Religion

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Why Christianity and the Fate of American Democracy Are Intertwined

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 3:56am in

We're now confronted with a remarkable paradox. Our increasingly secular society is saddled with increasingly religious politics. Religion is ever-more prominent in Supreme Court decisions and in the statements that candidates for political office make. Politics are not only more religious, they are more Christian. ...

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Hazony on Conservatism, part I

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 11:07pm in

Tags 

Politics, Religion

Everything that we call a freedom of the individual, or one of the individual’s liberties, is a traditional institution whose particular form is learned by imitation, maintained through honor and self-discipline, and handed down, in a given society, from one generation to the next. Every freedom emerges through a well-structured constraint, and so it is worse than merely misleading to say that our political freedoms come to us by nature, or that reason leads easily to them, or that nothing is needed to maintain them but for government to let us be. All of this mythology diverts our eyes from the difficult road that must be traveled in order for the necessary constraints to be instilled in society, so that even the most rudimentary freedom or right can become a reality.
Where do these constraints come from?
They can come from the laws of the state and the commands of its officials, of course. And indeed, this is the most common Enlightenment-rationalist depiction of constraint. In Hobbes’s Leviathan, for example, fear of the government provides the constraint needed to bring peace and order to a society that would otherwise tear itself apart.
But constraint can also come from another source. In a free society, the principal constraining force comes not from fear of the government, but from the self-discipline of the people, who provide the necessary constraint themselves by upholding inherited relations and the obligations that attend them. This point was emphasized by the English political theorist John Fortescue in the fifteenth century, and taken up by Montesquieu, Burke, and the American founding fathers centuries later. Where nations can impose the needed constraints themselves, the government can be mild or moderate, offering them greater freedom to conduct their affairs without interference. But where a people is incapable of self-discipline, a mild government will only encourage licentiousness and division, hatred and violence, eventually forcing a choice between civil war and tyranny....

An individual who was guided by common sense enjoyed a broad range to think things through for himself. But his originality and divergences from the way others spoke and behaved were always constrained by a thick fabric of inherited relations and norms, which included the obligation to maintain and defend the place of God and religion, nation and government, family, property, and so on.
These inherited norms provided the framework (or “guardrails,” as we now say) within which reason was able to operate, yet without overthrowing every inherited institution as today’s adulation of perfectly free reasoning does. In our day, these inherited norms have been discarded in the name of the freely reasoning individual and his right to be rid of any constraint he has not himself chosen. God and religion, nation and government, marriage and children and caring for the aged—all these traditional ideas and institutions that once constrained the individual are now regarded as burdensome and difficult things, to be avoided because of the limits they impose on our freedom.
What would be required to build up this voluntary self-constraint rather than ceaselessly working to destroy it?
The propagation of such self-constraint depends on the honor that a given society is willing to award those who practice it. Indeed, the only known means of causing individuals to shoulder hardship and constraint without coercion or financial compensation is by rewarding them with honor.--Yoram Hazony (2022) Conservatism: A Rediscovery, pp 164-166

When Donald Trump destroyed Jeb Bush in the (2016) South Carolina primary it inaugurated a seismic shift within the Republican party. One of the effects has been the rejection of a whole number of what we might call 'right liberal' commitments that centered on cosmopolitanism, individualism, free markets, free trade,  and a defense of the rule of law. In its wake there has been a scramble to provide a reasonably coherent intellectual program that can unify its nationalist and Christian coalition and provide a governing philosophy. This is, in brief, the political context of Yoram Hazony's increased prominence Stateside during the last half decade. 

Since 'self-constraint' and 'honor,' on one side, and 'Donald Trump,' on the other side, don't naturally go together in the same sentence, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the precise contents of Hazony's vision are at odds with Trump's persona and his style of leadership and governance. In addition, if one reads Conservatism: A Rediscovery with some care one will discern a whole number of subtle rejections of what one may call 'Trumpism' in political life not the least is a clear distancing from racism and racialized hierarchy, but also from Trumpism's zero-sum winner-takes all understanding of politics. 

