, pace E. Said's assumption that colonists always misperceive colonized, says, "the very fact of trying to subjugate a country would to some degree involve producing an accurate picture of it."
[n. 32: Fred Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation (London: Tauris, 1996), pp. 213–214]
p. 65 Vedic obligation, ritual, revealed by ancient sages (risi) as preservation of dharma; "One striking feature of Hinduism is that practice takes precedence over belief."
[n. 34: Gavin Flood, An Intro. To Hinduism (Cambridge: CUP, 1996), p. 12]
p. 66 social position (varna), one's stage in life (asrama), all of which is incorporated into vanasrama-dharma
p. 67 the Gupta period of Indian history (c. 320–600 AD) as the 'Golden Age' of India;
jati refers to 'birth' or 'caste' as well as to all levels of being;
the avoidance of pollution as preeminent concern of vanasrama-dharma
[hence, the Untouchables dispose of feces and filth to preserve the Brahman]
p. 68
Brahman suppression of insurrection by violence;
no universal moral code for all levels jati: "Caste morality is based on the assumption that what other call 'humanity' is really composed of groups f different natures (guna) who thus inhabit different locations in ritual space."
[cf. Bhagavad Gita, 18.47]
p. 69 this made for extreme intolerance of deviance in one's caste and extreme tolerance towards other castes
p. 70 the present evil age, Kali Yuga
p. 70 secundum Wendy O'Flaherty, the puranic and dharmasastra texts of the Gupta period were weapons waged in a war between sanatana** dharma against Jains and Buddhists, viewed as heretics, which, in time led to the phenomenon of sadhus, 'soldier monks', insofar as fighting societies (nagas) have long formed part of Hindu religious society
p. 71 "The VHP/RSS propaganda romanticizes the militant sadhus of the eighteenth century, depicting them as forerunners of modern-day nationalists…."
p. 72 Rajmohan Ramanathapillai, from Jaffa, has argued that the success of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas stems from a vast manipulation of military and cosmological imagery in the Puranas and epics, which indicate that violence and coercion are necessary for the maintenance of social and cosmic dharma, esp. against heretics (nastikas) and barbarians (mlecchas)
Sacred Symbols and the Adoption of Violence in Tamil Politics in Sri Lanka (unpublished MA thesis, McMCaster U., Canada, 1991)
p. 73 advaita Vedanta teaches the highest truth is non-duality (advaita), like a pair of pants: plural below, single above
p. 74 "…religious pluralism masquerading as tolerance. Pluralism is ultimately undermined, because the 'Other' is never taken seriously as a challenge to the entire framework of discourse. Radical differences can never become the occasion for debate and self-questioning, because it is assumed at the outset that such differences do not affect our final destination. … the Christian Scriptures question the naïve belief that we are all seekers after Truth…."
p. 75, "…the possibility of conversion is what make dialogue real and exciting."
p. 75, becoming sannyasin (homeless, wandering ascetic) is traditionally the only way to escape caste status, in a quest for moksa (liberation)
p. 76, secundum Louis Dumont Brahmanical religion characteristically absorbed values like ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism as originally 'renouncer values' (i.e., of mendicant Jains)
[n. 60: 'World Renunciation in Indian Religions', Contributions to Indian Sociology 4 (1960), p. 47]
p. 77, Bartholomew Ziegenbalg (1682–1719), education progress
p. 78, secundum Richard Young "the wheel of social change in South Asia has a Christian hub and a Buddhist-Hindu rim."
[n. 63: R. Young, 'Ripple of Wave?', unpublished paper delivered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 8 February 1992]
Ghandi's ahimsa and satyagraha (truth-force) were inculcated from 'renouncer' sources like Jainism and the NT
p. 80, the 'Protestantization' of Hindu and Buddhist religion involved a more text-based approach to religion
p. 82 "…the 'core' beliefs and rituals that comprise what has been called 'Hinduism' deeply discourage the formation of a collective religious identity…. those outside the 'twice-born' as less than human… organized violence as a time-honoured, legitimate way of resolving religious disputes… suppression of genuine 'otherness'… assimilation of tribal groups and other religious communities into a pan-Hindu…."

p. 96 "…a unique historical experience of Yahweh's character…. While Yahweh works in all nations, in no nation other than Israel did he act for the sake of all nations."
p. 100 "The prophets spoke on behalf of the honest poor…. Jesus went further. …he actually took his stand among the pariahs of the world…."
[n. 19: G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew (London: Collins, 1973), p. 224]
"So Jesus presents himself as embodying Wisdom in Wisdom's search for the least and lost in society."
[cf. Prov 9:1–6, Wisdom 9:18]
"…as Bengali writer Nirad Chaudhuri has acutely observed, even the most world-denying tradition of Hindu spirituality is, in reality, 'a pursuit, not of beatitude, but of power'… mastery of the spirit world through th magic arts."
