"Chaos and destruction in the house of Islam"?

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"The struggle against Islamist terrorism is neither the rosy success story painted by [Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad] Allawi and President Bush nor the disastrous free-fall described by John Kerry," writes my old boss David Ignatius in his Washington Post column today. "Instead, it is one unresolved battle in the long-term struggle summarized by the title of [French Arabist Gilles] Kepel's new book, The War for Muslim Minds."

Ignatius writes that according to Kepel, "the West has been misreading the aftermath of bin Laden's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He cites a December 2001 pamphlet, 'Knights Under the Prophet's Banner,' written by al Qaeda's key strategist, the Egyptian doctor Ayman Zawahiri. The jihadists should attack the 'faraway enemy' in the United States, Zawahiri urged, because it would help mobilize the Muslim masses to overthrow their rulers in the 'nearby enemy.' Instead, "the followers of Osama bin Laden have created chaos and destruction in the house of Islam" by murdering many of their fellow Muslims, causing Islamist regimes to weaken or fall, and alienating millions of moderate Muslims.

Kepel is "sharply critical of U.S. policies" in Iraq, writes Ignatius. "But that doesn't mean the jihadists are winning. Quite the contrary, their movement has backfired. Rather than bringing Islamic regimes to power, the holy warriors are creating internal strife and discord."

Among the jihadis' problems: "The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in retreat; and the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad."

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  1. “Saturated in terrorism alerts and images of violence from Iraq, Americans may miss the essential fact that the terrorists are losing.”

    I haven’t missed that fact, not a bit.

  2. Yeah, its a great book; better than Jihad. Kepel can really knock this stuff out.

    Kepel details the nature of the Islamicist credo and how it is has been applied, describing its many failures. Kepel also argues that Muslims in Europe will serve as a bridge to modernity for the rest of the Muslim world.

  3. When reading, a couple of translation points need to be kept in mind. Islamic thought divides the world into two “houses,” the “House of Islam” which is also translated as “House of Peace,” and the non-Islamic world, known as the “House of Strife.”

    So when you read about terrorists bringing strife into the House of Islam, there’s more to the phrase than appears at first blush.

  4. From the link: The breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in 2000 was the first turn in a downward spiral of violence and retribution.

    What was the first WTC attack and the US embassy attacks and the attack on the USS COle about, I wonder?

  5. joe,

    I thought that was a given.

  6. Writing of good things, this NOVA special titled Origins is quite good (though I admit that I wish Carl Sagan was still alive).

  7. You know Jason, around here, that just might count as common knowledge.

  8. I continue to compare the war on terror to the war on drugs.
    In my ‘hood here, if the drug dealers, even though tacitly supported, said they actually wanted to run this ‘hood, there’d be similar grumbling.

    This is why all parties need to call a time-out and have what lawyers call “discovery.”

  9. Seriously, how many of you reading this already knew the House of Islam/House of Strife thing?

    I’m curious.

  10. I knew it, BUT you’re posting put the “nuance” to it, that I hadn’t thought of.. Thanks.
    The Dar al-Islam badly needs a Reformation. Right now it seems to work in Denial, “Modernity did NOT happen” or with a cognitive dissonance, “OK Modernity happened, just not here. My wife, in Europe can wear a bikini or shop at Saks in a nice dress, but at home she must wear a Burqa.” That only buys time… sooner or later one must confront one’s acceptance of bikini’s or accept the Burqua, one can not continue to do both.
    And though I support Dubya in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East in general, I do believe that only Muslims can effect the Reformation that needs to occur. Someone in Islam must needs write The City of God, The City of Man” or “The Summa Theologica”. Certainly, no Westener can. All we can do is kill Jihadis and buy some time for the Martin Luther’s to emerge…

  11. Joe L.,

    Martin Luther’s emergence didn’t bring peace or tolerance.

  12. I had never heard of the “House of Islam” and “House of Strife.”

  13. No, You’re right Jason, he didn’t BUT the Reformation BEGAN the process we see today. Matin Luther was one of the pillars of modernity and the Acts of toleration that we all enjoy today.
    I don’t think that Islam is going to make the jump from Wahabist madrassas to Vactican II in one fell swoop. It needs to start somewhere.

  14. Joe L.,

    You really need a refresher course on the history of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Your attempt to paint Luther as a pillar of modernity is laughable, and wholly ahistorical. Read Luther’s On the Jews and their Lies for an example of his “modernity.” Honestly, what is it with people turning theocratic-minded individuals like Luther and Calvin into heroes of “tolerance.”

    Some of Luther’s thoughts on Jews:

    “The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows, seven times higher than ordinary thieves…”

    “We ought to take revenge on the Jews and kill them.”

    “The blind Jews are truly stupid fools…”

    “Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people.”

    “What then shall we do with this damned, rejected race of Jews?”

    “Such a desperate, thoroughly evil, poisonous, and devilish lot are these Jews…”

    “I shall give you my sincere advice: first to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.”

    “Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.”

    “Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.”

    “Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them…”

    “If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the river Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words ‘I baptize thee in the name of Abraham’.”

  15. “I don’t think that Islam is going to make the jump from Wahabist madrassas to Vactican II in one fell swoop. It needs to start somewhere…”

    The Muslim world definitely needs a Calvin. Christopher Buckley invokes a mythical “Geneva of the Middle East” in a fictional piece in this month’s Atlantic but I wonder if such a place will ever exist.

