Saturday, 7 August 2004

opinion columns

From today’s Telegraph a column by Christopher Howse about that Vatican letter on the role of women: Eve is Adam’s ‘vital’ helper and another column by Niall Ferguson which contrasts American and British work customs: The atheist sloth ethic, or why Europeans don’t believe in work.

Over in the Guardian earlier this week, Martin Wainwright wrote about Christians in Turkey, In the language of Jesus and today the Vicar of Soham, Tim Alban Jones writes God stopped at Soham.

In The Times Theo Hobson writes: Europe both fears and envies the certainties of Islam and there is a very interesting article about National Health Service chaplains: Spiritual aid in sickness and in health by Jack Shamash.

Some excerpts from Theo Hobson’s article:

OUGHT we to fear an expansionist Islam? There has recently been a fresh rash of scare comment in the press, suggesting that Islam is the new spectre haunting Western civilisation: by tolerating this enemy in our midst, we are sleepwalking to cultural oblivion.

Of course no such fear is warranted. The Islamic-related terrorist threat is real, but it does not amount to a concerted political threat. Even if bin Laden struck again on the scale of September 11, it would lead him no nearer to the overthrow of the West. In global terms, there is no Islamic state or alliance of states that constitutes a threat to the West.

And in European terms, the Islamic minority is weak. Muslims are not storming the citadels of business or culture. They are, for the most part, surviving on low-wage jobs. Yes, the minority is expanding – from almost nothing a generation ago to about three per cent of the average European country’s population. But there is no reason to fear that the minority will continue to expand until it dominates.

But the problem is the ideology, some will say. Unlike Hindus or Jews, Muslims want to see their religion overtake European society. This is an expansionist religion. But so is Christianity: don’t Christians hope that Islamic nations will come to accept the lordship of Jesus Christ?

Islamophobia does not have a rational basis. Yet it affects intelligent people who are not generally racist; its roots are deep and complex. Could it be that Islamophobia is based in a sort of envy? For Islam painfully reminds us of what we lack. It highlights our lack of faith in our common values. We envy the unitary vision of Islam, its fusion of politics and religion.

…Is there a solution to the old duality of post-Christian, semi-secularised Europe? We cannot reinstate pre-secular Christian culture, and we cannot assert secularism as a coherent unifying ideology, without creating something horrible. So we need to patch up the marriage between our Christian and secular identities. We need to reaffirm the inner affinity between Christianity and secularism. The key work to be done is not so much political, or cultural, as theological. The “spectre ” of Islam may be providential: the spur to a new era of Christian-secular relations, the forging of a coherent European identity.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 August 2004 at 9:15 AM GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion