Holy Ignorance

How can one study the failure that is political Islam and Protestantism?  The former dwells on an archaic vision that simply cannot address contemporary issues while the latter remains permanently entangled in the cultural morass of exalted personal autonomy.  For it has long been assumed that Western society in the modern age (beginning in the 15th century with the rise of the nation state, science, individualism, the Enlightenment) is a movement against both tradition and authority.  In a word, increasingly secular.

What is modernity if not the movement away from both imposed authority and reason?

In this view, contemporary man lives in a disenchanted world (non sacramental); the price paid for leaving the charms and consolations of both religion and tribal life.  The West has pursued a line of thinking that never ceased identifying secular life with a decisive advance in human self understanding.

But every decent person knows what the academics refuse to acknowledge:  their is no relation between moral refinement and historical progress.

How does one modify this secularization that has dominated contemporary life?  How can anyone overturn the triumphalist message that grounds the appeal to the lie?

We could begin by discovering natural theology or even the defeat of Marxism that is the Social Teachings of the Church in John Courtney Murray S.J.  Easier still, we must first acknowledge the error that is radical autonomy, individualism.


Because religion in the West is regulated to the private sphere, becoming an interior search no longer binding on either conscience or moral growth.  Our faith communities are increasingly withdrawn from the broader culture, defending purity and posture in language ironically drawn from secular life itself.  This encirclement of Christianity from the authority of secular life is a return to neo-paganism.  Just witness the materialism that dominates Protestant Sunday service.

This very withdrawal of faith without culture IS FANATICISM!

The drive in isolated, separatist, unmediated, unstructured religious sentiment is dangerous for the West.  We glimpse its contours when we study contemporary militant Islam.

How else to put it:  when Christianity fails to acknowledge its dependence on a dynamic cultural tradition,  a true humanism, it becomes Holy Ignorance.

Here we find joined together both Western Protestantism and Salafist Islam, for both deny the drive of acculturation.  As such, the West provides the Near East with easy caricature as the Great Satan including absolute sexual freedom, unlimited individual autonomy and the sanctimonious personal imperatives of an inner self.

Classic Christian humanism cannot make peace with these secular imperatives.  It must maintain a decent respect for the autonomy of culture while strengthening its own evangelization.

Protestantism has uncritically accommodated neo-pagan ideals and paradigms thereby transforming itself beyond recognition along with disarming itself against the nascent drive that is militant Islam.  The West has completely lost its sense of how culture has an intrinsic theologic foundation.

Where does this leave orthodoxy?

It provides an opportunity to recognize that the vision of evangelization that informed John Paul II is in vital need of disciples.  To trivialize the very source of Western civilization is to threaten the very integrity that drives growth and individuation.

In a sentence:  keeping human freedom, FREE!

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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