  16. Cletus Nelson,

    What? So that this Muslim Calvin can burn to death Michael Servetus, and the Muslim Anabaptists? Yes, that’s exactly what the Islamic world needs, another fucking dictatorship.

    thoreau,

    There is dar al-Islam (literally the House of Submission) and dar al-Harb (literally the House of War). The former refers to areas under the control of Muslim governments and the latter refers to the rest of the world.* In recent years Muslim reformers have challenged this bi-furcated worldview, stating that there are other houses (don’t ask me to explain what they are, because that’s all I know). To Islamicists it is the role of believers to expand the former and destroy the latter.

    * A third house was invented by the Ottomans to deal more peacefully with its Christian European neighbors; this is dar al-Ahd (literally the House of Treaty).

  17. Correction:

    Cletus Nelson,

    What? So that this Muslim Calvin can burn to death a Muslim Michael Servetus, and the Muslim Anabaptists? Yes, that’s exactly what the Islamic world needs, another fucking dictatorship.

  18. If anything, individuals like Osama bin Laden are the Calvin’s and Luther’s of the Islamic world.

    If we’re trying to make analogies early modern Europe, what the Islamic world needs now is its own version of the 17th century Netherlands.

  19. No Jason I don’t need a refresher course in history. I know that Luther wan’t pefect, BUT the Reformation broke the monopoly of power, intellectual and otherwise that the Chruch had in Europe. By positing that anyone can understand the Bible, not just a selct few, he began the process that became what we have today.
    You need to lighten up…Geneva led to Amsterdam that led to what we have today. I stand by the Acts of Toleration we have today began with, in part, Luther Theses. I’m sooooo terribly sorry if he was religious and didn’t meet up with your high standards of intellectual purity.

  20. joe l.,

    Apparently you do need a refresher course. It has nothing to do with whether Luther was “perfect” or not; the man supported religious tyranny; he was no reformer in other words, no matter how you want to fallaciously spin the historical record.

    …BUT the Reformation broke the monopoly of power, intellectual and otherwise that the Chruch had in Europe.

    Such a monopoly never existed; that it did exist is a myth created by Protestants to justify their break with the Catholic Church (note that I am neither Catholic nor Protestant, I’m an atheist). My suggestion is that you pick up a copy of Diarmand MacCullogh’s The Reformation and read it.

    By positing that anyone can understand the Bible, not just a selct few, he began the process that became what we have today.

    That’s not even true. Luther wrote his translation so as to convince people of his ideas; which is why his translation of James (for example) is so off the mark from the Masoretic texts.

    You need to lighten up…

    You need to learn the historical record.

    …Geneva led to Amsterdam that led to what we have today.

    More bullshit. Geneva did not lead to Amsterdam, unless you mean that they reacted in horror to Calvin’s dictatorship there.

    I’m sooooo terribly sorry if he was religious and didn’t meet up with your high standards of intellectual purity.

    Whether he was religious or not is beside the point; the man supported religious tyranny and genocide. One need not be religious to support such acts, and you’re attempt to foist a red herring upon this conversation demonstrates your desperation.

  21. Please note Joe L.’s ratcheting down of claims:

    First Luther was a “pillar of modernity” (a laughable claim if there ever was one) and now he “began a process.”

  22. Your atheism blinds you… to some truths of European history. Weber makes a convincing case that Capitalism emerged from Protestantism, Calvinism in fact. I’m sorry that you can’t see the truth, not of religion, but of it’s contribution to the development of the world in which you live.
    And yes, it was the Calvinism’s excesses that led to Amsterdam’s tolerance, but it was the triumph of Protestantism that led to both and the defeat of my Church for the good of Europe. And I don;t think you comprehend the intellectual power that the Church wielded.
    Any way, I don’t think you and I ought to discuss history much, Middle Eastern or otherwise, ‘cuz I think religion plays a GIANT part in both and I think you’ve got a casse of the Ass against it and God.
    It’s your right, I’m not trying to convert you, you’re just like “joe” on Kerry your emotions blind you. So have a good night

  23. Joe L.,

    Your atheism blinds you… to some truths of European history.

    More red herrings. My atheism has nothing to do with nothing. If the only way to substantiate your arguments is to attack me personally, then I suggest you shut up.

    Weber makes a convincing case that Capitalism emerged from Protestantism, Calvinism in fact.

    Even if that is the case, that has nothing to do with whether Calvin was a tyrant or whether he burned Michael Servetus at the stake – with green wood no less (to make it more agonizing) – or whether Calvin was a dictator. Again, you keeping on shifting the locus of debate whenever the ground underneath you collapses.

    I’m sorry that you can’t see the truth, not of religion, but of it’s contribution to the development of the world in which you live.

    Again, another red herring. I never stated that the development of the world wasn’t benefited by religion. Can you lie about my statements anymore than you already have, you fucking sophist? You and Noam Chomsky should share notes.

    And yes, it was the Calvinism’s excesses that led to Amsterdam’s tolerance, but it was the triumph of Protestantism that led to both and the defeat of my Church for the good of Europe.

