Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Old Abe

Spengler » Islam’s Attempt to Appropriate Abraham:

It has recently become commonplace to talk about "the three Abrahamic faiths". Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As with so many of the progressive language tropes that we are taught to mimic, this is yet one more "mind-forged manacle" to legitimate Islam as a natural, rather than alien and hostile, religion in the West. Jews, Christians and Muslims, in this framework, all worship the same God, but just in different ways. In Spengler's words, it promotes "the idea popular in liberal religious circles that Christians, Muslims and Jews can hold hands and sing Kumbaya around the campfire by virtue of our common Abrahamic heritage." Reminds me of a Greek Orthodox priest's reaction to groovy pan-Christian ecumenism: "When we gather around the table with the Bible, we are united. As soon as we open it, we are divided."

For those of you rusty on your Bible, in Genesis 11-25 Abraham is called by the God Yahweh to leave his home city in Chaldea and journey with his aged wife to Canaan, where he makes a covenant with this single God, signified by circumcision and rewarded by the miraculous birth of Isaac, etc. and promises of great things to come.

The (halted) sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham

For Jews, he is the physical father of their people, the first circumcised believer, being the grandfather of Jacob, who was re-named Israel (in Ex Cathedra's favorite Old Testament story, Genesis 32.) For Christians, via St Paul, he is the spiritual father of those who live by faith in Christ.

In the Koran --which contains reworkings of a lot of Jewish and Christian material that Mohammed learned from the Jewish and Christian Arabs*-- Abraham is a heroic prophet of monotheism. Islam bypasses Isaac in favor of focussing on Abraham's "illegitimate" son by his wife's slave Hagar, Ishmael, from whom Mohammed claimed descent. For Muslims, Abraham and Ishmael set up the Kaaba and made the first Hajj.

"Appropriation" --to make something one's own--is a loaded PC word, used to describe cultural theft. Usually it is applied to evil Westerners. I once watched a group of nasty gay activists try to shred a White gay man for "cultural appropriation" who was presenting his doctoral research on same-sex love in ancient China, because he wasn't Chinese. Spengler here accuses Islam of stealing Abraham for their own purposes.  Muslims consider the first Muslim to be Adam, so Abraham is actually pretty derivative :)  It's a tricky business this, assuming that culture is entirely like an owned object. For instance, what we call Arabic numerals, which replaced Roman numerals in the West in the 15th century, the Persians called Indian numerals. Was this "appropriation?" But when Kenneth Branagh casts a Black man to play a Norse god in Thor...what's that? Global village? Inclusion?
A pet peeve of mine (which Spengler does not assert) is the accusation that Christians "appropriated" the Old Testament. In fact, the first Christians, who were all Jews, imposed the Hebrew scriptures on all believers in Jesus, Jewish or not. And whether they liked it or not.

To me, it is about the purpose of the use. The current PC game around "Abrahamic Faiths" is entirely to grant Islam both legitimacy and equal status with the other two important religions in the West. And there is a previous tale of moving from a Christian civilization to a Judeo-Christian civilization. Another story.

*As Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologus pointed out, there is relatively little in Islam that is new. For a long time, Christians looked upon is as a heresy, a deformation of Christianity. IMHO, it can be adequately described as a combination of militant Hebraic tribal legalism with Christian missionary universalism. Joshua and King Josiah plus Saint Paul and Emperor Constantine = Muhammad.


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