Before I get to discuss the passage I quoted at the top of  this post, I don't mean to suggest that Trumpism is irrelevant to Hazony's argument even if Trump's actual views are barely mentioned. At the start of the book, Trump's 2016 victory is briefly identified as evidence for the rise of 'nationalist conservatism' and nearer to the end, the talk of 'resistance' to Trump's 2016 electoral college victory is offered as evidence that his legitimacy was denied and that Marxism has taken over the central organs of the old liberalism (pp. 327-328). There is no critical scrutiny of Republican malfeasance, and so this limits the audience of Hazony's message. 

Rather, a natural way to understand the role of Trump in Hazony's larger argument, is that he is a kind of symptom of a much wider social distress and inaugurates a period "when a major reframing of a scheme of ideas and the relations among them—a change in paradigm—becomes possible." (This echoes my own (recall) diagnosis back in December 2015.) In such periods, "we begin seeking the causes of our distress in earnest, and this search becomes the lever that pries the old paradigm loose. A period of open-mindedness is initiated, and proposed repairs that were once ridiculed are reconsidered. At this time, dissenting individuals who were once spurned and disreputable may grow quickly in importance, even as those who jealously protected the old consensus are diminished in stature and significance." (176)* 

Okay, let me turn to the passage which is from the long third chapter, "The Conservative Paradigm." This paradigm is situated in a historical narrative about the theoretical and political roots of Hazony's position in what he calls 'The English Conservative tradition" and "American nationalism," with the latter understanding itself as a continuation, even restoration (a key word for Hazony) of the former in the wake of the 1787-1789 Constitution. 

While self-discipline and constraints are not at odds with a liberal political worldview, a focus on honor is. Even liberal counterparts such as 'social credit' or 'recognition' or 'social approbation' all function differently than Hazony's account of honor. This is especially noticeable if one recognizes that those that (properly) perform the traditionally sanctioned role in a (traditional) hierarchy (parents, teachers, soldiers, political leaders, etc.) are to be honored. In addition, on Hazony's account obligations are the effects not primarily of consent, but rather of the existence of traditional relationships within this hierarchy (marriage, parenthood, childhood, membership in a clan, tribe, a nation, but also a corporation, a platoon, etc.). And so it is no surprise that this understanding of obligation is, in turn, repeatedly linked to loyalty, and that, as one can discern in the quoted passage, imitation is treated as praiseworthy. By contrast, there is no place in Hazony's scheme for (a celebration of) individual autonomy and authenticity. 

So, while I think his account of freedom can be accommodated by certain republican liberals, on the whole Hazony offers a genuine alternative to liberalism, but he has no interest in facilitating, in his doctrines, what we might call Confederate irredentism. Rather, he celebrates "Edmund Burke in Britain and...the Federalist Party of George Washington, John Jay, John Adams, Gouverneur Morris, and Alexander Hamilton," who stood for a strong national government and rejected States' rights and slavery. Lincoln is treated as the great inheritor of this program, and Jefferson the exemplary misguided Enlightenment rationalist (and defender of slavery).+ And despite the emphasis on tradition and hierarchy, this Anglo-American conservatism is, thus, presented as not just as fully compatible with constitutional self-government, but as the true bearer of its tradition. I think this is, in fact, an improvement over the earlier (2017) presentation of these views (recall here) in an essay with Ofir Haivry at American Affairs. (Haivry seems to have co-authored the first two chapters of the present book.)

