Thursday, October 26, 2006

In the image of God?

A Sheik in Sydney gave a Ramadan sermon in which he had a few comments about women's responsibility for men's irresponsibility. My favorite excerpt from the news story:

Sheik Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

"The uncovered meat is the problem."

The sheik then said: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."

He said women were "weapons" used by "Satan" to control men.

"It is said in the state of zina (adultery), the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa)."

Gaaa!! I'm offended on the behalf of women for being likened to "meat" for consumption, but I'm more outraged on the behalf of men who are regarded as having the moral discretion and behavioral control of feral cats. It would take a harsh religion indeed to control a race of such animals.

By the way, do any of you remember EVERY hall meeting in which there was an announcement resembling "We know you're in dress code, but the guys are complaining that you are still dressing too suggestively and it is causing them to stumble..."

HT: Carissa


The Bard said...

I have no outrage on behalf of men are women. His blaming of women is of course wrong, but are the Shiek's views of men and women really that different from how pagan people really act or think? I submit that whether or not they act upon their desires, most unsaved women are sluts at heart and most unsaved men are sex-driven Johns. And neither can help it.

It is the reaction to this reality, not the nature of the reality, that sets the Shiek's comments apart. They tell us much about Islam and how it is incompatable with either western debauchery or Christian morality.

Islam sees man's total depravity and tries to suppress it in a brutal system of laws. This is how you get public executions for adultery and it leads to oppression of the worst kind. Western debauchery sees the depravity and glorifies it and tells us that since it is natural, it must be good. This is how you get graphic sex education in second grade and it leads to disease and guilt.

Chrsitianity sees the depravity and tells us that there is a way out. We may not be able to help outselves, but there is Someone who can. Someone who promises a life where the old nature has no power over us.

And they tell us that there is nothing unique about Christianity.

The Bard said...

Two more comments. The first is political--this sermon should be another reminder to people who think we can somehow "coexist" with radical Islam. The second is more sinister. Given the rate of pedophilia in islamic nations [I hear this from every soldier I meet back from Afghanistan or Iraq], I wonder what the Shiek would say to young boys.

Becca said...

I mostly agree with you, Bard, but I think even unsaved people have enough general revelation (or Natural Law, if you will) and vestiges of the image of God to be morally responsible for their actions. Holy Spirit or not, humans are designed to be better discerning than cats. Good grief, I can't even keep my housecat off my computer.

To the point of Islam harmonizing with Western ideas of morality, law, and civilization, you're right, speeches like this suggest it's not a matter of semantics. I'm inclined to think the ideoligical divide is as deep as this speech suggests, but I would hope for the sake of women everywhere this Shiek's views are as representative of Islam as a whole as Fred Phelp's views are of Christianity. Wishful thinking, perhaps...

Carissa said...

For what it's worth, re Becca's hope regarding Islam's view of women, Muhammed himeself was not particularly encouraging in that regard. I probably mentioned to you before the hadith where he states, "There are three things that are of evil omen - a woman, a horse, and a dwelling place." I believe in another hadith he stated that he watched people going into hell, and most of them were women.
For that matter, his life wasn't exactly exemplary in its regard of women. He expressly permitted the widespread rape of women who had been captured in battle. Before you argue that rape always occur in war - which it does - please bear in mind that this was an express request from Muhammed's troops (ok, so they phrased it as "marrying" these women immediately after their families had been butchered) and that he expressly allowed it.
In addition, I've always found his favorite wife, A'isha, to be particularly troubling. Her story ties into both your concerns about women and the Bard's concerns about pedophilia. Muhammed married her when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9. Apparently, after being married to Muhammed and moving into his house, she played with her dolls on the floor. A rather young wife! After Muhammed's death, none of his wives were allowed to remarry, although A'isha at least was still a young woman.
On another pedophilia note...there are Islamic descriptions of Paradise that describe the joint as not only being filled with virgins, but young boys, and the white slave trade of the Ottoman Empire specialized in kidnapping young women and men for the harems of the Ottomans. And a recent sermon given by one of the high-ranking Iranian clerics advised fathers to marry their daughters off before puberty. Sorry this is so long!

