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The arc of the moral universe: two versions

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — MLK and Cardinal George ]
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SPEC DQ ML Card George

Both Martin Luther King, Jr and Francis, Cardinal George, know how to turn a well-turned phrase. Both make strong statements, and although they seem to take opposite tacks on the surface, I’m not sure that in the long view they conflict.

Cardinal George died yesterday, may he rest in peace.

It’s not quite Easter yet (for the Orthodox)

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — so I trust you’ll forgive me posting a couple of stunning movie crucifixion images ]
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My first image comes rom the forthcoming Ernst Haas book, On Set, and features his sbehind-the-scenes shot of the crucifixion in The Greatest Stiry Ever Told:

On Set crucifixion Haas

The second image turned up while I was researching the Armednian Genocide for a forthcoming article. It’s taken from a 1919 documentary, Auction of Souls, and it brings crucifixion into the twentieth century:

Crucifixion 2 Armenian Genocide

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For crucifixion in antiquity, see A Tomb in Jerusalem Reveals the History of Crucifixion and Roman Crucifixion Methods:

Examination of Yehohanan’s bones showed one of the many Roman crucifixion methods. Both of his feet had been nailed together to the cross with a wooden plaque while his legs were bent to one side. His arm bones revealed scratches where the nails had passed between. Both legs were badly fractured, most likely from a crushing blow meant to end his suffering and bring about a faster death. Yehohanan was probably a political dissident against Roman oppression. In death his bones have helped fill in gaps in the history of crucifixion.

Crucifixion in the Qur’an is one of several severe “hudud” punishments {Q 5.32-34):

Therefore We prescribed for the Children of Israel that whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether; and whoso gives life to a soul, shall be as if he ha given life to mankind altogether. Our Messengers have already come to them with the clear signs; then many of them thereafter commit excesses in the earth. This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement, except for such as repent, before you have power over them. So know you that God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.

The Qur’an also states that Jesus was not crucified (q 4.157):

And for their [the Jews] saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’ — yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them.

It should be noted that this suggestion is similar to that in the (Gnostic) Acts of John, #97:

I, then, when I saw him suffer, did not even abide by his suffering, but fled unto the Mount of Olives, weeping at that which had befallen. And when he was crucified on the Friday, at the sixth hour of the day, darkness came upon all the earth. And my Lord standing in the midst of the cave and enlightening it, said: John, unto the multitude below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given me to drink. But unto thee I speak, and what I speak hear thou. I put it into thy mind to come up into this mountain, that thou mightest hear those things which it behoveth a disciple to learn from his teacher and a man from his God.

For crucifixions today, we must turn to the Islamic State. A Fox News report noted that while “IS crucifixion” photos have been circulating, what is meant by crucifixion here may not be what we assume it means:

The series of photographs show different men bound to crosses in what appears to be a public square area, though it could not be independently confirmed that the subjects were dead or, if they were, by what means the executions had been carried out. The pictures do not show any apparent signs of the men nailed to a cross, nor are there any obvious, visible signs of fatal wounds.

crucifixion Fox

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Plenty of room for thought herein.

Tomorrow: Christos aneste!

Of books, business, and cathedrals

Friday, April 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — who knows more or less what Walter Robb of WholeFoods was getting at, but doesn’t think it adequately sums to what cathedrals have to offer ]
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This tweet by friend Victor d’Allant frankly saddened me…

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Until redeemed by the comment at the tail end of this BBC report:

Bookstore church

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Okay, then.

To support the crowdfunding effort to save the “temple of books that raises reading to a religious experience” — figure this out: Dominicanen gaat door!

The battle flags of religion

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — vexilla regis prodeunt, comparative version ]
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Two recent examples of religious iconography on the battle field.. from the Badr Brigade, outside Amerli, Iraq:

badr brigade

and from Pro-Russia fighters near the eastern Ukrainian city of Starobeshevo:

Christ flag

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The Vexilla regis is a hymn written by Venantius Fortunatus to welcome the procession bringing a fragment of the True Cross to St Radegunda‘s convent in Poitiers: the first line translates to “The banners of the king go forth”.

Here it is, illustrated with battle flags flown by Catholic and Royalist troops during the War in the Vendée:

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Sources:

  • Iraq
  • Ukraine
  • When the promise of the miraculous is disappointed

    Saturday, March 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — the role of promise and illusion in recruitment, disappointment and disillusion in CVE ]
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    Here’s an example of promise and disillusionment from the early Afghan jihad: upper quote below from Abdullah Azzam, lower quote from Mustafa Hamid.