Since there are elements on the contemporary nationalist-Christian right, intoxicated by (natural law) Integralism and/or Schmittian decisionism and/or racialized hierarchy (the latter we might call the 'Jacksonian strain'), who seem little interested in constitutional and democratic self-government, it is actually to be wished that Hazony's position becomes the dominant element in Republican elite circles. For it would allow the possibility of the continuation of competitive elections that would permit alternative rule by different elites in the service of political coalitions and so the nourishment of hope that one can reverse a majority and policy. (Hazony claims that the cultural Marxist take-over of Liberal institutions will make that impossible.) In that respect, it's actually quite notable that at key moments in Hazony's narrative it is acknowledged that his favored tradition was a minority option. And unlike many other public facing thinkers on the nationalist conservative right, there is in Hazony no sign of rejection of scientific expertise. In a future post, I'll discuss his views on what a revived Conservative and Christian democracy would look like in greater and more critical detail. But here I want to close with an observation.

Hazony's road map from the present to the restoration of nationalist conservatism is, in fact, not centered on The Supreme Court or even electoral politics, even if the uptake of his views among Republican cadres will make him more influential. Rather, it is fundamentally ground in a "personal journey of repentance and return" and a rejection of "personal decadence." (p. 391) Not unlike his adversaries, Hazony believes the personal is political. And this means, for Hazony, in practice, building "family and congregation" dedicated to the passing on and honoring of tradition. (p. 393).  

Given this self-transformative focus, I find it odd that Hazony barely touches on the nature and causes of contemporary celebrity and attention culture and the (consequent) frivolity of what passes for spirituality today.** For even if one grants (as I do not) that the vacuity of contemporary celebrity culture is the effect of liberalism, and evidence of its moral bankruptcy, it is also a rather effective block on the revival of a honor society he wishes for. In celebrity culture nurses and teachers and all lives dedicated to service, or any activity that provides social [what Hazony often calls] "cohesion," are simply not truly honored. This we have seen in a pandemic that should have caused a major cultural shift in attitudes. And within this celebrity culture, attention and success are its own ends and engage in a (if you will, vicious) mutually reinforcing cycle with financial rewards. And while some charismatic religious leaders may develop huge followings, they will do so in virtue of their charisma and success at attracting attention (and huge bank accounts) not because they have been touched by the divine.

There are passages that hint at a willingness to control the "corrosive effect" of capitalism on "traditional institutions," (and especially the off-shoring of good jobs abroad), but since celebrity culture now infiltrates our lives 24/7 on hour handheld, algorithmic networked devices introduction of (say) a number of tariffs will make no material difference here. That is to say, even if Hazony got his way and the "separation of church and state" would be abolished Stateside (p. 345) and Christianity would be restored to the centrality he wishes for it in our midst, the odds are it would be a repackaged Christianity fundamentally unmoored from its history and its sacred texts, in which resources are pooled to give fellow congregationalists a leg up in the social battle for attention. 

 

 

*In fact, Hazony goes on to write. "Attend carefully to the following point: I have not said that such a crisis always leads to the adoption of an improved scheme of ideas and principles. A new scheme of ideas that comes to the fore in a time of crisis may prove worthless, and the consensus that seems to form around it can collapse within a short time. Frequently, a crisis will lead to the adoption of a series of different frameworks, which are tried and fail in rapid succession."(p. 177) I am suggesting that by implication Hazony treats Trump as agent of a new scheme of ideas that are not durable themselves.

 

+Hazony gently passes over Lincoln's admiration for Jefferson, whose "principles are the definitions and axioms of free society." (April 6, 1859, Henry L. Pierce, & others.) 

 

**People are said to "pass the time with drugs and alcohol, pornography, video games, television, social media, and similar remedies, which suppress the pain, shame, anxiety, and depression that plague them." These ills are taken to be the effect of "liberal society," but the role of technology and what we might call techno-capitalism in reinforcing celebrity culture goes unexamined. 

‘The First Time Politics in Our City was Played on Religious Grounds’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/09/2022 - 1:18am in

A number of arrests have followed violence between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester – a city traditionally associated with successful multiculturalism. Adrian Goldberg speaks to Shockat Adam, a Muslim community activist, who grew up in the east of the city, for the Byline Times Podcast, about his belief that the fires are being stoked by Hindu nationalism in India

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AG: The disturbances are a surprise because, from the outside, Leicester always looks to be one of those places where multiculturalism works very successfully.

