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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Footnotes to Paris: Sacramental Violence

Some of this blog's lurkers have preferred not to leave comments but have expressed some of their thoughts to me in other forms of communication. Generally, these concerns are directed at 'poetic' elements in my previous post, "Paris Reduced to Terror," and how those elements come across as 'arcane' and even 'elitist.' I appreciate this critique, and I suppose my own review of that blog entry also discovers some (perhaps unintended) cleverness and subtlety.

In my discussion of the West and Jihad, my use of the imagery of sand and ocean to house secularism and religiosity seems to obscure as much as illuminate. My thought was simply that the West's response to sectarian Islamic fundamentalism with its sense of Jihad and Sharia, is to attempt to inundate it with more radical secularism, which in turn, fuels rage and violence. I further characterized this technique as self -indulgent and nihilistic on both sides of the antagonism.

It is important to always note the sectarian nature of Islam, and one need look no further than Sunni and Shi'a Islam for a poignant demonstration. To this end, I restrict my remarks to the sect of Islam that has adopted violence as its sacramental expression. In this sacramentalism, blood, murder and destruction comprise the matter, and Jihad and Sharia, the form. In "Paris Reduced to Terror," I suggested that Christianity, in its monstrous compound of Church-State, eventually evolved (in both the Reformation and the rise of the nation-states) its self-understanding: its violence was not of its own substance, but instead adopted from the strong force of governance, of the secular. In the sectarian Islam that visits 'terror' on the West, violence derives from something inherent in Jihad: it is religious in nature, in its reading of Islam. 

The hylomorphism of Jihadist sacramentalism is deconstructed by its violence. The ritualistic murders of jounalists in the sands of the desert, complete with the sacramentals of black and orange vestments, knives, and the backdrop of the desert itself, take place upon the altar of the internet. The murders in Paris were accomplished on the altar of freedom, or the mockery of freedom, its matter the fire of automatic weapons, and its form, the words, victims' names and statements of the vindication of the Prophet.

This extreme expression of religiosity under the aegis of justice, cannot be effectively met with extreme secularism. Like the world of Star Trek: The Voyage Home, the secular world finds itself needing great whales to find its redemption. "Paris Reduced to Terror" was meant to underscore the need for a response to 'terror' and 'justice' that leads to effective engagement. Today's unprecedented march of Western solidarity in Paris is but a first step. The violence of ISIS and its continued threats against the West, promise to be a saturated phenomenon that will precipitate a political state predicated on sectarian violence and destruction from its very substance, its fermenting solution of sectarian hatred and intolerance. The next steps the West takes must seek to alter that saturated solution before something hideous crystallizes out of solution in an event of enormity.

The West needs to recover its great whales. Saturated secularism has the tendency to engender more of the same.

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