    The Catholic Church was never defeated; it still exists today. What sort of alternate universe do you live in? And the Catholic Church was never the overarching power you imply that it was; indeed, you’ll find that since the Reformation brought about the wholesale dissolution of the guilds in Protestant countries that laypeople lost control of what went on in the churches because they had been the ones building the chantries – late medieval religion, in other words, was run by the laity, who paid the clergy – which gives lie to the later misrepresentation of the Church as being run by the clergy. Hell, even a brief perusal of Chaucer’s Cantebury Tales will inform you of this.

    And I don;t think you comprehend the intellectual power that the Church wielded.

    In understand it quite well, having read all of it. You don’t understand the nature of late Medeival religion is your problem. I’ve suggested a text to disabuse you of your ignorance; its up to you if you want to remain in such dimness regarding these affairs.

    Any way, I don’t think you and I ought to discuss history much, Middle Eastern or otherwise, ‘cuz I think religion plays a GIANT part in both and I think you’ve got a casse of the Ass against it and God.

    I never claimed that it doesn’t play a large role. Again with the sophistry! And I think you need to take a course in English prose writing.

    Whether you trying to convert me or not is not my concern; you’re efforts to lie about my positions is another matter. You do disservice to your credibility in doing so.

  24. Joe L., AKA “The Sophist”

  25. Joe L.,

    Any way, I don’t think you and I ought to discuss history much…

    Yes, it would be foolish to continue this conversation, given the paucity of historical knowledge that you possess, and your poor powers of analysis.

  26. Joe L.,

    Just to give you a clue, Weber’s analysis has come under serious and withering criticism over the years; and has largely been de-bunked (despite what David Landes might claim otherwise). This partly because the roots of capitalism lie further in the past than the Reformation, that is well into the 14th century. Capitalism did not spring from Protestantism; it sprang from the historical relationships that were forming in the 1300s.

  27. Joe L.,

    And just to smack you around with some talking points, in case you reply to my statements on Weber, his analysis fails to explain the following:

    * The Northern Italian Renaissance

    * Chinese economic and scientific booms – 800-1300 BCE

    * France’s economic boom in the 18th century (coinciding with Britain’s)

    These are all fatal to his idea of Protestant exclusivity on the matter of capitalist development.

  28. Correction:

    * Chinese economic and scientific booms – 800 CE – 1300 CE

  29. “The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows, seven times higher than ordinary thieves…”

    That is a lot of effort. What good does it do to hang anyone any higher. Other than giving them a nicer last view?

  30. Hey Matt Damon,
    Is it true that protestantism had nothing to do with capitalism and modern democracy?

    I guess my WT proffessor decieved me. I always thought it made sense thought. That one learns to read and interpret “Gods” words on his own and question religious authority would lead to justification questioning other authority.

    I figured that explained why western Europe seemed to live in capitalism and democracy before the rest (in recent times).

  31. I’d put it:

    Reformation leads to wars of religion
    Wars of religion lead to people getting sick of civil war over unprovable ideas…
    helps lead to intellectual support for enlightenment ideals of tolerance. No wars of religion, no Voltaire. Calvin would have burned Voltaire, Diderot, etc. but he was indeed part of a historical process that helped lead to them.

    The Muslim world needs an Enlightenment more than a Reformation. But it is hard to see such an enlightenment taking place when so many progressive ideas are associated with Western powers that are seen in the Muslim world as colonialist. If accepting Enlightenment ideals comes in a package deal with accepting U.S. occupation of Baghdad, I would say that is very much not a good thing for reforming Islam.

    And I wouldn’t say Weber has been discredited — capitalism is not unicausal and I think Weber realized that. The idea that Protestantism was one important contributor to the creation of the culture of capitalism is not unreasonable and has not been discredited. The idea that Protestantism is the only factor that can create this culture is a bit of a straw man. Weber’s real point is that capitalism is not a natural outgrowth of human “greed” or selfishness and in fact require a form of ascetic discipline. He sees protestantism as an important inspiration for that kind of self-discipline in Europe.

  32. Jason:

    I’ll be the first to admit that Calvin was both a hypocrite and a bloodthirsty despot.

    Nevertheless, various scholars have cited the influence of his theological WRITINGS in the evolution of representative government.

    That’s what I was trying to convey in regards to Islam.

    If it as an ill-conceived reference and I’m utterly wrong, then you’ve provided a revelation: de Tocqueville, Fiske, Buckle, and my college economics professor were all Christian Reconstructionists.

  33. I really do suggest that you all read Diarmand MacCulloch’s The Reformation. And if you read it, keep a copy of the Bible handy. Its an excellent synthesis of the major work in the area, and debunks the myths that have grown up around the Reformation. One example is that of indulgences; which most people assume were the work of Rome; yet they were largely popular not in the Mediterranean, but in northern Europe (as evidenced by wills from the time). Thus if individuals like Luther were rebelling against their sale it was not because they were foisted upon them by Rome, but because the laity in northern Europe demanded them. They were rebelling against the popular interest at the time; against what the market demanded; and using state power to crush that demand. You see the same thing with regard to pilgramage sites as well.

  34. Let them have the moon. Most of them live in a desert already, they could probably adapt pretty well.

  35. how about this: capitalism emerged from its roots in the aftermath of the bloodshed of the reformation/counter reformation and the wars that followed?

    or how about indulgence selling?

  36. emerged as a dominant force, that is. not just like, showed up.

  37. I had heard the term ‘House of Islam’, but not of the other House, and the nuance would have escaped me had joe not pointed it out.