SA: You'd be absolutely right to think that Leicester has been the byword for diversity; cohesion. Yes, we've had our problems, but we are always seen as a beacon for other cities around the world... Traditionally, this area of Leicester is where many migrants first moved to in the city. It was the place where I landed from Africa, along with my Hindu brothers and sisters and Sikh brothers and sisters in the 70s.

That was the area I grew up in. It's cohesive, we went to school together, we grew up together, we played football together. And we worked together. Yes, we had our issues, every society does, but nothing to this extent and never on the lines of religion.

The violence flared initially at the end of August following an India versus Pakistan cricket match...

India and Pakistan have been playing cricket for decades. One wins, the other loses. There's always a little bit of cheering, little bit of banter. It has never, to my knowledge, erupted into violence in our city. In fact, the majority of the people in Leicester who have Muslim heritage are from India, so a lot of them who follow cricket support India.

So what's changed?

There are two strands driving what is happening in Leicester.

One is, we have had a very new community arrive in this city [from the west of India]. They (and when I say ‘they’ I don't mean the whole community, but parts of the community) have taken a little bit of time to settle into the norms of the area – the culture. So, for example, drinking out of hours, loud music, partying, littering, etc., which causes friction in any community.  This then increases to loud music being played at prayer times, loud music being played in cars and hooting outside the mosque after cricket matches on independence days, etc. So this all adds to the anxiety in the community. Individuals then drink at night, they harass or hassle women going by, but it's not because they're Islamophobic, it's because they're drunk.

Unfortunately, our authorities and our police have not got a handle on this and resentment has been allowed to fester and grow between different communities.

The second issue is that there has been an undercurrent of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and [Hindu] nationalism creeping into our city. Some of these members of the new community have come to this country from an India which is in the fervour of nationalism, and the RSS, so they have come with a background of [Hindu] supremacy. 

What is the RSS?

The RSS has a nationalistic agenda. It's not Hinduism. Hinduism is a great religion and it's a generally peaceful religion. RSS was an ideology that was formulated approximately 100 years ago as a theory of the supremacy of the Hindu community over everybody else. 

So RSS were against the secular formation of India, and the individual who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi belonged to the RSS. Now it has a political wing, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), which is in power in India [under Prime Minister Narendra Modi].

So the RSS is not Hinduism, but it has been adopted by some Hindus as a brand of right-wing nationalism. It is the philosophy of Narendra Modi's Government and that's made life in India sometimes very difficult for Muslims in recent years?

It’s been horrendous for many minorities – not just Muslims, but also Dalits, the Sikh community, and the Christian community have also suffered under the RSS. 

Recognised human rights organisations like Amnesty International have been banned from India for reporting on RSS atrocities to the Muslim community. We've seen the Gujarat riots [in 2002] where thousands of people were massacred. 

We saw the Delhi riots a couple of years ago, where there was indiscriminate killings of Muslim individuals. And there's a catalogue of incidents that happen on the basis that ‘you're a Muslim, and I'm a Hindu’. And unfortunately, it's still going on today.

How does the RSS relate to the BJP?

The BJP is the political wing of the RSS. This was a result of colonialism and from a time when India was finding its feet. The narrative was out there that there is a state for every other religion, so therefore India should be for the Hindus. That was that ideology. Whereas the forefathers of India at independence were passionate that India should be a secular country, and it should be for all and for all religions, the RSS oppose that ideology.

Why do you think there is a link between that kind of Hindu nationalism that the RSS represents and the events we've seen in recent weeks on the streets of Leicester?

In the 2019 General Election, in Leicester, [the incumbent] Labour MP Keith Vaz [was standing down], and a candidate [Claudia Webbe] was brought in who held views on [the disputed territory of] Kashmir.

'Overseas Friends of BJP' were canvassing on the streets of Leicester, recommending that all the [Hindus] should not vote for Labour because a vote for Labour would be a vote for Muslims. There were leaflets that said you have a choice of either voting for purity or voting for poison – poison being the Labour candidate on the basis that Labour Party had become the 'party of the Muslims'. 

