Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Curmudgeon of the Year: Oriana Fallaci

When popular culture "remembers" the deaths of mostly celebrities in 2006, let us turn our attention elsewhere, to someone who mattered. The Constructive Curmudgeon hereby names the irrepressible, incorrigible, and indefatigable Italian, Oriana Fallaci (d. 2006), Curmudgeon of the Year. The storied journalist and intrepid interviewer died early this year from cancer, but managed to write two explosive and deeply truthful books during her illness unto death, The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason, both of which lamented the loss of Christian, European culture to the invasion of Islam. She paid dearly for her courage, receiving countless death threats and public excoriations of the most vile manner. She was even convicted of "blaspheming Islam" in Italy. She spent her last days in New York, in order to avoid arrest. It boggles the mind and turns the stomach simultaneously.

Miss Fallaci (she never married) was no saint. She was an atheist; but, as she put it, "a Christian atheist." By that she meant that she loved the culture and much of the ethics of Christendom, even in the absence of God; and she would not accept Allah as a void-filler. Her arguments against the existence of God turned on the problem of evil. They were hurled at the reader with red heat, then dropped. She had to move on to decry the evil of Islamic terrorism and warn of its threat to the West and to civilization as we know it. Her arguments for atheism were paper thin; her passion for justice was deep and courageous. She respected Jesus, but denied his deity--an intellectually hollow perspective since Jesus' self-perception as divine was inextricably tied to all he did and all he said.

Yet Oriana Fallaci is Curmudgeon of the Year. I was drawn to her courage, her wit, her Italian passion, her extremity, her insouciance. As a young girl, she worked with her family to oppose Mussolini's fascism (as did some of my relatives) and that spirit of rebellion against oppression stayed with her to the end. I read that she published one last book in Italy before she died, which was an interview of herself by herself! Yes, she was a bit of a narcissist as well. So be it. I eagerly await the translation of that last testament to this remarkable, if deeply flawed, woman. God may even use the blast of an atheist to rouse a stupified world--if we have ears to hear.

17 comments:

PamBG said...

I usually try not to comment on books I've not read, but do people really think that railing against Islam is A Good Thing?

Had the author been an anti-Christian atheist, she could very well have directed her invective toward Christians.

I'd rather that peacable people of all faiths stuck together than that Christians declared war on Islam.

I think that the anti-Islamic fervour just plays into the hands of the radical secularists. In the UK, the Islamic authorities have written to all local governments saying that Muslims are NOT offended when Christians celebrate Christmas. People of faith here are gathering together to defend the expression of all faith traditions against a mainly secular society that wants all religions to keep their mouths shut.

Tim said...

Pam,

The equivalence thesis just won't work.

About the worst thing you'll find as an organized expression of something that calls itself Christianity is Fred Phelps. He's a wicked person and his methods are offensive, but they amount to his showing up with a gaggle of his followers wearing tacky sandwich boards for PR purposes. And he's not even remotely mainstream; he's the far lunatic fringe.

Mainstream Islam, on the other hand, is ... well ... this. And that is something that deserves all the railing that Fallaci dished out.

PamBG said...

In the UK, we live with Muslims as literal, physical neighbours. I know Muslim people personally. And, if I may say so, I've also lived for 18 years in physical proximity to terrorism having just moved to the UK Midlands from London.

To say that terrorism is a mainstream expression of Islam is, in my personal experience of Muslim people, bearing false witness.

I'm new to this blog and I'd had the impression that it was a thoughtful place; if this is the level of thinking here, then it is probably not for me.

Yossman said...

Pam,

This blog is a very thoughful place, but also very opinionated (if that's the right word). The author has strong views, but has thought them through in a more thourough way most of us do.

Now about Islam. Christianity and Islam are as anti-thetical as you may find it. Though many things will look similar on the surface deep down there is a tremendous gap. It is something esp. the European mind doesn't see clouded as it is by Western thinking (I'm European myself, whatever 'European' means).

People like Oriana Fallaci have understood what few have, namely that Islam is a very real threat to Western civilization. A a culture we have lost the foundations to carry on our world view, whereas Islam's world view is utterly vibrant and full of vitality. It's flexing is muscle, ready to establish the Umma.

Not all muslims are extremists, but remember that when the Twin Towers fell, all accross the muslim world - as well as in Europe - people were dancing and cheering because the Great Shatan was dealt a blow.

As one having lived in a muslim country for more than a year, I can tell you this much: it is not a religion of peace. Yes, I do have muslim friends. But I really wish for them to get to know more about the One they call Hazrat Isa.

Tim said...

Pam,

Your personal experience of Muslims isn't an experience of the Islamic mainstream worldwide. That's understandable; everyone has to live somewhere, and you live, apparently, in a part of England where there is an enclave of peaceful Muslims. Good for you -- and for them.

But it's simply naive to think that your sample is representative of the majority of Muslims worldwide. Please do your homework before you accuse those who disagree with you of being careless or uninformed.

Tim said...

In light of Pam's comments, some might want to have a look at this video clip of British cleric Anjem Choudary explaining the Muslim position on killing non-Muslims.

Shawn said...

In my opinion, I think Islam is where Christianity was 1000 years ago. It hasn't evolved like Christianity has and I don't think it is capable of evolving since Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazâlî ~1100AD.

Furthermore, I don't think Christendom has any moral standing to "point the finger" and say "we're better"; Maybe now it's not as atrocious as it was, but y'all still have your history. I'm pretty glad Christians aren't lining up to burn me at the stake for being a heretic, so in short I'm thankful for evolution, both societal and philosophical. :)

So I kind of agree with Pam.