    JB should remember that there are various levels and areas of foci of formal education hereabouts and various levels and foci of armchair education on top of that. I don’t think that joe’s observation was a restatement of the obvious to a great many people, and it certainly wasn’t deserving of JB’s derision on those grounds.

    My impression was that the reformation created an environment in which the enlightenment was possible by taking a hammer to the Truth giving power of the Chuch. The specifics of Luther’s (who was an ass) and Calvin’s (who was an ass) messages didn’t matter so much as the fact that they were dissenters who managed to bring a lot of folks with them. No?

  38. “Saudi Arabia has taken sides more strongly with the West;”

    If that is the case, then why is the Saudi government jailing liberal reformists who are advocating constitutional monarchy? Or is that what siding with the west mean?

  39. I think Jason’s got the upper hand, here. Luther’s importance isn’t a consequence of his actual ideas, so much as his position at the head of a broad sociopolitical movement that changed the structures of society.

    Saying he didn’t contribute to the openning of the westerm mind because of his revolting antisemitism is like saying Jefferson didn’t contribute to the creation of modern democracy because he owned slaves. While the charge is appropriate for refuting hagiography, it misses the main point.

    Social movements 1, Great Man 0

  40. It has nothing to do with whether Luther was “perfect” or not; the man supported religious tyranny; he was no reformer in other words,

    now that we’re waaay off topic, my two pennies:

    mr bourne, i think it fair to say that luther was not an intentional reformer. he had no notion of upsetting a uniformly catholic europe (and it SO was, in every meaningful way, uniformly catholic). he did support a religious tyranny — the roman catholic church.

    luther’s importance isn’t in what he intended, but in what his action precipitated — he was an accidental reformer, i like to think. joe L isn’t perhaps making the most articulate argument of this point, but it must be acknowledged.

    before we hammer luther’s antisemitism again, shall we acknowledge that professing antisemitism in his day was akin to professing a love of football today? it doesn’t make it moral, i agree, but condemning a man for being of his times is not historical understanding.

    and i would contend that indulgences, while clamored after by the hoardes for what they represented, did in fact pay for the new saint peters. they were but one of many grievances, so i agree perhaps too much is made of them — like any revolution, the causes are manifold and sometimes contradictory — but to pretend that the onerous nature of a schedule of religious obligations that is hard to imagine today played no role isn’t entirely honest.

    i tend to adopt barzun’s view of the reformation — unlike weber, who imagined the spark of capitalism in calvin, i think the revolution luther sparked was rather a manifestation of a societal revolt against the local collectivism that had been the advent of the fall of the roman empire and perhaps peaked with the black death of 1348. what luther’s followers and fighters (though not luther himself) were fighting for was the first war of emancipation in modernity — a rebellion against the weight of obligation placed on them by the church like so many straws on the camel’s back (of which indulgences were one).

    the ascent of individualistic emancipation has persisted throughout, a defining characteristic of modernity, today being taken to every absurd (and decadent) end in the west.

    whether that be what muslims *should* or will adopt depends on your point of view, imo. emancipation taken to the lengths we take it necessarily means irresponsibility, and irresponsibility means antisociety and decline. i cannot blame traditionalists such as exist in islam for fearing that.

  41. Saying he didn’t contribute to the openning of the westerm mind because of his revolting antisemitism is like saying Jefferson didn’t contribute to the creation of modern democracy because he owned slaves. While the charge is appropriate for refuting hagiography, it misses the main point.

    agreed, joe, but i think his “opening of the western mind” was largely accidental. one of my favorite mental images of luther is the disconcerted look on his face that must have accompanied being handed a copy of his 95 theses — typeset printed for mass distribution, being handed out at flyers.

  42. back (or at least closer) to topic:

    The breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in 2000 was the first turn in a downward spiral of violence and retribution.

    i have to disagree — this is too small a frame, though a locally important event.

    as i said above, in any revolution, the causes are manifold and sometimes contradictory. there is, imo, a revolution ongoing in the muslim world. perhaps its core is a battle within islam for the direction of the society under the influence of western ideas — “modernity” vs traditionalism, the “war for muslim minds”.

    but the part that most directly affects the west is less philosophical; there is widespread resistance to the imperialism of the west, now particularly america, in the third world. as cicero once said (and i have to paraphrase), ‘the hatred of the provinces for rome is ensured by the men we’ve sent to rule them’. as mr freund noted, the notion is that “The jihadists should attack the ‘faraway enemy’ in the United States… because it would help mobilize the Muslim masses to overthrow their rulers in the ‘nearby enemy.'”

    al-qaeda represents — at least in large part –an insurgency against western rule by proxy (particularly, american indirect empire through the house of saud). they oppose not only the cultural invasion of the east by the west as traditionalists, but also the mechanisms of trade, largesse, debt and warfare that the west is reknowned for. and it is the widespread antipathy of western influence that allows al-qaeda — despite their mistakes (rightly noted by kepel) and method — to continue to derive the sympathy of the wider society that every insurgency must have.

    the lack of recognition in the west of the nature of AQ’s appeal was never more apparent than in its invasion of iraq — which not only made zawahiri seem prescient, but opened an entirely new theater for the insurgency to operate in. the erection of a “democracy” in iraq (in which only approved candidates are eligible) is, from that point of view, not a solution to any problem but yet another manifestation of western empire and cultural invasion. “Not what you would call a successful jihad”, indeed, but all the more evidence of the need to fight it.

    until the west learns that they are fighting an insurgency against their rule, ideals and culture, and then adopts the proven methods of starving an insurgency — which has less to do with bombing city blocks than addressing and removing the reasons for public sympathy — i think we have little chance of success anywhere in the east.

