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Earlier open mic threads:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44.
Happy New Year, everyone. May God bless you abundantly in 2016.
I’m very late on this, but I believe I have said that I would link to the article I wrote with respect to disability when I finished it. So here it is.
I wish you all a Happy New Year! God’s blessings in 2016.
I have just read the post on mass immigration which you linked today via a tweet. Thank you for drawing attention to it I don’t have time now to study it and reflect on it more closely, but here are a few thoughts for now – first some positive thoughts about immigrants I know, and then some of my misgivings about the presence of first- and second-generation immigrants in the UK.
My doctor, dentist and optician are all first-generation Asian immigrants, and I am very thankful for their expertise and their courtesy to me. Several of the small shops in our area are owned by Asians, and although I do my main shopping at the local supermarket, I sometimes shop at the small shops, and I am also thankful for the courtesy shown to me by the owners.
I have just looked up the most recent statistics on immigrants in the UK (2013) and noted that a large minority of UK births are to mothers not born in the UK. About 20 years ago I taught in a school where the vast majority of pupils were second-generation Asians, many of them Muslims. This was a relatively long time ago, but I still have some of the concerns that I had at that time. One of statements in the Atlantic article echoes one of these concerns :
‘The society that mass immigration has created in Britain doesn’t only involve immigrants but also rigid self-segregated ethnic groups.’ In my experience, some of those groups are so self-segregated that some of their members do not feel the need to learn the English language. An example of this was a Asian mother who walked to the school to inform the staff that her child would be absent because this mother could not speak English and she needed to give her message via an interpreter provided by the school, so it was not possible for her to give the message by phone. I thought then, to put it mildly, that I would have been happier if the mother had been able to learn the English language! I don’t know if this kind of scenario is still a factor in some schools, but I would not be surprised if it is.
In Coventry there is one part of the city which is so densely populated by Asians that it can be difficult, especially when going to there during Ramadan and Eid, to remember that it is in the heart of England. Some Asians of my acquaintance have also expressed concerns about this. One moved away from the part of the city I mentioned above and this was his stated reason for the move :’Too many Asians!’ Another, a very westernised Muslim colleague, told me that he always took his Year 11 girl pupils on a day-trip to London before they left school because ‘It would be their last day of freedom.’ He commented that, after that, the girls would be enmeshed in the Muslim culture, which he thought was very chauvinist.
Just one thought about Cologne. Apparently that 1000+ mob of men who harassed women and girls at Cologne station were part of an established group of immigrants who had formed their own enclave. Some other immigrants, who have made every effort to become integrated into German society, have expressed fears of being tarred with the same brush as the mobsters.
I have many more thoughts, but have no time to say more just now.
Thank you again for the link.
Thanks for the comment, Christine. I don’t want to get into an extended discussion of this issue at the moment, so this will be my only comment for now. There are important distinctions that I believe need to be made and understandings that should frame the discussion more generally.
Being firmly opposed to our immigration policies is not the same thing as having an animus towards immigrants, even though the failure to permit the public expression of the former may well have the effect of sparking the latter. Many of us resist the government approach to mass immigration, while also being favourably disposed to the immigrants that we know personally. There is no contradiction in this, although there may occasionally be emotional tensions. It is possible to understand the motives that drive people to come to our country in hope of thriving in a new life and to believe that they are overwhelmingly well-intentioned and law-abiding people, while also believing that our government is deeply unwise and irresponsible in opening our country up to an influx of new arrivals on such a scale.
We shared our Christmas, for instance, with a wonderful Iranian family who attend our church and a young Iranian man who just came over within the last couple of months and couldn’t yet speak any English. Our Iraqi Muslim neighbours dropped over a special Iraqi dish to us in the early afternoon too. These are not evil people trying to destroy our society. Many of them are proactively seeking to become part of wider society in the UK.
That said, the immigrants that most of us encounter from day to day will overwhelmingly tend to be the immigrants that are integrating well. However, many others aren’t, but are forming cultural enclaves within the UK, cut off from the formative effects of our wider culture and often existing in cultural antagonism with it.
It is also important to recognize that culture is a real thing and that, contrary to the tenets of cultural relativism, some cultures really are dangerously dysfunctional. The problem, for instance, isn’t ‘Islam’ as such, as Islam is far from homogeneous, representing a wide range of different cultural groups. Nor is the problem at the level of nationality, although both religion and nationality correlate to some degree with the problematic cultural issues. Arab Sunni Muslims, for instance, are often a problematic cultural group in ways that others are not. Their patriarchal society, culture of consanguineous marriage, and the like often produce dysfunctionality. Cultural practices such as cousin marriage form societal dynamics that encourage abuse, forming a marriage culture that is particularly shaped by male rivalries, dominance structures, and familial hierarchies, stifling cultural development, the independence of families, and producing sexually resentful young men.
Further to this, opposition to mass indiscriminate immigration is a rather different thing from opposition to immigration as such. Successful immigration isn’t scalable beyond a certain point. There comes a point where immigrants no longer integrate into their host country, but form their own communities detached from its life. There are also, as I’ve already noted, differences between population groups and the degree to which they can adapt to the host culture.
Most importantly, the real people that we have a problem with is not immigrants, but with the politicians and thinkers that have imposed mass immigration and multiculturalism upon the country. It is important that our society creates a non-stigmatized space for the expression of strong anti-immigration sentiment, while ensuring that it doesn’t curdle into anti-immigrant animus.
Thank you, Alastair. I appreciate that you don’t want to get into an extended discussion of this issue at this time, and at first I thought it might best if I made no further comment about it, but I did not want to ignore your thoughtful comment, so I will just respond briefly. Thanks to our politicians, we do indeed have a multi-cultural society and I think that there are local differences in the ramifications of this. Coventry, with about two-thirds of the population being ‘White British’, does not have such a high immigrant population as, for instance, London, Birmingham and Luton, but the immigrant population in Coventry is above the national average, and maybe this was why I was somewhat surprised by the pro-immigration animus that seemed to sweep through the country following the publication of that tragic picture of a drowned toddler. I think it is likely that, in the event of an ambush in the UK similar to the one in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, an anti-immigration animus could also sweep through the country, or through the parts of it most affected – the crowd is fickle.