On the back of that, we had Labour councillors resigning because they felt that the Labour Party was a Muslim party and not a Hindu party. And this was the first time that politics in our city was being played on religious grounds. 

When was that the first time you became aware of the politics of India seeking to play out in Leicester?

At the end of 2017, there was an application to convert a building into a prayer hall or a madrassa. Now people can have legitimate objections on the grounds of noise or parking, etc. – there's nothing wrong with that, everybody can exercise their right to legitimately object. But people were objecting because it was a ‘Hindu area’. 

I detest that term because I feel it ghettoises our communities. But this was a term that I heard, off-the-record, from an elected official at the time – that this is a “Hindu area”.

We had objections on the official Leicester City Council website from people from all over the country, objecting that 'we cannot have a mosque in a Hindu area, because we all know that they teach terrorism, we all know that there are extremists. We all know that our girls will not be safe when you have Muslim men in these areas. And we do not need a mosque near a temple. They can go into their area and will stay in our area'.

A lot of these objections were not even from people from Leicester – the addresses were in London.  This was a concerted effort by an organisation.

Before the 2019 General Election, the Conservative Party itself appealed to the BJP and asked it to not seek to interfere in the election. So this wasn't just a myth among Muslims in Leicester...

When our ex-Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] went to India recently, he was inundated by Muslim organisations and human rights organisations to raise offences that were being carried out against minorities – but he was in no position or not willing to raise this issue. We are in the situation where we need to trade with India. So our hands are tied, because we do not want to upset our very powerful allies.

It’s not all one-sided. Some of the videos on social media from the streets of Leicester around this have involved young Muslim men making it very clear that they will not be pushed around. If you were a peace-loving Hindu that would put fear into you...

It certainly would, and that's undeniable. And when, unfortunately, hate raises its ugly head, there's an element that comes along, which is has nothing to do with the initial issue and fans the flames even further.

Adrian Goldberg is the Editor and Producer of the ‘Byline Times Podcast’ and ‘Byline Radio

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Digital Deconversion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 11:31pm in

Becoming an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, online.

Hard to Be a God

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/08/2022 - 1:46am in

A new history of deification suggests that political power is always mythological.

Church of Jesus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/07/2022 - 9:55am in

Tags 

Religion, vintage

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) tabernacle. Foundation stone reads: “Enmore Tabernacle. Opened for Divine Service 24th October 1886”. No getting away from Gothic revival influence in that era. Enmore.

Mystery church. The

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/07/2022 - 8:54am in

Tags 

vintage, Religion

Mystery church. The foundation stone reads: “And They Continued Steadfastly in the Apostles Doctrine. Acts 2.42. To the Glory of God and commemorating the re-opening of this building for public worship. This stone was unveiled on 3rd April 1943”. No mention of who did the deed or the denomination. Appears to be on land carved out of a 19th century lien to a large public reserve; converted to apartments many years ago now. Newtown.

Why Haven’t the Tory Leadership Candidates Been Held to Account Over Islamophobia?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/07/2022 - 7:05pm in

Basit Mahmood calls out the active suppression of the Conservative Islamophobia scandal

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The Conservative leadership race has once again turned a blind eye to the Conservative Party’s Islamophobia problem.

Yes, the state of the economy matters, as does the cost of living crisis, soaring inflation, Britain’s post-Brexit relationship, and climate change, but so does the crisis of bigotry within the Conservative Party towards Muslims.

Tackling prejudice against minorities shouldn’t be seen as something that’s in competition with all the ‘other priorities’. You would think that rooting out bigotry and prejudice towards minority communities would be a priority for any party that claims to lead a tolerant, liberal democracy – but this is apparently not an opinion shared by the Conservative Party.

