Monday, March 02, 2015

Offerings from Charles Taylor and Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) as an analysis of cause and response to the Nihilism in both the Christian West and Islamic East.

I offer this by Michael Ortiz:

Distorting Christian History to Defend Islam:WSJ (February 12, 2015, op. ed)

Secularism didn’t save the West from religious excesses, and it won’t save us from jihadists.

"In an attempt to find a peaceful alternative for those in the Islamic world who advocate violence for political and religious goals, Christians in the West shouldn’t distort the history of Christianity, or stand idly by while others do so. Letting this version of events shape perceptions of Christian history invariably means a portrait of religion as a force of darkness, while science and technology will always be beacons of sanity and light.
"The narrative portraying religious conviction as antithetical to reasoned comity among people and nations is easy enough to fall into. At the national prayer breakfast last week, for instance, President Obama compared the excesses of the Crusades and the Inquisition to the terrorism of today’s radical Islam. The president went on to condemn (rightly) those who advance their religious convictions with violence.
"But what he and many others miss is the conviction that Western core values come from a faith in which God enters into human history precisely to save the world from the erring reason that fails, among other things, to recognize that terrorism is an affront to God and humanity.
"The all-too-common narrative goes like this: Centuries ago, Catholics and Protestants gladly burned heretics up and down Europe by the thousands until, thank God—or All Powerful Goodness, as Ben Franklin would put it—the rise of Enlightenment thinkers banished the barbarity that is somehow native to religious fervor. Only with the liberalizing mandates of Vatican II (1962-65), we’re told, did Catholicism—usually the main boogeyman in this version of history—come to grips with the idea of democracy and religious freedom, and finally extinguish the last embers of the Inquisition.
"This narrative is false according to the historical record and to the origins and abiding ethos of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant. Historians call this the la leyenda negra—the “Black Legend”—because it blackens the name of Catholicism in particular and religion in general. According to this legend, the Inquisition is on a continuum with the Holocaust and the terrors of Stalinism.

"Yet objective historians realize that in the most infamous example, in Spain, several popes condemned the Inquisition’s excesses. Moreover, the 6,832 members of the clergy executed by the Spanish Republican Red Terror in 1936 is more than twice the number of those executed in 345 years of the Inquisition in Spain.
"Far from being an enemy of reason and peace, Christianity’s overwhelming message through the centuries has been one of tolerance, a message that underpins many of the values that people of all faiths, and of no faith, can live by. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ’s work as a theologian has done great service in trying to correct the erroneous view that faith and civil tolerance must always be opposed.
"He looks forthrightly at the negative aspects of the rise of democracies in the West, while not forgetting their positive legacies. As then- Pope Benedict pointed out in a 2005 address to the Roman Curia—the church’s governing body—popes of the 19th century condemned democracy because so many of its exponents were claiming “to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make” God completely “superfluous.” He thus reminds us that a Western culture beset by nihilism cannot provide a way out of the nihilism of the jihadist.
"If we say to followers of Islam that the only way to rid the faith of extremists is to accept “modernity,” are we also asking them to accept a world view that embraces a growing agnosticism about the fundamentals of civilized living?
"While we celebrate our freedoms, such freedoms also give us rampant abortion, commercialized eroticism and laws that make marriage anything one wishes it to mean. If we want the Muslim world to emulate our institutions of democracy, perhaps we should give them reasons for believing that democracy doesn’t automatically have to jettison publicly held moralities that actually ensure those freedoms in the first place.
"Benedict XVI saw with his own eyes a Europe in flames after the Allies defeated Hitler ’s self-made religion of blood. Yet he rightly remembered in that 2005 address the hope of the mid-20th century for a state that was “not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.” If we betray this hope today, it will not only be the West that suffers."  
Mr. Ortiz teaches at the Heights School, in Potomac, Md.

            The following phrase of Michael Ortiz: “a Western culture beset by nihilism cannot provide a way out of the nihilism of the jihadist,” awakened a Ratzinger caveat in me that I had read and internalized from a 1993 CWR: “And Marxism Gave Birth to… NIHILISM.” But before getting to Ratzinger, let me offer the take of Charles Taylor on the causes of secularist modernity. 
Charles Taylor: The Principal Cause of Modernity: The Christian Theocracy of Christendom (A Corrupted Version of Christian Life - a rationalization of faith. Pope Francis calls this a reduction of faith to ideology)      