The Atlantic article has now appeared on my timeline via Damian Thompson, so I will follow the discussion there…if there is one.
Hi Alastair and Matthew.
I have been following your conversations on Twitter, but I did not participate, partly because I did not want to interrupt the flow of your conversations, and partly because aspects of your conversation were outside my scope.
I had been thinking about the complexities of adopting/fostering children before you mentioned it in your conversation, and I have been reflecting again on my own unsuccessful efforts as a childminder when I was 25 and our daughter (at that time our only child) was aged 2 years 2 months.
My neighbour brought her daughter (aged 2 yrs 6 months ) to our home at 8.00 a.m. on Mondays to Fridays, and collected her each evening at 6.00 p.m. My husband was out at work (and travelling to and from work) during those 50 hours and he was coming home each evening to an exhausted wife and a fretful daughter. After a month of this I was so concerned about the detrimental effect of it on our family that I told my neighbour that I would need to give her a month’s notice and ask her to look for another childminder.
My neighbour’s daughter, T., seemed to be neglected and abused by her parents. She was brought to our home on cold winter mornings wearing ill-fitting summer clothes. She immediately came to me for a hug and screamed ‘MY Mummy! Go away!” to my daughter. Almost every day she said, ‘Mummy Daddy fighting. Daddy hit Mummy. Daddy hit me.’ T. brought a little toy piano with her but my daughter was happy to share her own toys with T. Sadly, T. did not want to share the toys with my daughter – she didn’t want to share anything, and she certainly didn’t want to share me.
I was very disconcerted one day when my daughter came into the kitchen holding a small clump of fair hair. T.’s hair was fair and my daughter’s hair was dark. As I awaited an explanation of what had happened during my brief dash from the lounge to the kitchen, my daughter took my hand and led me back into the lounge, where T. was sitting in the corner pulling her hair out. My daughter had brought some of T.’s discarded hair to show me.
In agreeing to look after T., I had unwittingly agreed to ‘import’ a traumatized child. No matter how kind my daughter and I were to T., we could not give her what she really needed – the mother-love and father-love that her parents were unable or unwilling to give her. I could not do justice to T. and I was also doing an injustice to my own family.
T.’s next childminder lasted six weeks – T. tried to tip the baby’s pram over several times a day.
Third-person perception is always different from first-person perception and I have no doubt that your perception of what have written here will be different from mine, but I think that the difficulties we had with T. were not altogether dissimilar from some of the difficulties encountered by indigenous people who receive immigrants. When we ‘import’ people from dysfunctional cultures they have deep-rooted problems – goodwill and the law of the land cannot wave a magic wand.
‘Charity begins at home but doesn’t end there’ is a well-worn cliché but I think it’s a good one!
Thanks for that comment. I do think it’s helpful.
I do think that the primary role of the family is to open up to people outside, but not in that way.
(The family, in particular, as opposed to other forms of social life has a goal outside itself. Other social bodies are pulled between outside and inside, with neither pole being “dominant” or taking precedence; but though that pull is present in a family, because of its temporal nature, the family uniquely is ordered to opening up to people outside the family–in the specific way I sketch below.)
I’d distinguish (at least) two ways that bodies can open up (following Rosenstock-Huessy). First, there’s a spacial opening, in two dimensions, when people open up the body to receive others inside; or go out from their body to interact with people outside. This is the sort of opening we engage in when we bring people into a family, or nation; or when we go out to a different family or people, etc. Specifically, I would say that your family’s openness to T was a spacial opening of the family. But second, there’s a temporal opening, to the past and to the future. The temporal axis is dominant in the engagement of parents and children. (I think many of our educational failures, as a society, stem from an inattention to the types of difference specific to generational difference, and attempts to speak of harmony between teacher and student that forget generational differences end up being damaging.) The parent instructs and raises children in anticipation of the children’s future interaction with others, as adults. All our bodies, and social formations, open up in these two ways, but in different acts we open differently, and in different bodies, different tensions and forms of opening are dominant.
Families, as I said, find their openness to the other primarily through time. are primarily oriented toward time. Thus Aquinas says that (in a certain sense) offspring are the most essential feature of marriage, and that by offspring, he does not merely mean the begetting of offspring, but their education and raising. The goal of the family is the growing up of children into adults. The parents welcome children (and each other) in hospitality, hoping to train their children, to instruct their children in particular loves, etc. that they will (it is hoped) maintain throughout life. (And the welcoming children extend to parents is similarly temporal, though opposite.) This education of children is necessarily an opening to other people outside the family: I, for instance, do not live at home, and I interact with people outside my parents’ family. And my parents raised me (as all parents to) so that I would be able to.
Because of that temporal openness that is fundamental to the definition and goal of marriage, it would be a mistake to willy-nilly open a family spatially, inviting whoever into the family to share the life of the family. Activities like baby sitting neighboring children, welcoming poor people to share a room, sharing meals with outsiders, etc. are, at least sometimes, consistent with the role of families, but they aren’t the way families are primarily intended to open up to the outside. Specifically, to be healthy, that spacial opening should help, or at least not hinder, the temporal openness of a family, that is, the education of the family’s own children. And it sounds like you (rightly) concluded that, in this case, a spacial openness was not conducive to your daughter’s growth and gradual becoming a whole, integrated, adult. (And it’s not that hard to think of other situations that would be similar.)
I’m not trying to elide the specificity of situations, and indeed, I hope from this, it’s clear that I’m attending to at least some of the specificity of, for instance, different types of hospitality; and why they are important or potentially detrimental to a family.
I’ll try to comment here later about where I think Alastair and I disagree regarding immigration. I think, again, we’re missing each other, but that it isn’t a case of me trying to be hand-wavy, and not attend to anything specific. There are specific realities that I’m attending to, and specific claims of his that (still) really confuse me, and indeed, seem hand-wavy to me.
Thank you for this post, Matthew – plenty of food for thought!