  43. dhex,

    Since capitalism in Europe emerged in the 14h century, I would say no.

    joe,

    See my comments to Jason Ligon.

    Jason Ligon,

    …Truth giving power of the Chuch.

    The problem with that is that its a myth; even Luther admits this when he rages against the “ignorance” of the people who really controlled the churches in Northern Europe – the laity. Indeed, what’s particularly interesting is Luther does a great deal to destroy lay control of the late medeival church (how many times do I have to repeat this?). So anything like democractization happens DESPITE their efforts.

    gaius marius,

    he did support a religious tyranny — the roman catholic church.

    The Church in northern Europe was controlled by the laity; it was far less tyrannical than the churches that Luther and Calvin sought to create. Indeed, this is the great irony here; by their efforts, Calvin and Luther destroyed the control that the laity had over their local churches, and, by bringing about the Council of Trent and the counter-reformation that followed, strengthened the role of Rome in the Church’s affairs.

    before we hammer luther’s antisemitism again, shall we acknowledge that professing antisemitism in his day was akin to professing a love of football today?

    No, we can’t. Luther’s anti-semitism was especially virulent even for his time. He generally went beyond the pale even for his own time.

    it doesn’t make it moral, i agree, but condemning a man for being of his times is not historical understanding.

    Ignorance of the historical times is your sin.

    and i would contend that indulgences, while clamored after by the hoardes for what they represented, did in fact pay for the new saint peters.

    Indulgences were popular not because the clergy forced them upon people, but because people liked them; and they were largely found – again – in Northern Europe.

    they were but one of many grievances…

    They weren’t true grievances against Rome; if they were grievances against anyone, they were grievances against the desire of the laity; and again, they were attacked by the coercive power of the state; Luther and his ilk couldn’t kill them by argument, so they killed them via state power.

    …but to pretend that the onerous nature of a schedule of religious obligations…

    And again, these were controlled by the laity, not by Rome. Please, don’t get sucked into the self-serving myth making of the early Protestants.

    …a rebellion against the weight of obligation placed on them by the church…

    Again, no such obligation existed; the northern churches were almost wholly the domain of lay control. I’ve detailed why this is the case above. You can choose to ignore this reality if you like. Lay control was paramount in the 14th and 15th centuries. What Luther was rebelling against wasn’t Rome, he was rebelling against the lay church control that created the “corruptions” that he didn’t like.

    Again, I suggest that the lot of you read some of the newer material on the Reformation; I’ve provided you with one source, and it will point you to others.

  44. gaius marius,

    You completely misunderstand the role of Rome in the affairs of the church as far as northern Europe was concerned; lay control was key to the affairs of northern Europe, and Rome had quite frankly very little influence over the affairs of the local churches there. Indeed, the papacy’s independence was severely compromised throughout the 15th and 16th centuries by the control that various secular states had over it (indeed, that’s the main reason why the Church couldn’t even grant Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon – they had no free hand in the matter). The notion of the Church being one Stalinesque entity is pure non-sense and is flatly contradicted by the historical record.

  45. Jason Ligon,

    Derision? Hmm, not really. Anyway, I went into some detail about the matter when I discovered that it was not a well known subject.

  46. Seriously, how many of you reading this already knew the House of Islam/House of Strife thing?

    I didn’t.

  47. lay control was key to the affairs of northern Europe, and Rome had quite frankly very little influence over the affairs of the local churches there.

    mr bourne, i wholly agree that your main point is part of the historical record — i don’t conceive of any organization as complex as the church being uniform (nor do i view it as bad, as many protestants and atheists assume it to have been). though europe was uniformly catholic, the catholic church was not a simple or uniform institution.

    but how does that mean the rcc of northern europe wasn’t tyrannical or a heavy obligation on northern europeans? whether the church served the papacy directly or only indirectly through the laity is only ancillary to my point, it seems to me. luther’s theses were protests against the conditions — the status of the equilibrium between the laity and the church — of the rcc of his time and place, and his ideas ignited the tinderbox of northern europe because many felt more angry about it than he did. the current view of who the germanic church then served is, i agree with you, at least largely post-revolutionary propaganda; but it is also, it seems to me, somewhat irrelevant.

    no such obligation existed

    when i say ‘obligation’, i mean not fealty to rome but the simple calendar of holy days, tithing, pilgrimage, etc. etc. — being a lay catholic in wittenberg in 1500 was an oppressive thing as a practical matter, in time and money. while many clamored for, indeed demanded indulgences (as you rightly note), many others abhorred the whole system not philosophically but pragmatically — and luther’s theses were the accidental fuse to that powder keg of discontent and opportunism, it seems to me.

    i’ve not read macculloch’s book, but i’ve read others (most recently barzun’s) and that’s the clear impression i have. perhaps macculloch and barzun disagree…. 😉 your posts on the subject are really interesting, though, and thanks.

  48. tyrannical

    is it then the use of this word, mr bourne, that upsets you? tyranny of rome over wittenberg, i agree, the roman catholic church was absolutely not! tyranny of obligation and duty, however, it was — and the revolt that sprung (quite accidentally) from luther’s theses was against this more than anything else. rome, for its part, ended up the scapegoat — not in small part for the character of its response.