[n. 21: Hinduism (London: Chatto & Windus, 1979), p. 315]
Jesus is not presented in the Gospel as a superhuman avatar
cf. e.g. Mk 6:3, Mt 17:20, Lk 22:39ff.
p. 106 "…there was no Jewish tradition that the Messiah had the right to forgive sins."
p. 108 "He is not so much a prophet as the object of all prophecy.
cf. e.g. Mk 12:35f, Jn 5:46, 8:56
p. 110 "…what was it about Jesus of Nazareth, compared to other messianic claimants and charismatic figures in Palestine and elsewhere, that led to such outrageous claims about him being made––and believed––within a generation of his death? … I would suggest that this combination of an other-oriented lifestyle with self-directed claims is what makes Jesus of Nazareth unique."
p. 114 "Resurrection is a fresh creative act of God in which he displays his faithfulness to his creation by raising it to new life in his presence beyond death and decay."
p. 115 "…the unique nature of the uniqueness that is claimed by Jesus…."
p. 116 "The message of the cross in scandalous, for it tells us that it is not the 'good Christian' or the 'sincere Hindu' or the 'devout Muslim' or the 'men and women of good will' [presumably pace Vatican II Gaudium et Spes?] who are recipients of the vision of God. Rather, that it is the bad Christian, the bad Hindu, the bad Buddhist––those who know themselves to be moral failures––who may well be closer to the kingdom of God. … I know of no statement more subversive to the 'world of religions' than Paul's description in Romans 4:5 of the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as 'him who justifies the ungodly'."
p. 117 "Two ways of defining humanness clash: self-assertion or self-giving…. The resurrection of Jesus, then, is the Creator's vindication, within history and in anticipation of the final denouement of all things, of the way of the cross. The resurrection of Jesus vindicates not only Jesus' unique Sonship, but also the way of self-abandoning love that he embodies."

p. 119 khalifa (steward) of Allah, da'wah (witness) for Allah
p. 121 "…Hindu 'hierarchical relativism' is experienced as deeply oppressive…. particularity, difference and critique are swallowed up in a suffocating universalism."
p. 121 the Buddha uses several vehicles (yana) and skilful means (upaya) fitted to the dispositions and interests of the listener
p. 124, pluralism against Christian truth "is sometimes based on a confusion of the notion of plausibility with that of truth."
p. 126, "on closer inspection" of the relativist idea of all religions speaking about the Same in different words "its intellectual arrogance becomes plain. It claims for itself a superior vantage-point from which it can survey the entire world of religious languages and deduce that they are all dealing with the same ultimate reality, and that they are incomplete and even misguided in places."
p. 127, because it ignores the preference a speaking, personal God would give to absolutist faith, "this pluralist scheme is fatally biased against the Semitic traditions and those Indian religious traditions that focus on a personal Deity."
p. 128 "The Enlightenment tradition inherited notions of universal justice and equality from Jewish and Christian sources and then used such notions to deride the particular doctrines and practices of those faiths."
p. 129 "…doctrine of creation states that we are not timeless, relationless and independent beings, but profoundly contingent and relational creatures. We are rooted in space and time…. [biblically] the universal is always mediated through the particular…. It is the Incarnation, death and resurrection of God in Jesus Christ that enables us to say that human history is finally meaningful, not in the Enlightenment humanist sense that it is a story of continual linear progress, an ascent from the 'irrational' to the 'rational'; but rather, that in this sorry tale of persistent human arrogance, wretchedness, exploitation and suffering, evil will not have the final word. The triumph of truth, beauty, love and justice is assured."
p. 130 Cf. Rev 21:22ff as sign of global cultural redemption
p. 131 "Paradoxically, it is the once-for-all incarnation of Christian belief that guarantees the permanent value and significance of our common humanness. For those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, humanness is that which is exalted to the right hand of God. … As Kierkegaard put it in his scathing criticism of the mighty Hegel: 'That the human race is or should be akin to God is ancient paganism; but that an individual man is God is Christianity'."
[n. 9: Training in Christianity, trans. W. Lowrie (Princeton, NJ: PUP, 1941), p. 64]
cf. also Chesterton's quip that the difference between Protestant (Eucharistic) worship and Catholic worship is like that between saying "God is everywhere" and "God is in the next room"
p. 132 Martin Kahler (1835–1912) asked, "Has Christ merely provided us with insights concerning an existing state of affairs, or has he actually brought about a new state of affairs?"