He (Taylor) says in his “foreword” to the interview of Ivan Illich by David Caley.[1] He writes that “Illich argues that Western modernity finds its original impetus in a mutation (all underline mine) of Latin Christendom, a mutation in which the Church began to take with ultimate seriousness its power to shape and form people to the demands of the Gospel. I had been working for a number of years on a project to account for the rise of secular civilization and the basic thesis of my account was similar to Illich’s. But I had no idea of the parallels until David Cayley brought Illich’s thought to public attention in a radio series a few years ago…
            “What I call a ‘mutation’ in Latin Christendom could be described as an attempt to make over the lives of Christians and their social order, so as to make them conform thoroughly to the demands of their faith. I am talking not of a particular, revolutionary moment but of a long, ascending series of attempts to establish a Christian order, of which the Reformation is a key phase. As I see it, these attempts show a progressive impatience with older modes of religious life in which certain traditional collective, ritualistic forms coexisted uneasily with the demands of individual devotion and ethical reform … In Latin Christendom, the attempt was made to impose on everyone a more individually committed and Christocentric religion of devotion and action, and to suppress or even abolish older, supposedly ‘magical’ or ‘superstitious’ forms of collective ritual practice.
            “Allied with a neo-Stoic outlook, this became the charter for a series of attempts to establish new forms of social order. These held to reduce violence and disorder and to create populations of relatively pacific and productive artisans and peasants who were more and more induced/forced into the new forms of devotional practice and moral behavior, be this in Protestant England, Holland, or later the American colonies, or in Counter-Reformation France, or in the Germany of the Polizeistaat.
            “This creation of a new, civilized, ‘polite’ order succeeded beyond what its first originators could have hoped for, and this in turn led to a new reading of what a Christian order might be, one which was seen more and more in ‘immanent’ terms. (The polite, civilized order is the Christina order.) This version of Christianity was shorn of much of its ‘transcendent’ content, and was thus open to a new departure, in which the understanding of good order – what we could call the modern moral order – could be embraced outside of the original theological, Providential framework, and in certain cases even against it (as by Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, and in another way David Hume).
            “The secularization of Western culture, and, indeed, widespread disbelief in God have arisen in close symbiosis with this belief in a moral order of rights-bearing individuals who are destined (by God or Nature) to act for mutual benefit. Such an order thus rejects the earlier honor ethic which exalted the warrior, just as the new order also tends to occlude any transcendent horizon… This understanding of order has profoundly shaped the modern West’s dominant forms of social imaginary: the market economy, the public sphere, the sovereign ‘people.’
            “This, in bare outline, is my account of secularization, one in which I think Illich basically concurs. But he describes it as the corrupting of Christianity. To illustrate he draws, again and again, on the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ story about an outsider who helps a wounded Jew. For Illich this story represents the possibility of mutual belonging between two strangers. Jesus points to a new kind of fittingness, belonging together, between the Samaritan and the wounded man. They are fitted together in a proportionality which comes from God, which is that of agape, and which became possible because God became flesh. The enfleshment of God extends outward, through such new links as the Samaritan makes with the Jew, into a network which we call the Church. But this is a net work, not a categorical grouping [me: an “institution”] that is, it is a skein of relations which link particular, unique, enfleshed people to each other, rather than a grouping of people together on the grounds of their sharing some important property. Corruption occurs when the Church begins to respond to the failure and inadequacy of a motivation grounded in a sense of mutual belonging by erecting a system. This system incorporates a code or set  of rules, a set of disciplines to make us internalize these rules, and a system of rationally constructed organizations – private and public bureaucracies, universities, schools – to make sure we carry out what the rules demand. All these become second nature to us. We grow accustomed to decentering ourselves from our lived, embodied experience in order to become disciplined, rational, disengaged subjects. From within this perspective, the significance of the Good Samaritan story appears obvious: it is a stage on the road to universal morality of rules.
            “Modern ethics illustrates this fetishism of rules and norms… Not just law but ethics is seen in terms of rules - as by Immanuel Kant, for example The spirit of the law is important, where it is so, because it too expresses some general principle. For Kant the principle is that we should put regulation by reason, or humanity as rational agency, first. In contrast, as we have see, the network of agape puts first the gut-driven response to a particular person. This respone cannot be reduced to a general rule. Because we cannot live up to this – ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts’ – we need rules. It is not that we could just abolish them, but modern liberal civilization fetishizes them. We think we have to find the right system of rules, of norms, and then follow them through unfailingly. We cannot see any more the awkward way these rules fit enfleshed human beings, we fail to notice the dilemmas they have to  sweep under the carpet: for instance, justice versus mercy; or justice versus a renewed relation, as we saw in South Africa with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a shining attempt to get beyond the existing codes of retribution.
            “Within this perspective, something crucial in the Good Samaritan story gets lost. A world ordered by this system of rules, disciplines, and organizations can only see contingency as an obstacle, even an enemy and a threat. The ideal is to master it, to extend the web of control so that contingency is reduced to a minimum. By contrast, contingency is an essential feature of the story of the Good Samaritan as an answer to the question that prompted it. Who is my neighbor? The one you happen across, stumble across, who is wounded there in the road. Sheer accident also has a hand in shaping the proportionate, the appropriate response. It is telling us something, answering our deepest questions: this is your neighbor. But in order to hear this, we have to escape from the monomaniacal perspective in which contingency can only be an adversary requiring control. Illich develops this theme profoundly …
            “This is why Illich’s work is so important to us today. I have found it more than useful, even inspiring, because I have been working over many years to find a nuanced understanding of Western modernity. This would be one which would both give a convincing account of how modernity arose and allow for a balanced account of what it good, even great, in it, and of what is less good, even dangerous and destructive. Illich’s understanding of our modern condition as a spinoff from a ‘corrupted’ Christianity captures one of the important historical vectors that brought about the modern age and allows us to see how good and bad are closely interwoven in it. Ours is a civilization concerned to relieve suffering and enhance human well-being, on a universal scale unprecedented in history, and which at the same time threatens to imprison us in forms that can turn alien and dehumanizing. This should take us beyond the facile and noisy debate between the boosters and knockers of modernity or the ‘Enlightenment project.’
            “Illich, in his overall vision and in the penetrating historical detail of his arguments, offers a new road map, a way of coming to understand what has been jeopardized in our decentered, objectifying, discarnate way of remaking ourselves , and he does so without simply falling into the clichés of anti-modernism.
            “Codes, even the best codes, can become idolatrous traps that tempt us to complicity in violence. Illich reminds us not to become totally invested in the code – even the best code of peace-loving, egalitarian variety – of liberalism. We should find the center of our spiritual lives beyond the code, deeper than the code, in networks of living concern, which are not to be sacrificed to the code, which must even from time to time subvert it. This message comes out of a certain theology, but it should be heard by everybody….” Charles Taylor.[1]