  49. senor borne, i wholeheartedly and humbly submit that business and the merchantile class did not become dominant in the same way that we understand them today until after the collapse of religious authority as a military/political authority. they were still beheading people in france for reading voltaire well into the 18th century, etc.

    and yes, this was due to the power vested in the french church into local parishes, not rome directly. but that’s neither dollars nor donuts, really.

  50. “i think the revolution luther sparked was rather a manifestation of a societal revolt against the local collectivism that had been the advent of the fall of the roman empire and perhaps peaked with the black death of 1348”

    That’s part of the story, and Barzun does a good job of covering it. But I think he downplays the extent to which the Reformation was also a backlash to the growing worldliness of the Church and its increasing embrace of the humanist values of the Renaissaince. Think Cesare Borgia. Or Erasmus holding court inside the Vatican. Or prostitutes openly doing business within Italian monasteries. Or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, whose famous artwork was probably financed in part by those indulgences that drove Luther nuts. Manchester’s “A World Lit Only By Fire” is a good source on this issue, though he’s more sympathetic to the Reformation’s formative impulses than I am.

    It’s worth remembering here that Germany was one of the most medieval parts of medieval Europe, a land that had never had the civilizing influence of Roman rule, and which had prided itself over the years on its resistance to both the Empire and the Church. With the advent of the Renaissaince, there was a strong feeling that the Church had lost touch with its roots. Which is why the subsequent revolt saw not only an attack on the Church’s wealth, power, and corruption, but also on the humanist values that, up to that point, were having a profound impact on its nature.

    If China’s rural provinces go into revolt during the next 10-15 years, as is possible, I think the root causes will be very similar to the ones that drove the Lutherans. Partly a reaction to a wealthy, autocratic, and corrupt entity whose local authorities they feel are lording over them, and whose central authorities they feel are indifferent to them. But also a reaction to a growing sense of ideological alienation from the entity at-large, stemming from its increasing embrace of capitalism and modernity.

  51. gaius marius,

    mr bourne, i wholly agree that your main point is part of the historical record — i don’t conceive of any organization as complex as the church being uniform (nor do i view it as bad, as many protestants and atheists assume it to have been). though europe was uniformly catholic, the catholic church was not a simple or uniform institution.

    That was not your tune earlier.

    but how does that mean the rcc of northern europe wasn’t tyrannical or a heavy obligation on northern europeans?

    Because the laity controlled it, that’s why; be it the salaries of the priests or the making of shrines, etc., they controlled how the money was spent. Power of the purse means power over one’s destiny.

    whether the church served the papacy directly or only indirectly through the laity is only ancillary to my point, it seems to me.

    Its not ancillary; indeed, its directly contrary to your earlier claims of Church tyranny. If anyone was tyrannical, it wasn’t the Church; it was its lay members. Realizing this fact brings one to a much closer view of the historical reality; Luther really had far more issues with his fellow northern Europeans than he ever had with Rome, and he tried to use the coercive power of the state to bring out the changes he desired.

    gauis marius,

    Actually what has bothered me is how you and other earlier characterized the Roman church as all powerful; when in fact, as I state over and over again, the northern Church was controlled by the laity. Rome was indeed scapegoated; but in reality, the laity had far more control over their Church prior to Luther’s efforts, than after it (at least until the schisms in the Protestant movement became more apparent, and you had various “primitivist” movements spring up like the Baptists).

    dhex,

    …that business and the merchantile class did not become dominant in the same way that we understand them today until after the collapse of religious authority as a military/political authority.

    I think that you are mistaken. Business and mercantile classes were very powerful from the 14th century onward; so much so that in some countries (particularly England and France) that they could depose monarchs.

    …they were still beheading people in france for reading voltaire well into the 18th century, etc.

    They were? People caught reading illegal books were larged fined and imprisoned.

    and yes, this was due to the power vested in the french church into local parishes, not rome directly.

    The French monarchy nearly always liked to treat its Church as independent of Rome; and if possible, to control Rome at the same time (moving the Papacy to Avignon if they could get away with it). Rome was never as powerful Protestants tried to make it out to be.

    Eric II,

    But I think he downplays the extent to which the Reformation was also a backlash to the growing worldliness of the Church and its increasing embrace of the humanist values of the Renaissaince.

    But most of what Luther was backlashing against, such as indulgences, was not a common practice in the mediterranean (indeed, strangely enough, it was not until the 17th century that they became common).

    Partly a reaction to a wealthy, autocratic, and corrupt entity whose local authorities they feel are lording over them…

    That is simply pure Reformation era Protestant myth; again, it was the laity that ran the northern churches; this is evidenced by the role of the guilds in a whole host of affairs, from paying the priests to creating shrines.

  52. People need to seriously reconsider what the Church in Rome was and was not doing in northern Europe; one thing they were not doing was dictating how the churches there were run. Indeed, one of the main reasons why the Council of Constance (1414-1417) was called was to reign in the more independent areas of Christendom; however, it was an abject failure. This lack of control is reflected in Pope Leo X’s (1513-1522) efforts to sell indulgences in Germany; he couldn’t sell them in Italy, because the practice was largely non-existant there, so he took advantage of a local ritual instead to raise funds for St. Peter’s Basilica. Often it is claimed that these efforts touched off the Reformation; however, what they really did was to bring to the fore the issues that Luther and others had with their region’s Church, and not with Rome itself.