I will give some first thoughts here – I am sure I will have many more thoughts in due course because the more I think about it….well, the more I think about it 🙂
I’m interested in your differentiation between spacial and temporal, though I’m not sure that I fully understand it. In my understanding of temporal, my daughter and I had (and still have) a shared history and a shared future, but this did not apply to our relationship with T. We remained in friendly contact with T. while we lived on that estate, but we lost contact with her after we moved house. So we did invite her into our ‘space’ for a short time – I’m not sure if this is what you mean by a spacial opening?
I certainly agree that ideally parents want their children to interact with people outside the family and this happens in the neighbourhood, in school and maybe via further education, at church and so on and, of course, when(if) our child marries, he/she marries someone who is not a member of our family. I know this seems to be stating the obvious, but now that my three children are married I am increasingly aware of the extent to which being their mother has put me in contact with people I might not otherwise have met, people who are now also the grandparents of my grandchildren! All of this seems to be woven into our lives in a creative and maybe organic way and not ‘bolted on’, which is what seems to happen when we suddenly have refugee families in our midst, delightful though these refugees may be. Back in 1956 when I was 12 a refugee family from Budapest moved into a house near us and we became great friends with the children, but the mother and the grandmother in the family were so traumatised by the events in Budapest that they became very withdrawn and housebound. ‘Integration’, for them, was out of the question for a long time.
While thinking about the implications of mass migration I found myself thinking of two books I read years ago – ‘Catastrophe Theory’ and ‘The Peter Principle’. I think that we humans can be very adaptable but there are limits to our capacity to adapt and we can reach a stage where we just get ‘stuck’, or we can suddenly reach a ‘last straw’ situation when our coping capacities break down. I get the impression that the latter is happening in Germany. I rather like the idea of ‘punctuated immigration’ put forward by Douthat in the link Alastair tweeted today.
My thanks to you and Alastair for your conversations – I became very engrossed in them and now I’m re-thinking much of my life. For instance, I was born in Wales to an third-generation Irish mother and a Welsh father, am now resident in England, have a British passport, but I’m 100% Welsh when it comes to watching Rugby matches 🙂 (I’m not sure what that says about my identity!)
Thanks for the response.
Yes, that’s more or less what I mean by spacial welcoming of T. You opened up your space to her.
By interacting with people outside, I have something more like the example of your son-in-laws (and daughter-in-laws?) and your grandchildren; not the various interactions they had as children with people outside your family. And all the other people that your daughters (and sons?) interact with, interact with in the way they do because they were raised by you and your husband along side their siblings. People they interact with, many of whom you have not even met, and some of whom they will meet only after you die. Our marriages are, intrinsically, open to this sort of interaction with those outside. Or, it really should be even stronger than that, our marriages and families are *oriented* toward this sort of interaction with those outside the family. It’s their goal, and their reason for existence. Or to put it in concrete terms: My wife and I have a (nearly) four month old daughter. Our interactions with her now, and for the next 20 some years, will have the goal of strengthening and equipping her to interact healthily with people, and with novel situations, after she comes of age. Our family, and in a very real sense, my marriage, finds its very meaning outside itself, in those (future) interactions. Not just its subjective meaning–naturally my wife and I don’t think about 20 years off much, and it’s impossible to do so without something of a feeling of vertigo (someday will this baby be nursing a baby?!)–but that it’s objective reason for existence, is in large part determined by those future interactions.
(And I want to be clear, there is, of course, also spacial opening *of the couple* who welcomes a child into their space, first into the space which is the woman’s body, and then, second, into the space which is their shared life. But I think that the emphasis here should be on the opening up in time, especially when the family is considered.)
I’ll just add a comment about an instance of ‘culture clash’ which was highlighted in the Telegraph yesterday – following a request for UK school exam timetables to be changed to accommodate religious festivals such as Ramadan, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw argued that such a change would only make ‘things very difficult’ for school leaders. I can say from my experience ‘at the chalk-face’ that it certainly would make things very difficult. I found that some ‘White British’ pupils were very resentful when Asian pupils had days off school for religious festivals. One of their ‘It’s not fair!’ protests was that as Asians were given school holidays for Christian festivals (notably Christmas and Easter) it was ‘not fair’ that ‘White British’ pupils were not given days off for Muslim, Sikh and Hindu religious festivals – the Asian kids were getting more ‘holidays’! The white children who made the most noise about this tended, in my opinion, to be pretty work-shy at the best of times, but I do think that they had a point. From a teaching point of view it was difficult to do justice to lesson plans and schemes of work when there were days when several class members were absent because of a religious festival and some of the children present were refusing to get on their work because they didn’t see why they should! I sometimes caved in and let the protesters play hangman or something while I gave extra attention to the kids who wanted to work.
I have just read your most recent post here, Matthew, but I won’t comment on it because I think it is outside my scope.
Thanks for the comment.
Yes, I agree there are real tensions regarding holidays, and that this raises real problems. The rhythms of our national calendars, in school and out of school, are built, in a significant measure, around Christian holidays. The Christian holidays have been secularized–as peoples we don’t celebrate Crissmas, but Exmas. But Exmas is a secular transformation of Crissmas into a commercial extravaganza. And we often try to imagine that we don’t have Christmas break, but Winter break–yet, somehow, Christmas always falls during Winter Break, and Yom Kippur does not fall in a similar break. The rhythm of our calendars still has Christian parentage. (This carries different frustrations for Christians–I’ve often wished I could be old calendar Orthodox, just so I could celebrate Christmas distinctly from the national winter festival.) But we try to claim that this rhythm is, or should be, indifferent to religion. Often this takes the form of elevating a relatively minor holiday like Hanukkah to national prominence, and incorporating it into a generic winter festival; while (nationally) sidelining the most important Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur and Passover. Other times it takes the form of attempting to find a national calendar rhythm in which all people of all religions can participate.
The difficulties can be particularly pronounced in school. I’ve several times taught evening summer courses with (some) Muslim students in my class. A significant portion of the term was during Ramadan. Muslim students would come to my class not having eaten or drunk anything for the duration of the long summer day. Naturally, their hunger and thirst affected their performance in class. (I realized the problem last summer and let them take tests earlier in the day–for which they were extremely grateful.)
