Thursday, 10 December 2015

Abbott weirds everyone out over Islam

Tony Abbott's call for Islam to reform in the same way some parts of Christianity have done over the past 500 years would weird anyone out who spent just a few moments thinking about the man. Here is a follower of an unreformed church telling the followers of a different unreformed faith to get their act together and modernise. The Enlightenment? Tony, old boy, the Catholic Church spent hundreds of years fighting tooth and nail against the gains in civilisation brought about by the Enlightnment, and followers like yourself are still trying to hold back the tide. Shall we talk about equal rights for homosexuals? Shall we talk about feminism?

The Enlightnment arose out of Humanism, which was the originary reforming force in Europe, one which has its roots oddly enough in the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella. These farsighted monarchs were the first to sponsor the production of a polyglot Bible. This book was important because it went back to the original languages of the Bible - Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew - and started from scratch, bypassing the need for the official Vulgate version still epitomised by the Catholic Church today. Northern European scholars saw the beauty of the conception of the polyglot Bible and took the lesson to heart, working on new translations of hundreds of books in a project that was energised by the new technology of movable type.

Humanism spawned more searching for truth in otherwise obscure corners of human life. Montaigne started writing his essays about his own feelings in the late 16th century and Francis Bacon published the founding text of the scientific revolution in 1620. Things were happening fast. There was a new atmosphere of license in Europe as the old certainties came crumbling down and the stale power structures began to dissolve in the new era of publishing, reading, thinking and writing.

The Catholic Church fought against this tide of liberalism at every step, and it continues to fight for its old prerogatives even today. Tony Abbott is a representative of the old church in our century. The irony attached to his call for Islam to modernise is so thick that you would break a heavy stick trying to stir it. The best thing for Abbott the unreconstructed Catholic to do is to be quiet, but of course his aim is to foment trouble in his political party. This is because he has not lost hope of one day regaining the party leadership. Trouble is his middle name. No sniping, Tony? Pshaw!

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