  53. what has bothered me is how you and other earlier characterized the Roman church as all powerful

    lol — mr bourne, with respect, this is your interpretation of what i said. perhaps you misinterpreted me; perhaps i stated it inelegantly. but i have never, in my recollection, believed that the roman catholic church was a monolithic, omniscient, simple mechanism. in any case, i’m happy to largely agree with you on this one point of who luther was aggrieved of.

  54. I’m following JB, but I need help for one more step.

    The Enlightenment contained a paradigm shift. At some point in history, truth was delivered as the word of God throught Christendom. You couldn’t really ask nature for truth until after the enlightenment.

    At the time of the reformation, I follow that Rome was not in fact controlling what the local Churches were doing. My question is around the extent to which before the reformation, truth had to smell of incence and be doused in holy water before it could be accepted. Regardless of the fact of who was in control and regardless of Luther’s intentions, the delivery of any message was dependent on the appearance of Church sanction. What goes along with this sanction is the notion that the Church must have appeared to be a near uniform body to a great many people.

    Fast forward through the reformation and counter reformation. At the end of all this, the notion that the sanction of the Church on even matters of explicit Christianity was in shambles. The era of knowledge passed through an authority as pervasive as the Church was gone necessarily when the Church was successfully challenged and public defectors were everywhere.

    Is there no opening of the door for the enlightenment implicit here, or am I overstating the influence of Church doctrine (regardless of who was actually issuing the doctrine) prior to the reformation?

  55. JB –

    i don’t know exactly what your hangup with protestants and their scarecrows are. all i’m saying is quite evident – at some point the left hand started passing the right.

    ain’t got nothing to do with what that nun-banging wingnut luther did or didn’t gripe over.

  56. as for getting stabby, i’m thinking of an incident in 1760-65, two chevaliers were accused of knocking over a cross in the countryside. some voltaire was found, they were charged with having evil atheist type shit all up in there, and whoosh.

  57. “That is simply pure Reformation era Protestant myth; again, it was the laity that ran the northern churches”

    Jean-Gary Bourne, that doesn’t matter a whole lot, other than that it makes the word “autocratic” something of a stretch. We live in a democracy, and there are still plenty of people who are fed up with what they see as the wealth, power, and corruption of our government institutions. Hell, this site is a pretty strong testament to that fact. In third-world democracies, most of which are more civilized than 16th-century Germany was, we often see this angst boil over into revolutionary movements seeking to install authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. So the fact that power was flowing from the bottom rather than the top doesn’t mean that the institution’s behavior couldn’t inspire popular angst.

    And of course, it’s not hard to see how this shift in influence within the German church added to the aforementioned sense of ideological alienation.

    “Fast forward through the reformation and counter reformation. At the end of all this, the notion that the sanction of the Church on even matters of explicit Christianity was in shambles. The era of knowledge passed through an authority as pervasive as the Church was gone necessarily when the Church was successfully challenged and public defectors were everywhere.”

    Jason, on that note, the Protestant doctrines that:

    a) Each man was free to interpret the Bible on his own, without any outside guidance.

    b) Only faith in Jesus was needed for salvation, not allegiance to a church.

    …had to have played important roles over the long run. Though I would add that in some areas – particularly Italy – the Church’s grip on European intellectual life was already being weakened by the Renaissance, as demonstrated by the way in which even a merciless satirist like Erasmus could gain a readership among the Church’s hierarchy. And in the aftermath of the Reformation, the Church’s intellectual climate began to degenerate once more towards its medieval state.

  58. “Seriously, how many of you reading this already knew the House of Islam/House of Strife thing?”

    Hey Don, I didn’t know that crap either and I have been over there for a year.

    I also haven’t read half as many history books as the rest of every one on this panel. I don’t really know all who hated who and exactly when and why. BUT I did think that protestantism was a major cause of democracy and capitalism.

    That is why I figured taht the Catholic countries of South America and Spain had such a hard time with it. And also all the Moslem countries seem to be having a hard time getting a modern democracy, and every one else that isn’t a protestant. (I think some of the countries seem to be doing OK with the onset of secularism and atheism, which I believed were children of protestantism)

    So if it isn’t the religion what is it?

  59. “until the west learns that they are fighting an insurgency against their rule, ideals and culture, and then adopts the proven methods of starving an insurgency — which has less to do with bombing city blocks than addressing and removing the reasons for public sympathy — i think we have little chance of success anywhere in the east.”

    Despite not knowing all that crap about Luther, and Calvin, I still think the best way to beat these guys is to have a free democratic Iraq, like what we did to Germany and Japan.

    We can’t really remove the reasons they are pissed off at us. So we might as well take a chance, get them a little more pissed of at us, and show them the way to prosperity. And kill all the ones that get in our way or try to stop us.

  60. Jason Ligon,

    The Enlightenment contained a paradigm shift.

    I would say that the Enlightenment contained a paradigm shift that started in the 12th century, and that the real impetus for change was the defeat of Western Christendom by the Muslims in the Levant, as well as contact with that “alien” culture itself.

    You couldn’t really ask nature for truth until after the enlightenment.

