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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2003


Prince Charles and Islam
A fair bit has been made in the blogosphere and elsewhere about Prince Charles and his fling, whether official or not, with Islam. Now, Instapundit has linked to a long Middle East Quarterly essay on the subject from a few years ago. While linking to it, Glenn Reynolds suggested that "this would matter more if, you know, Prince Charles did," but I suspect that the esteemed Dr. Reynolds misjudges the real potential, if not actual importance, of the monarchy. If the monarchy actually took a stand for something, such as Islam, it would be, I think, a very powerful thing. And as the article implies, the idea of a Prince or a King plays better in places where they're still ruled by them--i.e., the Middle East.
But overall, Charles' interest in Islam seems rather unoriginal. As the article mentions,
In the popular [British] perception, he is a spiritual dilettante, something of a religious butterfly, flitting from faith to faith and veering, increasingly, towards Islam. . . . The sight of the Prince in yet another prayer shawl only compounds the image of a well-intentioned eccentric seeking divine inspiration.
The denigration of the West at the expense of a foreign tradition that Charles engages in occurs quite commonly among the West's intellectual elite. For some it is Islam, for others Tibetan Buddhism, Maoist thought, or American Indian spirituality. In all cases, the alien is assumed superior to the familiar.
This has, of course, struck the monkey directly on the nose. Spirituality is something all people, on some level, long for, and the emergence of post-modernism has allowed the intellectual elite (and elite wannabes such as John Walker) to search out various spiritual systems without much hassle. It couls have been the other way around, I suppose, but that's hardly the point.
As the article points out, however, the spiritual systems are purposefully and distinctly non-Western. Or rather, non-Christian. There's enough Norse and Greek pseudo-paganism going around amongst elites and elite wannabes, and the fact is that eastern strains of Christianity, such as the Orthodox, Coptic or Nestorian churches are not exactly garnering a lot of converts out of the agnostic Western elite (they are getting quite a few from disillusioned protestants, but that is another story entirely).
Why is this? My theory is two pronged. First, "the alien is assumed superior to the familiar." Obviously things aren't working out with the searcher, who generally comes from a "Christian" nation, and so obviously Christianity hasn't done the trick. Second it is because orthodox Christianity is one of the few religions that makes an assertion that it alone includes truth, which doesn't jive as well with post-modernism. Hinduism and Bhuddism both don't bother making such all-encompassing claims, and are perfectly willing to adopt and adapt. The only other major current religion that makes such claims (outside of athiesm, that is) is Islam, and yet it is so obviously foreign, and so obviously eastern (well... not really. It's really quite western, when compared to anything that is really in the east. The comparisons Charles draws between the true eastern religions and Islam are patently absurd), that it can't really be as bad as Christianity, can it? But even so, that claim to absolute truth keeps Islam down pretty far on the totem pole as far as spiritually-seeking elites are concerned, and true eastern religions are obviouly more popular. And once in a great while, one of these seekers will abandon post-modernism for true Islam--this is where John Walker comes in, and the utter confusion of his parents when his seeking actually found something solid.
I don't predict this will happen to Charles. His leanings are too obviously described by his desire to change the regal title "Defender of the Faith" to "Defender of Faith." Faith, to him and much of the Western world, is a large, amorphous ideal, and it doesn't really matter what form it comes in. I don't think he, or those like him, are up to the challenge of actually believing something to be true (and, therefore, that those beliefs that contradict it cannot be anything but untrue).
And that, I fear, will be the fate of Europe and much of the West in general, until something happens to shake it up immensely. I pray that it comes, and comes in the form of revival, rather than catastrophe.
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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