This sort of rhythmic hostility to Muslim students creates, in part, an unwelcome to them. Yet, at the same time, we nationally pretend that our secular institutions are indifferent to religion–we are nationally, or at least should be, spaces in which different religious individuals can interact, with full freedom of religion; or so our national story claims. I haven’t asked Muslims if the disconnect between the unwelcome that cannot be thought and the official welcome is frustrating, though I cannot imagine it is not, at least sub-consciously; and that this disconnect may account for some of the real hostility, going both ways, surrounding Islam. I know (from experience) that similar tensions and failures of the larger nation to appreciate the religious other they live next to produce many of the frustrations Evangelicals have with the larger nation, and many of the frustrations the larger nation has with Evangelicals; and I would, by extension, expect that there are similar tensions surrounding Islam. And I know that on other issues, for instance, blasphemy and free-speech, there are tensions caused, in both directions, by the failure to appreciate the otherness of our neighbors, and by our (false) claim to be religiously neutral.
Hi Matthew – this is in response to your post of 15th January (8.08 p.m) about calendar rhythms, which I found very interesting. The Christmas season is a secular celebration for many in the UK, too – for instance my sisters are humanists and they sometimes call Christmas ‘Crimble’!
I can imagine your students being thankful when you allowed them to do exams in the morning during Ramadan. I felt concerned about Muslim pupils during Ramadan because they were often (to use one of my Mum’s favourite terms!) ‘faint for lack of nourishment’. Many of them were also very conscientious and diligent and were under pressure from their parents to perform well in school exams.
As I read your post I surprised myself by remembering two girl pupils at one school who belonged to ‘The Exclusive Brethren’. They really were extremely exclusive and were self-segregated in school in many ways: they were not allowed to watch TV, listen to radio, or work with computers, and they were not allowed to eat in the presence of people who were not members of their church. Consequently they were often withdrawn during school hours. (The use of TV and IT was more or less cross-curricular – we even used them quite a lot in the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages).We staff bent over backwards in our efforts to accommodate these girls, as we did with all pupils – it was a requirement of our job. Yet I see a difference now between my attitude to the exclusive culture of ‘The Exclusive Brethren’ and my attitude to the exclusive culture of some Muslims in the UK, and I realise that much of the difference in my attitudes to the two cultures is rooted in my response to the 7/7 London Tube bombings in 2005. Whilst I am aware that most Muslims in the UK are well-disposed to everyone, I am also aware that, hidden in their midst are a hostile minority who plot to blow us up. I was shocked when I discovered that the London Tube bombers were ‘home-grown’ terrorists and it put me on edge for some time. There are other aspects of some Muslim cultures which give us cause for concern, and Alastair and others have drawn attention to these factors.
I will stop here, because I’m in danger of getting very long-winded and very anecdotal!
Thank you again for your post. As I mentioned in an earlier comment here – the more I think about it, the more I think about it!
Thanks for another comment. I’m finding these extremely helpful and enjoyable. Your annecdotes in particular are very helpful.
Yes, I think that the memory of 7/7, and 9/11, and Chrlie Hebdo, and Paris looms large in our collective response to Muslims. We all know some very nice Muslims, but we also know of frightening Muslims who try to blow us up.
My suspicion is that this feeling is actually mutual. You and I, through the actions of our states, are currently bombing and killing Muslims. And not just the guilty Muslims. We do our killing through sanitized drones, and we did it by politically unsettling Iraq. But it’s still unjustified killing, and contrary to the law.
In addition to our current state murders, about 80 years ago we helped decimate indigenous marriage practices in Egypt, in favor of a romantic, couple centered model of marriage. (And this has been detrimental in their lower classes.) And we—or rather some of us—continue to assault them through the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, an insult and injury that many Muslims may feel more deeply and intimately than our insults and injuries would be felt were the ones so depicted our recently deceased parents.
Because of this, I would be willing to wager that many Muslims feel like Euro-Americans are, by and large, nice people, but some of them, and all of them corporately, are trying to blow them up.
(And we all know, from experience, how bad national judgments of religious persons can be when they are directed at us. We should, in light of that knowledge, be somewhat skeptical of majority judgments against Muslims.)
I don’t mean to point fingers at us and so let them off the hook (though sometimes we need fingers pointed at us), but to indicate that the injury and perceived threat may be mutual. We respond very differently to an affront when we know we helped instigate the fight, are partially to blame, and that the injury is mutual, than when we believe we have been wronged without provocation, and the injury unilateral. And different still if we realize that, though the conflict may be complicated, with deep sins, and righteousness, on both sides, *we* may largely be the instigators.
You have raised several points, Matthew – thank you!
I will respond more later, but for now:
In December 2015 I signed a UK petition appealing against UK air strikes on Syria. The government has now discussed and responded to this petition and assured us that the UK has excellent precision bombers and that bombings have been restricted to the oil industry, with no civilian casualties so far.
Three members of our extended family are ex-army and I have been influenced by their accounts of military service in the Gulf and elsewhere. I think that some Muslim hostility towards Christians arose in Kosovo, but that is a personal opinion and I have not researched it.
Re: your comment ending…’and *we* may be largely the instigators.’…I have given more thought to this and I am still thinking it through. Here are some of my thoughts so far: Although I know many good-natured Muslims, for me a radical difference between them and me is that I believe that Christ Incarnate was the Son of God and they don’t… and their faith post-dates the Christian faith. Some Muslims are persecuting Christians and although I am painfully aware that we all fall short before God, I don’t think that the conflict with Islam extremists is a case of ‘six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.’ I want to reach out a hand of friendship to the Muslims I encounter here and accommodate their culture here as far as possible, but I draw a line at accommodating them at unnecessary cost to others. I also expect them to be subject to the law of the land. We may think that, in some ways, the law is an ass, but we are all subject to it and need to accept the consequences of breaking it – we can’t have our cake and eat it.
In a different context, I am already weary of many of the responses to the statement from Primates 2016. TEC knowingly and deliberately acted against the doctrine of the Anglican Communion and some of them and their supporters seem to feel hard done to because they are now facing some of the consequences of this. A number of ‘traditionalists’ have been described as ‘bigoted’…I describe them as ‘steadfast.’
Thank you for all your comments – it is good to talk!