   Joseph Ratzinger... 

[Catholic World Report January (1993) 54]

... makes the same point:  to the statement put to him that "nihilism is rapidly taking the place of Marxism," he respondes: "it is explained by the encroachment of relativism and subjectivism, an inevitable consequence of a world overwhelmed by the alleged certainties of natural or applied science. Only what can be tested and proved appears as rational. [Sensible] experience has become the only criterion guaranteeing truth. Anything that cannot be subjected to mathematical or experimental verification is regarded as irrational. 
   "This restriction of reason has the result that we are left in almost total darkness regarding some essential dimensions of life. The meaning of man, the bases of ethics, the question nof God cannot subjected to reational experience, verified by mathematical formulae. And so they are left to subject sensibility alone. This is serious because if, in a society, the bases of ethical beha ior are abandoned to subjectivity alone, released from common motives for being and living, handed over to pragmatism, then it is man himslf who is trheatened.
   "The great ideologies [me: Marxism and liberal capitalism] have been able to give a certain ethical foundation to society. But today, Marxism is crumbling and liberal ideology is so split into fragments that it no longer has a common, solid, coherent view of man and his future. In the present situation of emptiness, there looms the terrible danger of nihilism, that is to say, the denial or absence of all fundamental moral reference for the conduct of social life. This danger becomes visible in the new forms of terrorism." 
         That is to say...
"Even though perverted, the political, social terrorism of the 1960s had a certain kind of moral ideal. But today, the terrorism of drug abuse, of the Mafia, of attackes on foreigners, in Germany and elsewhere, no longer has any moral basis [me: considere ISIS]. In this era of sovereign subjectivity, people act for the sole pleasure of acting, without any reference other than the satisfction of 'myself.'
     "Just as the terrorism that was born from the Marxism of yesterday put its finger on the anomalies of our social order, in the same way the nihilistic terrorism of today ought to show us the course to be followed for a reflection on the bases of a new ethical and collective reason."

Blogger: What does that mean? It means that we have to confront the nihilism in the West (in ourselves) that has produced such a total subhumanity such as ISIS [because the culture of the U.S. is now a global culture], and broaden our reason by developing the culture toward the peripheries that Francis is calling for. Only the beginnings of a liberation from self will overcome nihilism. As abstract and impossible as that may sound, all we have to do is begin and other powers will emerge. 

The Epistemology of Regensburg

“A critique of modern reason from within”

          Benedict XVI ended his talk:

“And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly….
          “The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application….
          “We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, of we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons….
          “Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions.
          “A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time… modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which it methodology has to be based.
          “Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought – to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding….

          “The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the program with which a theology grounded in biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.

[1] David Caley, “The Rivers North of the Future,” Anansi (2005)XI-XIV.
[2] (The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, `Let God’s Light Shine Forth,’ ed. Robert Moynihan, Doubleday [2005] 34-35).

No comments: