My attention was just today drawn to an article by Mr Boyne of Jamaica in the Gleaner this Sunday past. The article is so outrageous, that I have corrected it in the Caribbean Kairos eGroup, where it was drawn to my attention. With slight modifications, that corrective post follows:
I found that in his commentary, Mr Boyne has stated much that is of deepest concern, starting with:
2] So, we here have dodged the duty to investigate the key problem posed by Islam, and since Mr Bush is notoriously a biblical Christian [and imperfect as are all men], it is an easy swipe to reduce him to [im]moral equivalence, while failing to look at the plank sticking out of our own eyes first. Sad.
3] Cuba of course, is getting a pass on its many socio-economic failings [UPDATE: Cf this report on a current Cuban investigation, Oct 23], even as a token note on lack of freedom is noted. [Let's just note that in 1958 Cuba's standard of living was comparable to Italy's -- i.e., it should not be compared with the rest of the region at all, but with the very similar cultures of S Europe -- and its failure to take off like Italy or Spain is where its real failure shows itself.]
Next, this passage is -- sadly -- a sweeping piece of sophistry:
Unfortunately, because of the glaring hypocrisy of United States foreign policy, George Bush's rhetoric about liberty and democracy-promotion are given short shrift and the democratic ideal is not given the profound significance which it holds. Because democracy is being promoted in an unbalanced and class-driven way. But, despite the myriad examples of double-standards in the rhetoric of the West about democracy, human rights and freedom, the fact remains that its concept of freedom, though limited in practice, is philosophically superior to its competitors, past and present. The U.S. might have opposed Nazism and communism because of its own Great Power designs and hegemonic obsession, and even if it said that it opposes Islamic extremism for the same reasons, the truth is that American model of democracy is superior to that trinity. It must be acknowledged that right-wingers and defenders of western democracy have been one-sided and jaundiced in their approach to human rights. They make civil and political liberties sacrosanct, but largely ignore economic and social rights, which are equally enshrined in United Nations conventions.
2] It is simply an assertion that democracy is being promoted in an unbalanced, class driven way. In the relevant test cases, Iraq and Lebanon, has the US been acting in an unbalanced way or in a way driven by class interests -- whose, where? In short this is the rhetoric of dismissal not fair comment driven by substantial points.
3] That "might" relative to totalitarianism, is telling. For, in both cases, the US and other Western powers, imperfect as they are, were plainly the better alternative in an existential struggle against two totalitarian ideologies that were openly declared to be hell-bent on world conquest. [Here Boyne - who is very well-informed indeed -- is exploiting both our ignorance of history and our reflexive tendency to view western powers as bad.]
4] That dismissive, judgemental sweep again comes out in the remarks on rights. First the only stable foundation of rights is that we have an endowment from God which the state has a duty under God to defend. In that context, the secularist-socialist extensions from human rights to "social" and "economic" "rights" runs into the issue: are you confusing the BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY [cf preamble to the US Constitution] with the rights of persons? To wit: WHO specifically owes us these "rights" and on what moral basis? (Does anyone OWE us a living? Who owes us a solid family life etc, or is it that we need to live under godly principles to enjoy these in a prosperous and peaceful community? Nor is the UN any proper arbiter of what fundamental rights are -- they are objective and rooted in our nature as human beings made in God's image, so they cannot be either granted or taken away by words on paper either! And, if the UN is setting out to RECOGNISE rights, then we have the right to analyse its logic, as just outlined.]