    That’s not really true though; individuals like Roger Bacon, Occam and a whole range of individuals being produced by the universities (created in the 12th century) were thinking along these lines well before the Reformation or the Enlightenment.

    My question is around the extent to which before the reformation, truth had to smell of incence and be doused in holy water before it could be accepted.

    Oddly enough, you’ll find that in the fight over the Thomistic doctrine (especially lively in the two centuries before the Reformation) concerning the eucharist being the true blood and body of Christ that indeed the rejection of Church tradition was common, and this doctrine was ridiculed.

    …the delivery of any message was dependent on the appearance of Church sanction.

    That’s not even really true; indeed, we can look at the example of the eucharist. Though a number of Popes officially blessed the doctrine, it was derided throughout European university system (the backbone education for the Friars and eventually priests that Luther would come to win to his side). You really overstate the ideological power of the church. Indeed, the Hussite success at rebelling against church doctrine is even more evidence contrary to your claim.

    I would really appreciate it if you took some time to understand the historical record.

    At the end of all this, the notion that the sanction of the Church on even matters of explicit Christianity was in shambles.

    It was never as strong as you characterize it, and even on the most important of issues, such as transubstantiation, was hotly contested long before the Reformation came about. Indeed, it can be successfully argued that what Luther was doing was parroting the criticisms of the Church itself about itself; certainly this is true of John Colet, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Church was constantly under criticism by its own members, and your attempt characterize Rome as an entity which could stamp its opinion on everything without dissent is silly. I’m sorry, it simply did not work that way.

    Eric II,

    We live in a democracy, and there are still plenty of people who are fed up with what they see as the wealth, power, and corruption of our government institutions.

    The point is, and you continually fail to notice it, that if there was tyranny in the northern churches, it didn’t come from Rome (as Protestants have oft argued), it came from the parishes and bishoprics. I’ve repeated this ad nauseum so many times that my head is starting to spin. You know, if you took the time to read my statements, it might help the discussion flow a bit better.

    So the fact that power was flowing from the bottom rather than the top doesn’t mean that the institution’s behavior couldn’t inspire popular angst.

    And I never argued otherwise. Your point being? Oh wait, you don’t have a point, except to bring up non-sequitors! Really, in the future, just try arguing against something I’ve actually claimed.

  61. Eric II,

    Also, I would appreciate it if you would use my nickname. Your usage adds nothing to the debate (though I suspect that’s why you do it). I honestly don’t care who you think I am, but accord me the same respect that I give you. Thanks.

  62. “The point is, and you continually fail to notice it, that if there was tyranny in the northern churches, it didn’t come from Rome (as Protestants have oft argued)”

    I don’t see where I argued against this notion in my last post – I think that argument mostly holds. In fact, my only major qualifier to it would be that though the grievences of the Protestants regarding the Church’s abuses of power may have been mostly directed towards local authorities, the Church’s affiliation with Rome played a role in fueling popular anger, given the long-standing animosity held by Germans towards Roman authority.

    To get back somewhat to the original topic, this situation probably has something in common with the Iranian Revolution, where the focal point of popular anger was the abuses of the local monarch, but in which the anger was stoked by the monarch’s ties with foreign powers long seen as colonialist entities – and needless to say, a backlash to the humanist/modernist values that both the monarch and the foreign powers were seen as pushing upon the local populace. Perhaps you could even draw an analogy between the 1953 coup and Henry IV’s conflict with Pope Gregory VII.

    “Oh wait, you don’t have a point, except to bring up non-sequitors! Really, in the future, just try arguing against something I’ve actually claimed.”

    The feeling’s quite mutual.

    “Also, I would appreciate it if you would use my nickname.”

    If I posted under three different nicknames, and refused to own up to the affiliation of any one of them with the others, I think I’d deserve to be laughed at for it. I haven’t exactly chosen to harp on the matter, but the absurdity of the situation calls for some occassional mockery.

  63. The point is, and you continually fail to notice it, that if there was tyranny in the northern churches, it didn’t come from Rome (as Protestants have oft argued), it came from the parishes and bishoprics. I’ve repeated this ad nauseum so many times that my head is starting to spin.

    i think the question we’re asking, mr bourne, is why you think that’s relevant.

    you seem to be implying (ad nauseum, in the face of agreement) that tyranny administered through religious obligation was not centered in rome — almost as though that meant no religious tyranny could then have existed. plainly that is not the case (and i’m not at all sure that is what you intend to imply).

    so i agree with you — the northern european laity played a very large part in constructing what luther objected to. how is that relevant to the point of the discussion — whether islam needs or is prepared to accept a reformative force, and what (if anything) the west can or should do about it?

  64. The point is, and you continually fail to notice it, that if there was tyranny in the northern churches, it didn’t come from Rome (as Protestants have oft argued), it came from the parishes and bishoprics. I’ve repeated this ad nauseum so many times that my head is starting to spin.

    i think the question we’re asking, mr bourne, is why you think that’s relevant.

    you seem to be implying (ad nauseum, in the face of agreement) that tyranny administered through religious obligation was not centered in rome — almost as though that meant no religious tyranny could then have existed. plainly that is not the case (and i’m not at all sure that is what you intend to imply).

    so i agree with you — the northern european laity played a very large part in constructing what luther objected to. how is that relevant to the point of the discussion — whether islam needs or is prepared to accept a reformative force, and what (if anything) the west can or should do about it?

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