-Shawn

Tim said...

Shawn,

You have mistaken me for Christendom, or perhaps Christendom for Christianity. In neither case does the confusion support Pam's contention.

We've recently had a discussion on this site of the treatment of violence and jihad in the Koran. You might want to read that before saying more.

Yossman said...

Shawn:

Is it because of your negative view of both Islam and Christendom that you agree with Pam that, as she puts it, 'people of faith should gather together to defend the expression of all faith traditions against a mainly secular society that wants all religions to keep their mouths shut'?

Your statement is self-contradictory.

Douglas Groothuis said...

The idea that Islam and Christianity can make common cause against secularism (a view advanced by Peter Kreeft in a book with the absurd title "Ecumenical Jihad [written before 9/11]) is lacking in logic. Islam seeks to create an Islamic society in toto with no room for any other religious or nonreligious expressions that challenge it. Christians become dhimmis, second-class and subjected citizens who must pay a yearly tax to Muslims, who cannot evangelize, etc.

Christianity has no such theocratic aspirations. It seeks to persuade, not coerce; it uses the word, not the sword; it depends on the spirit, not the flesh. It is willing to die for Christ, but not kill for Christ.

The enemies of our enemies are not necessarily our friends.

Shawn said...

You have mistaken me for Christendom, or perhaps Christendom for Christianity.
What's the difference? Every definition I've seen is basically - Christians collectively.

We've recently had a discussion Great, can you get a link or title?

-Shawn

Shawn said...

Your statement is self-contradictory.
Which statement, please?

Shawn said...

Not certain to whom these comments were directed, but:

DG:
Christianity has no such theocratic aspirations.
Perhaps my thoughts: "I think Islam is where Christianity was 1000 years ago." went unnoticed. The Crusades certainly had these same "theocratic aspirations" as Islam does today.

I do agree with your assessment of Islam and it's wanting to "create an Islamic society". Perhaps only Christians can defeat this threat to us in general, and America specifically. /shrug But then again "The enemy of my enemy may not be my friend." :)

Tim said...

Shawn,

Regarding Christianity and Christendom, you ask:

What's the difference? Every definition I've seen is basically - Christians collectively.

Um, no.

"Christendom" is a loose term for a social and geo-political polity of the middle ages and renaissance, a collection of countries where the preponderance of the population at least professed belief in Christianity. It makes some sense to speak of Christendom as beginning with Constantine (or perhaps Theodosius); it makes little sense to speak of Christendom after the Reformation.

Christianity is another matter altogether. It is a religion that claims to be continuous with and the historical completion of Judaism, founded by Jesus of Nazareth, and defined by a body of information and doctrine inscribed in the books of the New Testament. Christians existed before Constantine and they exist now, four centuries and more after the breakup of Christendom.

Not all of those who claimed to speak in the name of Christendom during the period from the fourth century through the sixteenth have an equally good claim to be called Christians. Many things done in the name of Christendom are sharply at variance with the explicit teachings of the New Testament. Individual Christians can and should condemn these things in strong terms.

You ask for a link to our discussion of jihad, violence, and the Koran. Go here.

Shawn said...

tim,

I'm not going to argue your def of Christendom v. Christianity. You've taken my comments out of context and laid claim to something I'm not arguing. Look at a dictionary of the word. Even Cambridge uses the word, in the old sense, as "Christian people or nations as a whole". That is the word and context I'm using.

Now if you want to cry "No True Scotsman" about the whole thing, that's up to you.

In fact, by so doing the "they weren't 'Christians'" you've lent credence to my point; the evolution of religion and that Islam is still in its "dark ages" (as an aside, I don't think Islam can pull itself out of its dark age).


About the other blog-post, I completely agree, Islam is a nasty bit of work. I'm not seeing the point you were trying to make.

Are you taking exception to my comparison of Christianity and Islam?

-Shawn

Tim said...

Shawn,

You write:

You've taken my comments out of context and laid claim to something I'm not arguing. Look at a dictionary of the word. Even Cambridge uses the word, in the old sense, as "Christian people or nations as a whole". That is the word and context I'm using.

Now if you want to cry "No True Scotsman" about the whole thing, that's up to you.


Baloney. Here's what you actually said:

Furthermore, I don't think Christendom has any moral standing to "point the finger" and say "we're better"; Maybe now it's not as atrocious as it was, but y'all still have your history.

No, actually, I don't have that as my history, and if you want to attribute it to Christianity (as opposed to Christendom), you'll have to argue your case from the New Testament, which is the only authority that I, as a good Protestant, am going to allow as binding in a discussion of what counts as Christianity.

You write:

About the other blog-post, I completely agree, Islam is a nasty bit of work. I'm not seeing the point you were trying to make.

Are you taking exception to my comparison of Christianity and Islam?


Yes, you're missing my point. So let me spell it out very explicitly. There is not a case to be made for religious violence from the New Testament. The New Testament is the final authority on this issue for Christians. There is, on the other hand, a depressingly strong case to be made for religious violence from the Koran. The Koran is the final authority on this issue for Muslims.

Ergo, Christianity and Islam are not and never were on the same footing with regard to violence.

Ergo, your suggestion to the contrary is mistaken.

USpace said...

..
She will be sorely missed, but never forgotten!


absurd thought -
God of the Universe HATES
The Rage & The Pride

angry at Islam problems
because so many truths hurt
..