A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Religion and Domestic Peace


Bardseye is blessed, but also swamped, with work and domestic responsibilities today. Happily, one advantage of this blog's long-form essay-like presentations is that the occasional effort will stand the test of time and bear repeating. And thus it is that Bardseye makes bold to present to you (again) this effort:

* * * * * * * * *

Let me begin at my health club, where this morning an elderly lady, completing her physical therapy, joked about how she had been made late the week before because she had come in from the parking lot without her cane (having in her improving health forgotten it), and had had to return to her car for it.

"I wake at 4:30, and I anoint myself, pressing olive oil to my forehead," she informed me, "in praise of the Lord, who returns my health to me."

Such scenes, which are among the joys of living in the American South, to me are nothing but moving. But of course they are the source of satire in Hollywood and in portions of the cold north in America among the same people who will sit down, somewhat against their own logic, to a Thanksgiving meal next week. But faith and its absence is no laughing matter.

We see in Europe what there is to fear from a majority culture made up of those who pray against prayer. From King John (V.iv.12):

"Welcome home again discarded faith."

Target is a retail outlet store that occupies the link in the outlet store food chain just above Walmart and just below everyone else. The Target chain has prohibited the Salvation Army, a private Christian charity organization with an unimpeachable record of service to Americans in need, from soliciting donations during the Christmas season outside Target stores. Christmas solicitations represent a major portion of fundraising for the Army, which does not engage in the more aggressive sales tactics of the American Red Cross and other groups.

"We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit
By losing of our prayers."

Anthony and Cleopatra, II.i.5.

In this case it is those who pray against prayer, that is, atheists and their corporate appeasers at Target, who might be said to be begging of their own harms. For if there is one key distinction between the relative domestic tranquility America is experiencing, certainly in comparison to Europe and the Middle East, it is not really our more vibrant capitalism or even our lower taxes or the Electoral College system for selecting our President. It is in our spirituality, which is broadly Christian. Henry VIII:

"Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge
That no king can corrupt."

Now, being Jewish, I make bold to predict that were the American majority Jewish (one can dream), it would be similarly tranquil, and yes I will offer democratic and progressive Israel, its unlucky geography aside, in support of this belief. But that is a digression. America is broadly Christian, and in the health of American Christianity resides the security of American Jews, and Muslims and atheists for that matter.

"Now, God be praised, that to believing souls
gives light in darkness, comfort in despair!"

Henry VI, Part Two, II.i.66By contrast, atheism, the religion of those who pray against prayer, and who consequently can seek nothing outside the self or the present on which to base hope or meaning, has formed in Europe the foundation of two generations of hard-hearted anti-Muslim discrimination. For while minority American atheism, aided by corporate appeasement, may target Salvation Army soldiers at Target, the majority European variety holds all belief, including Muslim belief, in contempt – and it is foolish to think that European Muslims don't know this. I will let a doomed and damned Macbeth speak for Europe:

"I had most need of blessing, and "Amen"
stuck in my throat."

Well, Muslim theology, which is supremacist, confident, self-sacrificial, and communitarian, hardly sticks in Muslim throats. Meanwhile, the European absence of each of these values, coupled with a weak-kneed appeasement of Muslim extremism, has found its climax in the recent Eurofada, whose beginning was as sudden as its end now appears unforeseeable. The Winter's Tale (II.iii.113) contains a line that today may serve to depict both European and Muslim civilization, and it is hoped never our own:

"It is a heretic that makes the fire,
Not she which burns in it."

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