Going Too Far

Last night I went to see the film Luther – which unsurprisingly enough is a biographical epic which focuses on the life and works of Martin Luther. I have always felt a strange attraction to Luther, not for his religion, but for the ‘here I am, I can do no other’ part. This post, however, has little to do with the film, except in that it is about how small changes in our ways of thinking can have big impacts.

You see all through the film I couldn’t help thinking about the recent act of ‘personation’ carried out by the Spanish radio station cadena COPE, and about just how stupid the people behind it really seem to be.
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Turkey and the EU: Poles apart?

Like most numbers of the Spectator, the festive, XL-sized holiday edition is marred by the presence of Mark Steyn. But don’t let that put you off, there’s some good stuff there as well. And one of the better bits is an essay by Prof. Norman Stone on Turkey (Potential EU Accession of) (reg. req.).

For the most part Stone paints a picture of the old Ottoman Empire as something much less uniformly Islamic than some think. You should already be aware, of course, that what would later (in truncated form) become Turkey was a multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious state, but if you weren’t, Stone gives you a quick background. (By the time it fell apart, the Ottoman Empire had become the ‘Sick Man of Europe’; but for centuries it was a success.) What you might not have known, though, was that the orthodox Christians of the Ottoman realms were only too happy to be part of a nominally Islamic polity. The orthodox patriarchs and the Muslim sultans saw in the latinate West a common foe. Indeed my own suspicion is that the Greeks felt a keener enmity than the Turks. The sultan, understandably, might well have seen the theological differences between orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as obscure and uninteresting (how many of us in the post-Christian lands of the west are aware of, let alone take much interest in, the distinctions between the theravada and mahayana strains of Buddhism?) To the bishops of the orthodox world, though, the sultan served (whether he cared about this or not) as a bulwark against the centralising domination of their brother-bishop at Rome.

But what set Stone off was a recent article in Die Zeit by Prof. Hans-Ulrich Wehler. The title of Wehler’s article, which formed part of the contra side in a Zeit-sponsored debate on Turkish accession to the EU, has some unfortunate historical echoes: “Das T?rkenproblem“.
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Thoughts on Establishment

Not having been educated in Europe, I can’t contribute to the thread on religious education. But I want to thank Nick for putting it up, and everyone else for their comments on it. One of my pet peeves is how American arguments about religious education, and “establishment” issues in general (as they are usually described in the U.S., following the language of the First Amendment), seem to me at least to be trapped in a very narrow (judicially dictated, for the most part) box. I’m not a theocrat, but I suspect that, had America’s historical experience with religious-civic partnerships been different, we perhaps might more easily be able to relate to both the benefits, and the costs, of the sort of (I think highly admirable) experiences with religious education that many of you are describing. Anyway, your thoughts prompt me to excerpt here a post from my own blog from last September; specifically, a quote from Stanley Hauerwas, that expresses my views of the matter pretty succinctly…
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