And now, having mentioned the UK, I have had a (maybe frivolous?!) thought. We have had a Queen for more than 60 years, yet we still refer to a Kingdom! But then, I’m not sure that ‘UQ’ rolls off the tongue as well as ‘UK’….
Incidentally, the UK has been ruled by a queen for 135 of its 308 years, or, almost 44% of its history. On the other hand, only 3 out of the 12 monarchs or 25% have been queens. (Though, Queen Anne may have been legally male.)
British queens have had extraordinarily long reigns–queens have, on average, reigned for 45 years, whereas British kings, have, on average, reigned for just over 19 years.
Gosh, you know more about this than I do! I got an ‘O’ level in history at school but I found it rather boring – it was all about learning facts and dates. I prefer the way it is taught now with kids being encouraged to debate – not that I know all that much about history teaching, but I covered some history classes for absent staff when I was teaching , and I was impressed by the work that had been set.
I’m intrigued by your comment that Queen Anne may have been legally male – I don’t remember being told things like that at school!
No, wikipedia knows. I just realized that the UK has recently had two very long lived queens, and after quickly and roughly running the numbers in my head, realized that for the last 200 years, queens have been the norm, and even since the start of the UK, they haven’t been much of an exception.
I honestly don’t know anything else about Queen Anne’s legal gender. I remember several years ago Steven Wedgeworth said that Elizabeth I was legally male (or something like that, after several years we often get details not quite right). Perhaps Alastair knows more than I do on this front?
I think, perhaps, her legal gender accounts for part of the reason she never married. As prince, and in her corporate body as head of state–Kantorowicz is the one to read–she may have had to be male. (I’ve had the book on my shelf for years but haven’t been able to read it, though I hope to soon.)
And looking on Amazon, it looks like Kantorowicz may briefly discuss Elizabeth I’s gender on page 8. Perhaps I can look it up when I get home.
Thank you, Matthew. I have done a quick search on the gender of Elizabeth 1 and found some links about a theory on this. I must say that I am a bit sceptical about it, especially as one of the links was to an article in the Daily Mail, and I’m no fan of the Daily Mail! Anyway I will just file it in my mind for now as an interesting theory 🙂
I think I can understand you having ‘something of a feeling of vertigo’ at the thought of your baby girl nursing a baby in the future. When I was a young mother I could not have envisaged the adults that my children have now become and the children who have been born to them and their spouses – I couldn’t have written the script! When married people welcome a child into ‘the space which is their shared life’ they welcome a little person who may be very different from either of them in many ways and they may have a lot to learn! We need to accommodate these differences within the context of family values.
I seem to be having a bit of a brainstorm about this just now, so I think I had better not comment any more until I have matched up some pieces in the jigsaw! I will keep following any discussions on this subject here and elsewhere.
Ok, here’s a larger post on the question:
First, a few points Alastair and I agree on: I agree that we need to attend to the particular ways that different peoples can and do interact, about the specific ways their histories, laws, social forms, etc. cause the people to interact and (often mutually) react, etc. I agree that this can be done very foolishly, and I think that a policy of “open borders” is likely very foolish, precisely because it abstracts people from their particular histories, while simultaneously, not abstracting them. Etc. I agree that we can use “how many refugees arrive here” as a proxy for our care; and we should not. I agree we need to find ways that help the people that most need to enter to enter, and not just whoever happens to. I agree there can be and often are various forms of virtue signaling.
(I also think that keeping track of this sort of twitter conversation confuses me. What’s a response to what, what have I said, what was I intending to say before I read those new tweets, and now I haven’t said, how do I keep what I want to say coherent across a succession of tweets, how do I give a reply that does justice to my view, is very short, and doesn’t neglect numerous other realities.)
Ok, here’s what confuses me in Alastair’s presentation, and where, what I take to be a disagreement, lies.
I think I would rather say
The difference I see here, is that IMO his (should I use second person?) terms of analysis lead him to argue that there must be a “shared story” and “identity” (with both “story” and “identity” singular) common to all the people in a nation, though with various individual modulations. Which would, it seems, a priori rule out as wrong, or even impossible, situations like the one arranged by the Charter of 1388 for Lithuanian Jews, or the one arranged for non-Muslim dhimmi in Islamic States, or for Orthodox Jews in places like Brooklyn; and likewise that assumes a 97 year old conception of the state as necessary.
Additionally, this difference is reflected in, for instance, what seems to me to be an a priori rejection of all forms of “cultural enclaves within the UK”, without attending to the ways that different enclaves may be healthy, and may indeed, be the best way for such disparate peoples to integrate.
When we talked about the specifics of the different Nations in the United Kingdom, we made some progress, since he claimed that for the individual, various other identities other than the national identity may be sensed to be primary. But this doesn’t quite address my concern, which is not with the subjective feelings and identity of the individual, but with the specific legal standing of the person. In Lithuania, for instance, Jew and Christian were legal categories, and there were distinct laws, courts, etc. regulating the interaction of Jews with Jews, Jews with Christians, and Christians with Christians. The same holds for the dhimmi people in Islamic States. (This, obviously, couldn’t be lifted woodenly to the modern context.)
I’ll try, later (I don’t have time now), to express what I find troubling about what I take to be his analysis. But there is one more point that I think needs addressed.
Alastair said “The primary concern of an ecosystem, over the inclusion of new elements, is the protection of its own integrity.” And “[The] duty of internal hospitality that should take priority over, condition, and place reasonable limits upon all external acts of hospitality.” (And other similar expressions elsewhere.)
I disagree with this, though I’m not sure my disagreement was expressed well. Any social body is pulled toward the outside, and toward the inside. We do have duties both toward the outside and toward the inside, and the duties toward those inside place limits on all external acts of hospitality, as the duties toward those outside place limits on all internal acts of hospitality. We can and should ask in given situations whether we are placing undue emphasis on the external front, or are neglecting important internal elements. Yes, it is the particular situations, and the particular ways we are called by the past the future the inner and the outer that we should attend to, and in which we act. And as individuals we generally act inside social bodies, and because of this, our concerns should be towards those we are actually interacting with, and we shouldn’t be distracted by “news” of things outside. But Alastair’s claim isn’t directed toward individual actors within a social body, but toward the social body itself. And it doesn’t merely emphasize the internal duties, but claims that the internal duties should take priority over the external duties. And that’s where I cannot agree. (Though, I suppose a hot medicine can be a cure for a cold body, and “take priority over” may be intended to stress the internal duty in a situation that stresses the external duty over-much.) The two duties are incommensurable. Yes, we ought to attend to the specific situations. Yes, we ought to make sure that we do not (generally) take a form of hospitality that kills us. (Though there are times that is called for.) But no, it isn’t true that the internal front is primary.