    SPEC DQ miracles azzam & hamid

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    It seems that disappointed hopes are and/or should be a major focus in countering violent extremism, ie places where the jihadist recruitment “narrarive” fails when it comes in contact with ground reality. Because a caliphate that is losing ground is no caliphate. Because a caliphate that diverges from its own ideals and standards is no caliphate. Because the food is terrible, or battle turns out to be more real than bargained for:

    [ order of these two NYT paragraphs reversed here at Zenpundit ]

    During nearly a year in contact with New York Times reporters, Abu Khadija expressed gradually growing discontent. His grievances ranged from relatively mundane issues like eating canned food and being deployed to a front line far from his family because of a lack of fighters, to discomfort with the group’s strategic priorities and its extreme violence.

    “I can’t eat, I feel I want to throw up, I hate myself,” he said, adding that the executioners had argued over who would wield the knives and finally settled the issue by lottery. “Honestly, I will never do it. I can kill a man in battle, but I can’t cut a human being’s head with a knife or a sword.”

    Jessica Stern makes a similar point on NPR:

    I think that we need to hear a lot more from people who leave ISIS – somebody who says, gosh, I joined. I thought I was going to be making the world a better place, and it turned out that it really wasn’t what I imagined, that there were atrocities that I didn’t want to be involved in. There are people who are saying that. We need to amplify those messages.

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    The quote in the upper panel of the DoubleQuote above comes from Azzam’s collection, The Signs of Ar-Rahmaan in the Jihad of Afghanistan. There are many miracles (both mujizat and karamat) described there. Among them, one of the most interesting to me concerns the Miraj and al-Aqsa mosque:

    Informing the people of the details of Baitul Maqdis after the night of Me’raaj.

    Rasulullah sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam said: When the people denied (the Me’raaj), Allaah Ta’ala revealed the Baitul Maqdis to me and I informed the people of its details whilst looking at it.”

    The Miraj was the prophet’s night journey to the Noble Sanctuary / Temple Mount (Bait al-Maqdis) in Jerusalem, from whence he ascended the heavens and was given the instructions for Muslim prayer. The Noble Sanctuary was Islam’s first Qibla or direction of focus in prayer.

    The quote in the lower panel above comes from Mustafa Hamid in his forthcoming book with Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan. In it, Hamid illustrates both the spiritual aspirations and disappointed hopes at play in that earlier jihad.

    I have discussed Azzam’s and others’ descriptions of miracles previously in such posts as Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad, Azzam illustrates Levi-Strauss on Mythologiques, and Gaidi Mtaani, the greater scheme of things. Such stories are profoundly moving to those who are open to believing them.

    In Mustafa Hamid’s words, we see the equal and opposite influence unleashed when such stories, offered as promises in recruitment, prove unsubstantiated by reality.

    A hat-tip to Myra MacDonald, who pointed me to this quote.

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    Side note:

    Students of comparative religion may find the following paragraphs, quoted in the Azzam compilation from the Deobandi scholar Ashraf Ali Thanwi of interest:

    Karaamaat and Mu’jizah do not occur by a person’s design — that whenever the Nabi or Wali wishes he can execute such an act. Such acts only occur when Allaah Ta’ala in His Infinite Wisdom wishes to exhibit the act. It then occurs whether a person desires it or not.]

    A karaamah does not indicate that the person performing such an act is better than others. In fact, sometimes the karaamah decreases his status in the sight of Allaah, due to fame and vanity entering his heart. It was for this reason that many of the pious personalities used to make istighfaar (seek forgiveness) when a karaamah would manifest itself at their hands, just as they would make istighfaar when sins are committed

    The statement “It then occurs whether a person desires it or not” reminds me, for instance, of the tale told of St Teresa of Avila, friend and colleague of St John of the Cross:

    Legend tells it that as Teresa was in the choir singing among her sisters one day, she began to levitate. When the other nuns started to whisper and point, Teresa lowered her gaze and realized that she had risen several inches above the stone floor. “Put me down!” she demanded of God. And he did.

    There’s a deeper truth hidden in St Teresa’s request, I suspect: grace is not taken, it is given.


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