February 13, 2004

Spiritually homeless

Something I passed over but wanted to mention about The Trouble with Islam: Among the recommendations Irshad Manji makes for her Operation Ijtihad is a universal hajj to Mecca, open to Christians and Jews as well as Muslims. She suggests it would start an interfaith dialogue and the stressing of similarities over differences, and adds

Such discussions, which an Abrahamic hajj would inspire, can bring a universal spirit to Mecca -- a globalism that graces Jerusalem, Rome, and Geneva (the spiritual womb of Protestantism).

It was odd to see Geneva (John Calvin's adopted home) listed with Mecca, Jerusalem and Rome. Though I have a very qualified admiration for some of Calvin's theological ideas, and though I grew up in a denomination that drew heavily on Calvin for its catechism and its teachings, I don't feel any more connection to Geneva than I do, say, to Timbuktu. I certainly don't think of it as a holy city on the order or Jerusalem or Mecca, and if you told me that 75 percent of Genevans are Catholics, or Buddhists for that matter, I doubt I would be much perturbed (and for all I know, Protestantism isn't dominant there -- it would never occur to me to check). I wonder if other Protestants have a different view. Perhaps moreso than other faiths, Protestantism is an austere faith of the mind rather than one that attaches itself emotionally to any particular place. But then, given that I'm rather a lapsed Protestant, I doubt my impressions are particularly representative.

Posted by Ideofact at February 13, 2004 10:50 PM

I think a key distinction is that the founders of Protestantism weren't actually holy, so the places they lived aren't part of the Protestant sacred memory. I mean, I never heard stories in church about Luther's 95 theses and the like.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at February 13, 2004 11:05 PM

I think Brian is right here. It seems more fitting to attach reverence to the places associated with Prophets, not with religious scholars no matter how profound those scholars were.

Does Protestantism see itself as being "born" or "founded" in Europe? Or does it see itself as simply the reclaiming of the true teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him)?

The hajj is already universal, and this is something which is commented on by almost all who go there. People may be familiar with the hajj of Malcolm X from his autobiography or the Spike Lee movie -- its universality was its most powerful aspect for him.

The hajj is already Abrahamic as well. It also must remain pure from the association of any partners with God in worship.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at February 14, 2004 11:17 AM

Well, clearly the Protestant view of things is that they were Reforming an existing religion, not creating one anew. In that sense, they've a status more like Wahabis - a reforming sect rather than a new religion. Additionally, there are a number of Protestant traditions, only one cluster thereof actually featuring Calvinistic doctrines. Lutherans, the various anabaptist sects, and the Anglican/Episcopal/Methodist tradition are all largely indifferent to John Calvin in a theological sense. Lastly, Calvinistic Reform is particularly hostile to traditions of deification or sanctifying modern individuals. The Reforms were *against* concepts like the Treasury of Merit and the intercessions of the saints. It would go against the spirit of Calvinism to treat him as holy in his own right.

There are nominally Christian churches which revere their founding prophets, and treat those prophets in a sacralized fashion. The Mormons are the most obvious example. Joseph Smith is literally a prophet, and a martyred one at that, and at least some of the differences between Mormonism and the rest of Christianity are based on newly revealed scripture, rather than new interpretations of already-existing scripture.

The Mormon holy city isn't where the religion was founded, however. It's Salt Lake City, which is the destination of the new nation, rather than an origin-point. It might be interesting to do a point-by-point comparison of Salt Lake City and Mecca, at the very least because both are patriarchal successor-religions to Christianity.

Posted by: Mitch H. at February 16, 2004 03:06 PM

Mitch H,

Thanks for your comments.

I wouldn't really call Islam a "successor religion to Christianity," though I am not sure what you mean by that. Certainly, Islam is something which includes Jesus as part of its tradition.

Of course Muslims see Islaam as something which did not start with Muhammad (saw) or with Jesus (as) but instead with Adam (as) and including tens of thousands of Prophets including Adam, Moses, Lot, Noah, Salih, Abraham, Jesus, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Aaron, Isaac, Shuaib, Solomon, Ezra, John, Zakaria, Jonah, etc. (May God's peace and blessings be upon all of them.)

Of course to a Muslim any one who believed there was, is or could be a Prophet after the Prophet Muhammad (saw) as well as anyone who did not accept any of the above mentioned as Prophets of God would be a disbeliever.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at February 17, 2004 02:23 PM

What is the Protestent view of homelessness and poverty?

Posted by: Marissa at April 12, 2004 09:27 PM