Anonymous said...

graphic sex education?
-whats your solution, just keep em in the dark until they figure it out on their own? you are the one attempting to suppress information. ignorance is not the answer either.

Becca said...

I'm not sure that distributing birth control to 11-year-olds and explaining the "how-to" of practices that were illegal a couple decades ago as though it were not just a healthy form of self-expression but an inevitable part of being a human animal (thank you, Abraham Maslow) is to be catagorically foiled against "ignorance" or "keeping them in the dark." Second graders are generally 6 to 8 years old. There are things they probably don't need to know at that age.

But all that is a bit tangential to the topic.

Peter said...

This is a fascinating discussion. I'm going to say something about that's also tangential to the discussion, but I suppose is as relevant as anything else on this page.

Regarding the bard's first paragraph, and the assumptions behind the whole post:

I'm not sure that the "total depravity" view is compatible with either common sense and experience (does the writer really believe that no "unsaved" person is really capable of any "good" - or does he just define "good" so narrowly as to automatically exclude the "unsaved"?) or with a literal interpretation of the Bible, which I know the bard espouses (the Bible identifies many people as "good" who had no knowledge of Christ - Job, the Roman Centurian, Naman the Leper are three that spring to mind).

It strikes me as a mindset more compatible with secular figures as diverse as Freud and Scorsese (I think we had a conversation about that second one pretty recently...) than with a literal understanding of the bible.

I may be projecting my own former belief system onto the bard; until recently (6 months-1 year) I espoused the "total depravity" view. I'd love to hear the bard's answers to these problems.

Peter said...

Becca, if this is going to turn into a bible-interpretation discussion, what are the chances of a post about the biblical view of alcohol? - an argument I've been wanting to have for awhile...

Becca said...

More compelling examples of pagans who held different views of humanity are Kant or Henrik Ibsen (or any of the humanist philosophers). They at least recognized that there is a component of being human that demands a different level of respect--and responsibility--than other members of Creation.

You also have strictly pagan nations in the OT being punished for exploiting or failing to protect the poor and defenseless. That's certainly consistant with an expectation of ALL people that other people be treated as ends and not means to gratification.

I think that's part of the fundamental split that also divides Deists (and I use the term to describe those to believe in a supernatural Creator and special creation of humanity) and atheists (or those who believe humans' differentiation from other animals is only biological). I guess I would just expect Muslims to make the assumptions on the Deist side rather than the atheist side.

Anonymous said...

im not sure the "it was illegal 20 years ago" argument is such a great one. but the obvious question arises, when is education appropriate? you are being overly melodramatic to prove your point, but its a quite simple question. im not talking about giving condoms to second graders here, i'm talking about a simple educational seminar on sexual intercourse, at what age do you folks think it should be done?

Becca said...

It's an interesting discussion, anonymous, but it's really not the point of this post and quite outside the realm of any expertise I could claim to have. Bard can correct me, but I don't think it was really his point either.

The Bard said...

Peter has raised some good questions, which I will respond to in due time. Let me deal with some tagential matters first.

Sex ed (the details of which were never my point and will not be addressed further). Depends on the kid and the parents and other factors well beyond my expertise. But surely a kid need to know the facts of life by 4th or 5th grade. I don't object to facts; I do object to giving condoms to children and the that many sex ed classes glorify what is at best irresponsible and in my view wrong. What happened to parents anyhow?

Hermaneutics. Techinally I subscrive to a "literal historical grammatical" hermaneutic, which is not quite the same thing. If Scriptute records someone using a figure of speech, I don't take the figure literally.

Natural law. My views are changing on this, but I am leaning more towards thinking that Natural Law condems but does not help one act in a moral way. The whole point of the law (Natural and Divine) is that it CANNOT be kept. I grant you that humans have some capacity for self-control and do not operate like hungry cats or Pavlov's dogs. Maybe the anaolgy to a trained tiger is more apt where there is some control on the nature in some situations.