(And I’m still completely baffled why it seemed like I was attempting to shoe-horn particular situations into universal principles, and then act on the basis of universal principles; rather than using a medium that is particularly inimical to detailed expression, to gesture toward a point of difference. Why, that is, a quick 180 character claim, was taken as evidence of terms of and method for analysis and what I “consistently do”—especially since 20 of the 180 characters were “I’m not sure I agree”.)
The first link didn’t work. Here’s a working version.
Ok, let me try to sketch my concern. (This will have to come in two installations.)
We don’t have a Christian Magistrate explicitly commanding the English people to observe the Christmas holiday. However, we do have the implicit law, given in long custom, that we take a national holiday on, and leading up to, December 25. In this, and many other places, the rhythms of our national calendar take a Christian form (or really I should say calendars, since your and my calendars aren’t the same; but they do have this in common, so I’m using the singular). This is different to the rhythms in Israel, for instance, were Yom Kippur is observed, but Christmas is not.
Similar statements could be made on other issues. Churches are a dominant form of the national landscape, in a way synagogues and Mosques are not. In Japan, the landscape is Buddhist and Shinto, not Christian.
The same sort of thing holds in almost any domain.
While there are problems with any of the particular customs, landscapes, laws, etc. in which the character of a particular people are embodied and through which they are formed, that the character of particular peoples is formed and solidified in these ways is good, and ought to be protected. We should seek to improve, but not destroy, the various particular forms that together constitute our people.
On this we agree.
However, I at least if my post above is accurate, we disagree over what sort of threat is posed to these various structures by the various forms of incorporation of Muslim populations into the lands of Britain (or the land of America). You, I think, would ask Muslim persons to become indigenous to the rhythms and customs of England. To, for instance, learn to live a communal life that follows a Christian rhythm, while modulating this in a particular Muslim direction: Adapting some of their activities to a more English sensibility, accepting, for instance, English consanguinity customs (perhaps feeling a certain nostalgia for a world in which Fanny Price could marry Edmund Bertram); while on other matters, feeling the Muslim rhythms they live as a counter-melody to the dominant melody of the broader English rhythms. And I certainly would not wish to forbid any Muslim from immigrating in this way. I think, however, that there may be good reasons for working to find structures that allow Muslims, at least if they so wish, to form enclaves, in which their Muslim customs and laws are officially recognized, even if only by the implicit law of custom, and they relate to the broader state in and through these enclaves.
The reason will be sketched in part 2.
The problem is that Muslims do not immigrate to an idealized England, or to the England of Hooker or Matthew Hale, but to this particular England; and it is this particular England that the magistrate defends. And this particular England is an England whose legal forms, educational forms, cultural forms, etc. all presuppose and reinforce the sovereign, self-ruling, individual, free from all forms of external compulsion save seduction (not just sexual seduction), who is, so it is thought, at the end of history, whose freely chosen religious preferences make no political difference, and who is precisely therefore subjected to the seduction of the market and the internal compulsion of the passions–to a market that is destructive of the very real and valuable cultural forms still present which you and I both value, and want to work to preserve.
Because of the current legal, social, educational, etc. character of England, Britain, Europe, etc., it seems that a call for Muslims to become indigenous to England, as persons, is, at least without significant change in our our/your legal/cultural/educational etc. structures, is to call for them to be indigenous to the England (or Europe) seen here, or here.
We could, of course, as persons, advocate for a different understanding of the English/European/American identities, and for a fundamental change in the laws, customs, and education that undergirds that identity, even as we advocate that Muslims become indigenous to our lands, Muslims considered legally as persons and citizens–that is, as persons whose religion is legally indifferent, or is understood as something the individual elects privately. But these educational/cultural/legal norms belong to a tradition nearly as old as the United Kingdom itself, and will only be changed on a time-scale of centuries. Legal traditions are particularly long-lived, and they may change only on a time scale of millennia. Whereas the question of Muslim integration is being resolved on a time-scale of, at most, decades. Though I can understand that it is coherent for an individual to both hope that Muslims become indigineous to England (or Europe or America), considered legally as persons and citizens, and that the liberal understanding of the person embodied in the laws, customs, education, etc. change, I cannot see how it is coherent to expect the sovereign body which is Britain (or America, or England, or the EU) to change the legal etc. norms fast enough that Muslims who indigenize to these lands, considered legally only as persons, indigenize to anything other than a land in which these liberal laws etc. are supreme.
Furthermore, because these liberal laws (I’m just going to say laws from here on, though as a metonymy, not a restriction) claim to be, and are believed to be, religiously neutral, the more successful an individual Muslim is at integrating, the more it seems that the laws are in fact religiously neutral; and so, whatever their subjective identity, that they freely elect Islam, with “freely elect” read according to the liberal tradition. That is to say, each Muslim who successfully manages to integrate their subjective identity, and legally subjective relation with Allah and the rest of the Muslim community, into the rhythms of England or Europe or America, reinforces the perception of person and religion that undergirds, and is formed by, the legal conception of religious freedom. A definition of religious freedom which renders religious difference legally indifferent, and invisible.
This legal assimilation of Islam to liberal norms raises more problems. There are good reasons to suspect that the Islam of many Muslims is excluded by the Western conception of the individual. If so, the more some Muslims integrate, and it seems that the liberal legal tradition is justly accounting for their religion, the more the divide between Europe and Islam is deepened, and those Muslims who do not integrate, because they cannot integrate, are seen as a threat, feel themselves to be unwelcome, and so become a threat.
