So I’m sure we all know about John Milbank’s recent public indiscretions regarding the varied relationships between Christianity, the Enlightenment and Islamic development in the Third World. Deane Galbraith (formerly of one of my favorite obscenity-ladened blogs “The Dunedin School”) has an article up on the (presumably) new blog of The Religion Bulletin focusing on the historical amnesia necessary for such a strange constellation of ideas. Here’s a tasty morsel:
Milbank is not alone among academics in attributing the more “extremist” varieties of Islam today to post-colonial causes. But he is a lone voice in the wilderness in completely reversing the explanation. For Milbank, it is the absence of the (benevolent) Western colonial empire that led to religious extremism! It is the “lamentably premature collapse of the Western colonial empires” which commenced the decline… One would be hard-pushed to find a better example of the justification of economic exploitation of Oriental lands. And this, not some illusory Christian benevolence, was always the primary purpose of imperialism. Milbank’s argument closely mirrors the old Orientalist justifications of economic exploitation which touted the “benefit” of “civilization” and “civilizing values.” In Milbank’s free-market ideology, it is the “Third World national development projects” which instead represent the worst excesses of colonial “exploitation.” Colonialism itself is washed clean by the orthodox baptismal waters of Milbank’s historical revisionism.
Galbraith’s article is pretty spot on as far as reactionary pieces go (except for some questionable linkages of the apostle Paul to Deutero-Pauline epistles, but that can be easily forgiven). All that I’d like to add is that conspicuously absent from Milbank’s analysis is the the radical potential of political Islam found in the ’79 Khomeini Revolution and Muslim leaders like Mousavi and the late Ayatollah Montazeri. If we’re not going to play the essentialism game with the various Christianities (i.e. some forms are partially responsible for atrocities while others aided general enlightenment), then we can’t play it with Islam either. Let’s get our socio-cultural religious groupings in order before we go and criticize something like “political Islam” in comparison to “enlightened Christianity”. Neither exist in isolation.
And on to the Lebowski promised in the title: can you believe News Corp is working with the commies – and they’re using The Dude! Is nothing sacred! Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules!