Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Religious comparisons

There was a recent conference on religions at the University of Victoria. I went to see what it was about. When I got there, I decided not to attend since it seemed on the surface to be thinly disguised Muslim propaganda. Two large banners greeted the guests containing justification for the veiling of women and the practice of Islam. There were no introductions from the other 5 faiths that were to speak in the conference.

When I consider the 'life after death' question they were to discuss, I felt there was a high probability for me that I would be frustrated by the ignorance of all presentations in this context. I decided to walk to the library instead. While there I picked up a very interesting book on the Sufi saints (Islamic mysticism : a short history by Alexander Knysh.) and I wrote a few notes. I thought it strange that I do not want to seek with other seekers or to listen to the religious of any religion. What one has found, however imperfectly, is to be sought out, not sought for.

Islam in the Sufi tradition of al-Hallaj (d. 922) writes this emblematic question:

Glory to him whose humanity manifested the secret of his piercing divinity's radiance and who then appeared openly in his creation in the form of one who eats and drinks.
Al Hallaj was tried for the sin of incarnationism!

These 10th century mystics appear to me to fail to find a language for their divine union that others of their faith could bear. The union language fails without incarnational or Trinitarian language.

I am fairly sure that even the Christian at the conference would not have satisfied my desire to see this language used effectively.

'Life' - the fullness of the life that Christ has for us -
'after' - now in the time after our baptism into his death and in the age to come -
'death' - his death and therefore the beginning already of a new creation.

This is not the traditional linear model of life-death-life but a resurrection and anointing model arising from the examples in the New Testament - a book listed in the displays in the foyer as an obsolete book replaced by the Qur'an. (I had not heard that this is Islamic doctrine but it is not unlike our Christian ignorance of the OT!)

Anyway - I was not there to say something intense about the removal of religious grave clothes that bind men and women to the fearful control of rotten religious practices. Probably good that I did not attend. Maybe I will hear more to counter my immediate negative prejudice if there is a report of the conference.

Next year, maybe I will speak for the atheists. No one volunteered this year - too bad. John Mortimer, Bertrand Russel, and Virginia Wolfe would make good arguing partners.

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