Alcohol. I'm curious. But what wiggle room for a "theology" do you have between Solonom's command to "enjoy your wine" and Paul's command "not to be drunk?"

The Bard said...

I have thought over Peter's questions. Feel free to consider it a clarification or a revision. Oh, an use all caps since I don't know how to use italics on here.

I do not mean to use "good" in the sense Peter mentions. If we mean earn favor with God, no one can do good. If we mean please God, no, unbelievers cannot do good (note that I said "unbelievers" rather Peter's use of "knowledge of Christ. Job at least (and perhaps the other two) was probably an Old Testament believer)). But in a broader sense, where "good" means worthy of human moral commendation and useful to society, we see many unbelievers doing "good." This, I think, is where Peter's experience comes in.

An example for "good" in this sense among unbelievers is the Roman Republic and the virtue that society produed.

But the assumption driving my first post was not (or at least now is not) the ABILITY to do good, but the INABILITY to avoid doing evil. This is what I mean by total depravity. This is what Paul speaks of when he speaks of being "slaves" to sin and what Jesus speaks of when he tells the religious leaders "you are of your father the Devil, and the lust of your father you WILL do."

Human beings, notwithstanding their ability to do good, cannot overcome their innate desire to do various kinds of evils, including the sexual promiscuity that makes our Shiek friend so angry. They cannot; they WILL do evil at some point.

Any different between men and feral cats is only a different in degree, not in kind. Some cats are most suceptible to the smell of fish and some to beef; some men like flesh and others money, but put out the right bait and the person will cannot help but come. This is total depravity: an inability to avoid doing evil.

Recognizing this, societies cope in different ways. People know what are doing in wrong (see my earlier discussion) but this makes them feel guilty, so they look for a way out.

This goes to my point of why Islam engages in such repression of women. It attempts to eliminate the possibilities or one kind of evil, but doing so creates worse evil (repression of women), causes people to overlook other evil (child abuse) or both. Whatever choice a pagan society makes, it cannot find a way out.

Communism tried to suppress greed and ended up with totalitarianism. Westen debauchery tells you that anything goes. And even if one could suppress all internal vices, he would be left with pride, and yet again unable to avoid doing or being evil. Total depravity confronts them at every turn, and, for those who are honest, it leads ultimately to despair.

There is, of course, a social veneer that blunts much of this raw evil. Society imposes restraints and here a form of Social Contract Theory explains why there is such a thing as civilization. But that veneer can disappear quickly--like in times of disaster or where enough people realize that they can break the contract and get away with it. Think about Speilberg's War of the World, and how civilization began to collapse. What was left? Nothing but a version of the law of the jungle, a.k.a., total depravity.

Scorcese gets this, at least in part. His world is one of brutal violence where no one is good, no one is happy, and no one ends up alive.

The above is not a pleasant worldview. To borrow from Conrad, mankind does have a "Heart of Darkness" that he cannot avoid following.

This is why it is not enough to accept religion and work to become a BETTER person; one must find Jesus Christ and let Him make you a NEW person.

Becca said...

Well said, Bard. I'll have to think about it. Oh, and you can italicize by enclosing with html tags < em > and < /em > (minus the spaces). Fancy little trick.

Carissa said...

I must take issue with the Bard's assertion that the difference between men and feral cats is a difference only of degree, not of kind. The Bible declares that man is created in the image of God. As you know, this is a unique characteristic of man, and not one shared with animals. According to my understanding of the imago Dei, we still are the image of God, but now it's flawed. The mirror cracked from side to side, so to speak. However, that does not negate the fact that you can still catch glimpses of the image even in a cracked mirror. The fact that people, even unbelievers, are capable of recognizing and doing good is a reflection of our nature, which is a broken reflection of God's nature.