The rhetoric goes on, and soon enough gets around to the real target:
2] Second, he has utterly failed to address the fact hat the Quran drastically contrasts with the Bible on the matter of liberty, so that in fact it was not secularism that brought us to modern liberty but in large and material measure the REFORMATION as it moved out into the issues of liberty, as can be seen in the line of thought from Duplesis-Mornay's Vindicae Contra Tyrannos through the Calvinist Dutch Declaration of Independence of 1581, to Rutherford's Lex Rex, and on into the US founding thence the rise of modern democracy. In short, some highly material balancing facts have been suppressed and the history of modern liberty is drastically distorted, to make the biblically rooted Christian faith [as opposed to some Christians and church movements that failed to live up to the standards of that faith], without good warrant, into a villain. Did he not even pause to read and reflect on Orlando Patterson's seminal work on Freedom, which would have taught him better? Even his fellow columnist at the Gleaner, Mr Martin Henry would have greatly helped:
ON THE fly leaf of Orlando Patterson's book, Freedom, appears the words of Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of bondage". Our slave-side ancestors at Emancipation would have deeply identified with these words of Paul's. The book, described as a "magisterial work" in the publishers blurb, traces the emergence and evolution of freedom to stand today "unchallenged as the supreme value of the Western world".Most human languages did not even have a word for the concept of freedom before Western contact. Freedom is also, Patterson proposes, "the central value of Christianity: being redeemed, being freed by, and in, Christ, is the ultimate goal of all Christians"; Christianity being "the first and only world religion that placed freedom spiritual freedom, redemption at the very center of its theology". Wherever this odd religion [I add, correctively, in its popularly circulated, biblically-based form] has become established, he says, it has made converts to both salvation in Christ and to the ideal of freedom . . . .
Patterson devotes a good chunk of his book to "Christianity and the Institutionalisation of Freedom" without, I think, adequate recognition of the rootedness of Christianity in Judaism and its continuity from Judaism. Surely the Exodus and the Old Testament's stringent legal regulation of bondage and protection of 'freedom' contain the very elements of freedom, which Patterson describes, long before Greek civilisation emerged.Alongside Greek and Roman thought, Patterson assigns a central role to Christianity, and particularly the theology of Paul, in the emergence of the supreme Western value of freedom. His final paragraph on Paul is a gem, revealing a profound understanding of what Paul said and what Christians believe: "Till the final deliverance, then, upon the second coming, mankind must settle for the lesser freedom of the Galatians, using it both as a rallying flag in the continuing struggle against re-enslavement and as a spur to the obedience of a superior faith which is hope for the higher freedom that has been granted and that will bring, when it comes, not surrender but perfect union with God."In an age of excess, when the supreme Western value of freedom has become a global value, too often taken to extremes, Orlando Patterson in his "Coda", or final passage, warns of the problems and perils of freedom. "Freedom is undeniably the source of Western intellectual mastery, the engine of its extraordinary creativity, and the open secret of the triumph of Western culture, in one form or another, over the cultures of mankind". But, "at its worst, no value has been more evil and socially corrosive in its consequences, inducing selfishness, alienation, the celebration of greed, and the dehumanising disregard for the 'losers', the little people who fail to make it. We have been unable to transcend the evils that come with the blessings of personal freedom".
4] Thus, it is no surprise to see his rhetoric of immoral equivalency in the conclusion he would have us draw:
An independent intellectual cadre must continue to push for a third path between the enemies of freedom on both sides.
. . . I have just been informed that I have been strongly criricised by name, by Mr Ian Boyne, for pointing out that in fact the Christian faith, once the Bible was put in the hands of the ordinary man, made a major contribution to the rise of modern liberty. The core of his claim is:. . . some Christians have also been offended by what they see as my lumping together Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists.There is no moral equivalence between the two, they insist. And, of course, I never suggested that. But what I have maintained is that the Christians are also prone to bigotry, intolerance and the desire to impose their will on others just as the Islamic militants. The Christians have been more restrained in establishing their Kingdom of God on earth not because that desire has extinguished among them but because they live in secular states which have long disposed of the concept of the Divine Right of Kings and other theocratic notions.Oops. As the highlighted reveals, he unfortunately evidently immediately inadvertently lets slip what he had just tried to deny.
I also find it highly interesting that, in a rather long article, the very well-read Mr Boyne utterly fails to address precisely how the absolutist notions were addressed in a biblical context, by Duplessis-Mornay, by the Dutch declarants of independence from Spanish rule and the Inquisition in 1581, or in the famous Lex Rex: namely, as shown in summary here, by using the Bible and concepts tracing to it, thus materially contributing to the rise of modern liberty.