The justice, or lack of justice, to Islam and Muslims is reason enough, but there’s also the question of justice to us. We are fast becoming not indigenous to our native lands, but relics of a past age. Especially since geographic and religious difference often signify temporal distancing. If we advocate for Islam to integrate to English or American or European customs, we are, precisely in that act, advocating for us to integrate to those same customs. And the differences in, say, marriage custom that you highlight as different between Islam and Euro-America are not the most noticeable differences. Indeed, as you have argued, our heterosexual marriage culture is often in fact a “marriage” culture. Islamic marriage culture is, at least, marriage culture. And in rendering their religious difference, on this matter, indifferent, we are likewise rendering our own differences legally indifferent and invisible.
There are also questions of how we are rhetorically positioning ourselves. Escalante and Wedgeworth have argued that Christians need to begin to be anti-colonial, and that we “would do well to seek alliances with truly non-privileged voices.” One of those voices is the Muslim voice. While I believe you would advocate a sort of alliance with some Muslims, I’m not sure that you’re sufficiently aware of how your rhetoric tends in the opposite direction. You see how hard it is for Alan Noble and me to hear you as articulating something other than an anti-immigrant position. I am aware that there are strong duties incumbent on the listener, and I believe I have accurately summarized your position above, and that you are not anti-immigrant. However, it seems romantic to think that were we, communally, to take the sort of advocacy you take up in these tweets, could be heard by Muslims as taking their side and seeking alliances with them.
The difficulty of being heard as seeking an alliance is only increased by the fact that we are Christians. I’m somewhat familiar with Native American voices, and it is very typical for Native Americans to feel extremely threatened by Christians, and defended (at least somewhat) by liberals. We’re the guy with a black hat, needing to convince everyone to trust us. We need to be particularly attentive to our rhetorical posturing, and to how we will sound to non-privileged peoples, especially as our voice is transmitted through many mouths before first reaching them.
One of the points where this seems particularly glaring is in pointing to cultural deficiencies in Arab Islam. I am far from likely to say that non-Western cultures are pure and without sin; or to say that culture is relative, and all cultures are equally god. And it is eminently clear that cultures can have deep pathologies–our pathologies, as white American Protestants, are easily seen in the KKK, and our current collective forgetting of these deep sins. However, all cultures are standing and falling, whereas the West has a very strong tendency to view their peculiar legal traditions, and the sort of subjectivity formed in them, as neutral; while seeing public displays of religion, often metonymically attended to in Islam, as an out-burst of an irrational pathology. For that reason, it is extremely difficult to point out pathologies of other cultures, particularly of Islamic cultures, without simultaneously pointing to our own goodness–our own goodness as modern liberal Westerners.
Furthermore, this liberal tradition, as I noted above, is particularly bad at reading religion, again, metonymically understood through Islam. I haven’t gotten to Saïd yet, though I have read a few Saidians. It is worth noting that Christianity is, at least by origin, an “oriental”, Middle Eastern religion, and that its foreignness may soon be extremely palpable. It is worth asking ourselves if, in the way we point out pathologies (supposed or not) in Arab Islam we are contributing to a practice of superficially judging Middle Eastern peoples for their religious pathologies, a practice that may be used to judge us, with increasing frequency and consequence. (I am not accusing your discussion of pathologies to be superficial, but to be not sufficiently attuned to our cultural, and even academic, tendency to diagnose religious pathologies very superficially.)
It is, of course, true that there is little chance that some sort of relation with the Muslim communities in England, modeled, to some degree, on the Charter of 1388, be enacted any time soon. However, first, it isn’t worth our while to only advocate positions that are likely to be achieved soon. We need to be confident to begin now to advocate for things that can only be taken up long-term. (This is different from what I think is problematic about what I take to be your position, namely, a disconnect between long-term and short-term advocacy.) And second, the sort of rhetorical position we take as we shift to form alliances with non-privledged voices is very important. We need to be particularly attentive that, as we do so, we recognize and draw attention to the shape and strengths of their communities (even though they are external to our community), and seem to be so attentive, especially when our larger state easily sees them as pathological.
There’s one erratum that needs mentioned:
In the third to last paragraph, I say “However, all cultures are standing and falling, whereas the West has a very strong tendency to view their peculiar legal traditions…”
That should say “their *own* peculiar legal traditions…”
Thank you for your tweets beginning with ‘One of the things that saddens me about social media is that it dulls our sense of the difference between the generations.’
Just this week I received a letter from our rector which I won’t quote from on Twitter because it is not yet generally known in our church but I would like to quote some of it here. I would like to mention first that I am aged 71 and our rector is about 20 years younger than I am.
Here is the first part of the letter from our rector:
‘For some time now, I’ve been concerned that we’re not doing a very good job of discipling our younger adult Christians. Many are busy juggling work, family, home and church, and so find it difficult to make time for Growth Groups and possibly for a quiet time with God as well. it is difficult, I think, to sustain a faith based only on Sunday attendance at church, so I’ve been wondering what we can do to make a difference.
The idea we came up with is called ‘Faithbuilders’. it’s a mentoring scheme whereby we match a mature Christian (such as yourself) with a younger one. You meet perhaps once a fortnight or once a month at a time and a place convenient to you both…
Hopefully by now you are intrigued, and possibly wondering if you are up to the task! Well we think you are. So T.F. ( who will be running the scheme with me ) and I would like to invite you to a training session at 7.30 p.m. on Thurs 21 January 2016…’
Yes, I am intrigued, and I have written to our rector to tell him that I look forward to attending the meeting.
I have a few comments of my own about Twitter and older people.
Most of my friends in my age group (and older) either do not have a computer at all, or do have one, but use it tentatively and sparingly. Several people in their 50’s and 60’s are on Facebook but not on Twitter – they prefer to engage online with people they know personally.
I initially started a Twitter account mainly because of my interest in contemplative prayer and my (lifelong) interest in current events – ‘The News’, ‘Newsnight’ and so on have always been among my favourite TV programmes .In my student years, along with other students at the hall of residence, I always got ‘home’ early on Saturday evenings and watched ‘TW3’ on the small TV in the lounge – we all crammed ourselves into the room, many of us sitting on the floor or standing. We also spent many hours crammed into that room after President Kennedy was shot, and then spent many more hours in the dayroom reading all the newspaper reports. We had animated discussions, which were notably free of the arrogant and bitter insults that I so often see on Twitter, insults which seem to be justified in the name of ‘freedom of speech’. Yes, we were ‘armchair critics’ and we loved the satire and wit of ‘TW3’ – but some of the things I see on Twitter are not witty….they are just, in my opinion, nasty.