Furthermore, though we cannot keep the law in every point, we do know that we have the ability not to choose evil, because we do it all the time. If we really do not have the ability to avoid choosing evil, how could God hold us accountable for our actions? We would be little better than sin-programmed automatons. Please understand that I am not arguing that we can keep the law in all points, or that if we did we would be saved (I firmly believe in original sin). Nonetheless, I think we theoretically have to assume that we do choose - and it is a real choice - to sin every time we do. It is not an inability, it is a choice.

Becca said...

Yes, it's still the "image of God" idea that's not jiving here. I have heard it taught that the special creation of man (and woman) in the image of God reflects His trinitary aspect: body, soul, and spirit. The cat lacks one of those essential elements, and thus its role in Creation (and moral responsibility) differs profoundly (no offense, Puck--if anything you get off easy). In an unregenerate person the spirit is not dead or has not somehow failed to exist; it is broken or marred. The use of the word "renew" suggests that something must have been there than needed replacement, not that there was a void.

Col. 3:9-10 speak of the restoration of the image of God (...since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him [NASB, emphasis mine]). But now that I look more closely at the grammar, the direct object is "new," and "who is being renewed..." is actually a participial phrase (do they have those in English?) that describes "new." Hmm. So what exactly was the nature of the "old"? A close word study on II Cor. 11:3 might help, but I'll have to save it for another night.

Peter said...

I'm a little conflicted on this whole subject. Part of me finds the bard's formulation attractive in the same way I love movies that don't end in unrealistic bliss or television shows (House immediately comes to mind) that express skepticism about the tendency - or even the ability - of humans to do "good."

But I think that it's one thing to view human nature with skepticism - to say that humans MUST do evil at some point - and another to view it with distain - to say that humans CAN'T do good. The Bard says that we CAN'T gain any favor with God through our actions...a basic tenet of protestant christianity. And, while I do see that in much of the bible, I also see a different, possibly conflicting theme: for instance, read Acts 10. Cornelius, an "unsaved" individual, gained, through his alms and prayers, a "memorial" before God. Actually, read just about any book in the NT not written by Paul - James, for instance, says that "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" - and if justification precedes the redemptive state, these works must take place in an "unsaved" state. (I use quotation marks because of my somewhat conflicted skepticism towards the traditional, protestant understanding of salvation as a once-for-all, entirely faith-based concept)

I bring up redemption because your concept of the nature of man has profound implications for your concept of the process of redemption.

For instance, I think the concept of total depravity, at least as the bard has formulated it, leads inescapably to calvinism. Someone who cannot DO good cannot CHOOSE good. Since mankind is, under the total depravity conception, incapable of choosing or doing good, mankind is incapable of choosing redemption, and must be "redeemed" prior to being able to choose - therefore, redemption precedes, logically if not in time, the choice of Christ.

Further, the concept of total depravity has an ironic consequence: it actually strips "decisions" of their moral gravity. If I am evil, incapable of choosing good, then it doesn't matter what I do - I am as guilty of evil regardless. Therefore, particular actions, whether as innocuous as white lies or as evil as murder, are equally imbued with immorality. As an "unredeemed" person, my actions have no moral consequences either way - except, perversely, against the social veneer the bard derides.

What I'm saying with this last point is that it is choice that creates evil - remove the ability to choose good, and you remove the moral blameworthiness of evil. In this sense, only "redeemed" people - people capable of choosing the good - should be held responsible for their actions, at least by God. Society can do whatever it wants in order to create some form of order, but ultimate moral blame can only lie at the doorstep of those who "choose" to do wrong.

The Bard said...

Legit points have been made above, and have correctly deduced that I hold to a Reformed understanding of Salvation (I have other understandings as well, but those will come for another time).

A response will appear in time, but for now I want to direct you towards Camille's latest post.

Peter said...

'K, just want to clear one thing up: My comments up till now have been based on the assumption that the bard adopted some form of free will-based theology (based on a conversation I vaguely remember having with him um...geeze, has it been three and a half years ago?), and not reformed theology. I should have asked...sorry.

Game on.