[n. 10: Doctrine of Reconciliation (1898), as cited in A. McGrath, The Making of Modern German Christology, 1750–1990 (Leicester: Apollos, 2nd ed. 1994), p. 136]
p. 132 the gospel's "endless translatability" (à la Andrew Wells)
p. 134 "Christian conversion… is not the substitution of something new for the old, any more than the incarnation was a substitution of the divine for the human. Nor is it the addition of something new to what was before, any more than the incarnation was the addition of something new to a deficient humanity."
p. 135 Andrew Wells on the 'indigenizing principle' and the 'pilgrim principle' in Christian conversion
p. 136 "The Christian thus has a double nationality…."
p. 136 Panditha Ramabai, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Kagawa –– ?
p. 137 "To the Hindu and Muslim alike, sacred test are untranslatable."
p. 138 "The Brahamanization of Indian society went hand in hand with the suppression of vernacular languages in favour of Sanskrit."
p. 139 All Christians 1) are conscious of standing together in continuity with ancient Israel and 2) give Jesus and ultimate significance. "…Christ is the ultimate in everyone's vocabulary."
[n. 17: Walls, The Missionary Movement, p. 23]
p. 140 God's manifold accommodation to a fallen world (in world religions), "far from obviating the need to proclaim the gospel of Christ to all cultures, actually compels it. For it is is Christ who has been speaking to human beings in their sin, it is in order to lead them out of … 'the times of human ignorance' (Acts 17:30) that they may understand and experience the freedom that he wrought for them through the cross."
p. 142–43 Modernity entailed the redefinition not only of, e.g., 'supernatural' as immaterial and extra-worldly (rather than as so to speak jati-transcending), but also religio "from being a virtue into a system of propositions to which individual choose to give assent."
p. 149 secundum William Cavanaugh, the so-called 'Wars of Religion' "were not the events which necessitated the birth of the modern State; they were in fact themselves the birthpangs of the States. … [Not simply a Prot-Cath clash, but a battle] for the aggrandizement of the emerging State over the decaying remnants of the ecclesiastical order."
[n. 15: "'A Fire Strong Enough to Consume the House'", Modern Theology 11.4 (1995), p. 398]
"The creation of religion, and thus the privatization of the Church, is correlative to the rise of the State."
[n. 16: Ibid., p. 403]
p. 150 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, attacked Rome in 1527; turned on the Protestants in 1547, ingniting the first War of Religion, as "an attempt to consolidate Imperial authority rather than [as] an expression of doctrinal zealotry. When in 1552–53 the Lutheran princes (aided by the French Catholic King Henry II) defeated the Imperial forces, the German Catholic princes refused to intervene. … [France's] Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici [slaughter of Huguenots on St. Bartholomew's Day]… was not a religious zealot but a disciple of Machiavellian statecraft, anxious to forestall the Huguenot nobility's increasing influence…. Likewise, in the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), the cruellest of the so-called 'Wars of Religion', ecclesiastical loyalties were not easy to sort out. The war was prompted by Emperor Ferdinand II's ambition to consolidate his patchwork empire into a modern state, ruled by one sovereign, uncontested authority. France's interest lay in keeping Ferdinand's Habsburg empire fragmented, and France's interest superseded that of the French church. The last thirteen years of the war––the bloodiest––were essentially a struggle between the Habsburgs and the Bourbons, the two great Catholic dynasties of Europe."
p. 151 ideology of nation-statehood has caused the greatest strife in the past two centuries, not religion; "…essentially religious character of the modern state…. Martyrdom is redefined as laying down one's life for one's nation. Blasphemy… has been transformed into treason. … a larger collectivity…."
p. 154 "…'democratic capitalism', like 'secularization', enacts a tale, performs a master narrative. It functions as a traditional religious mythology, an explanation of why the world is as it is."
p. 156 "The doctrine of 'human rights' emerges from a particular theological narrative, rooted in the biblical nation of humanity made in the image of God and further developed by Aquinas and Puritan writers.
[Cf. Leszek Kolakowski, n. 27: Modernity on Endless Trial (Chicago: UofCP, 1990), p. 214, quoted in Michael Perry, The Idea of Human Rights (Oxford: OUP, 1998), p. 3]
cf. also Michael Perry, "the idea of human rights is 'ineliminably religious… that human beings are sacred is inescapably religious'.
[n. 28: Ibid., p. 35]
p. 157 "It was not democracy that paved the way for the freedom of worship, but freedom of worship that made democracy possible." cf. Tocqueville, Ware: Wordworth ed. 1998, p. 120
p. 163 "For Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), it was crucial for the sovereignty of the commonwealth to deny the universal nature of the church and make each member of the church depend, not on fellow members, but directly on the sovereign."
p. 164 Nicholas Lash summarizes the gospel thus: "'We have been made capable of friendship'––with God and with one another."
[n. 42: The Beginning and End of 'Religion' (Cambridge: CUP, 1996), p. 214]

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