Despite this I have found Twitter rewarding in many ways. Had it not been for Twitter, I might not have heard of Matthew Guite. I think it is also likely that I would not have heard of you, either, Alastair. I cannot thank you enough for your steadfastness and theological expertise, especially throughout the whole SSM dispute. In our church there is a firm and gentle wisdom about this, but in many other social contexts ( including the workplace, when I was still working) I have found that the liberal ideology has prevailed increasingly. For instance, I recently received a severe tongue-lashing from one person because I said that I was relieved about the recent government decision on assisted dying. By the way, the subject of assisted dying came up at church and an elderly friend ( not a computer-owner!) spoke enthusiastically about Oliver O’Donovan. Thanks to your podcast discussions, I was able to enthuse with her 🙂
Correction: I received the letter from our rector a week ago, not this week!
I hope that discipleship plan works out. Such discipleship from faithful and wise Christians of an older generation has been a tremendously important factor in my own spiritual development and I would love to see more people benefiting from it. For instance, one of my close friends is a retired Baptist pastor. We talk theology for hours and he has been an immense encouragement and support to me over the years. Intergenerational friendship and fellowship is a wonderful gift, which I suspect we enjoy much less today, especially as churches start to be stratified by age groups and preferred worship styles.
The meeting was interesting – about 20 potential mentors. The main focus was on spiritual gifts, building up the fellowship, and mission. The ‘young adults’ who will be approached initially are teenagers. If they are interested in the scheme they will be given a list of available mentors and asked to chose one. A member of our group asked a question that was on the minds of number of us : ‘What happens if we are left on the shelf? The answer to that was that those left on the shelf will be asked to be prayer warriors. The scheme will be a focus, amongst other things, at out Lent Course and is likely to be launched after Easter – it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
Children need to be accompanied by their parents at our church, and when the youngsters are old enough to be home alone, they often refuse to come to church. Many of them go off the radar for many years, with some returning when they are married and have children of their own.
There was one interesting comment from our rector about the generational differences from ‘Baby Boomers’ through to Millennials. He said that there was a time when it was not unusual to have five marriage ceremonies a week at the church – one year recently there were five marriage ceremonies in the entire year. (Why do I worry about Twitter ?!)
I have just read your interview with Tony Reinke (‘Going Deep on our Smartphone and Social Media Habits’) – wow!
Unlike many of the younger members of our family, I don’t have a smartphone, and I had
some initial doubts about my ability to follow your interview, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could follow it, and I became very engrossed in it.
I’d like to comment first on your final comment in your interview:
‘… Perhaps we can think more deeply about how we can serve others; our gifts and statuses have been given to us for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not only for our own, and we should employ them in light of this knowledge.’
I think you are already employing your gifts in the light of this knowledge, but I will speak for myself here, because I can’t really speak on behalf of anyone else anyway, and I think that many people are pretty good at speaking for themselves!
Had it not been for Twitter I would not have come across your interview. I read it as I would read a book or a newspaper – the difference is that I read it online and became aware of its existence online. I am thankful for that. I am actually very much a face-to-face person. I’m hopeless at Twitter! I joined Facebook a few years ago and I lasted six weeks – my final comment was ( in summary) ‘I am sorry, but I am just not a Facebook person. I have decided not to spend any more time looking at the ‘Wall’ and talking to the ‘Wall’ – but I promise to smile at you all next time we meet in real life.’
I think that social media are often a poor substitute for real life encounters. One thing that has been mentioned in our family recently and also by one or two at church is the low number of birthday cards some of us receive these days because many friends and family members just post birthday greetings on Facebook – and we can’t put Facebook greetings on the mantelpiece and then store them as precious memorabilia.
But… back to your interview… I am very thankful that I was able to read it. Top quality!
Thank you! As you say, social media can often be a very poor substitute for real life encounters and so often functions as an obstacle to real life presence, as we are absorbed in our devices. At its best, though, it can be a passage into true face-to-face and in person encounters: it certainly has been for me on a great many occasions.
That’s good – you’ve done well. One of my nephews originally met his American wife online and I must admit that I had misgivings about it at first, but they have now been married for seven years and his wife loves her new life in the UK.
You’ve stopped adding new open mics, but if it’s ok, I have a couple Scriptural questions that I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts on:
First, have you read Agamben’s The Time that Remains? If so, what do you think of his claim that rhyme is specifically Pauline, and that “the history and fate of rhyme coincide in poetry with the history and fate of the messianic announcement…This is to be taken quite literally and…is not a question of secularization but a true theological heritage unconditionally assumed by poetry” (p. 87)?
If you haven’t read it, he claims that Christ, in recapitulating the Old Testament rhymes with the types, or rather, that the aural rhymes in poetry reproduce the anticipatory and fulfilling life in time which is life in the Messiah. He even produces a few passages in which St. Paul seems to make use of rhyme:
“καὶ οἱ κλαίοντες
ὡς μὴ κλαίοντες
καὶ οἱ χαίροντες
ὡς μὴ χαίροντες
καὶ οἱ ἀγοράζοντες
ὡς μὴ κατέχοντες
καὶ οἱ χρώμενοι τῳ κόσμῳ
ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι”
“σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ
ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ
σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ
ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ
σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ
ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει
σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν
ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν
ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν
καὶ ἔστιν σῶμα πνευματικόν”
The phrase “Spirit of life” and “Spirit [is] life” from Romans 8: 2 and 10 is almost the same as the LXX “breath of life” from Genesis 6:17 and 7:15 (2:7 and 7:22 are slightly different). Romans 8:2 reads “τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς” Romans 8:10, “πνεῦμα ζωὴ”, where as Genesis 6:17 and 7:15 both contain “πνεῦμα ζωῆς” (2:7 and 7:22 have “πνοὴν ζωῆς”). Is this just coincidence?