When was the last time that any of the leadership candidates were asked, either as part of the live debates or anywhere else, about what they intend to do about Islamophobia? The problem hasn’t exactly gone away. Indeed, the party has quietly reinstated candidates and has let them run for election even though they have been suspended for Islamopohobic remarks in the past

And therein lies much of the problem. The Conservative Party knows that it can get away with not tackling Islamophobia in its ranks, which is widespread and deep rooted, because it knows that the bulk of the media is willing to look the other way. It also knows that many of its members share Islamophobic views.

The problem exists not only among the grassroots membership but also among the upper echelons of the party. MPs like Nadine Dorries have retweeted Tommy Robinson, while Bob Blackman has invited speakers who praised the Rohingya genocide to Parliament.

According to a Hope Not Hate report, 57% of party members have a negative attitude towards Muslims, with almost half of party members (47%) believing that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life”. In addition, 58% believe “there are no go areas in Britain where Sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter”.

More recently, we had a Conservative minister, Nus Ghani, who says that she was told that she was being fired from her post because of her Muslim faith. What message does this send out to young British Muslims, who one day may want to serve the country they call home, only to realise that their faith would be held against them?

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A Silent Scandal

The scandal of Islamophobia however, which is having real-life consequences among British Muslim communities, leading to apathy, frustration and disappointment,  has never really interested large swathes of the press. This is not least because some of the most influential papers in our country have themselves produced false, bigoted and inaccurate claims about Muslim communities.

Yet, despite repeated examples of bigotry, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has repeatedly refused to investigate the Conservative Party over Islamophobia. One would think that a minister allegedly being sacked over their faith would result in an investigation, but still nothing.

Whenever I’ve approached the EHRC for an update, all I’ve been told is that the body is monitoring the Conservative Party’s progress and that it doesn’t refuse to rule out raising concerns with the party, but that’s about as far as it ever goes.

The question then ought to be put to the EHRC: if ministers are allegedly sacked because of their faith, if councillors who have compared Asians to dogs and posted Islamophobic remarks are quietly reinstated, then where exactly is the bar to trigger an investigation?

Remember the party’s own ‘independent investigation into Islamophobia’? During the 2019 Tory leadership election, the candidates agreed to an independent inquiry into Islamophobia only for it to be downgraded to a general inquiry into all forms of prejudice.

Peter Oborne and I revealed how it was a sham investigation, recruiting an advisor who questioned the very term Islamophobia while selectively approaching members for evidence. We also learnt that the investigation had failed to take evidence from those party members who had experienced Islamophobia. Just how exactly the EHRC can say it was satisfied with such an investigation is astounding.

It has also been more than three years since the Government first pledged to come up with its own definition of Islamophobia, yet still we’ve had nothing. In May 2019, the Government said that it would come up with its own “working definition of Islamophobia”, after claiming that the definition proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims was not in line with the Equality Act 2010 and could “undermine free speech”.

This is despite the fact that the definition is not legally binding, and the APPG report into the definition repeatedly references guaranteeing free speech.

The APPG definition of Islamophobia was widely accepted by other major political parties, including Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives. Even senior police chiefs who had initially expressed scepticism over fears the definition could undermine efforts to combat extremism, later urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to adopt it, saying they had been reassured it would not hinder their work.

Since then, the Government has not only failed to come up with its own definition but also sacked its own advisor on Islamophobia, Qari Asim.

In a prime example of how right-wing forces sanction Islamophobia, earlier this week the Daily Mail published a front page attack on leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt for daring to meet with the Muslim Council of Britain’s first female general secretary, Zara Mohammed, because the group was being boycotted by the Government.

As Mohammed articulated so perfectly in response, the aim of the story was to portray Muslims as “foreign and un-British”.

“I think it’s good to talk. I’ve had the pleasure of engaging with politicians from across the spectrum, including some Conservatives,” she added, “but this ‘boycott’ seems to be relentlessly pursued by unnamed individuals at the heart of government.”

It’s striking that the scandal of Islamophobia in the current party of government continues to be ignored by so many. It’s about time the Conservative Party was held to account for it.

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