This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Islam in an egalitarian age

One of Islam’s advantages in terms of being adapted to an egalitarian age that cannot suffer or even comprehend any kind of hierarchical arrangement is the fact that it realizes that at which Protestantism pretends: each man is truly his own priest and is not dependent on a Church hierarchy in order to participate fully in the faith. This is not the way it has been in Christianity, at least not since the 4th century when the “clerical state” came into being. There had always been a hierarchy and “holy orders” related to the sacraments, but the idea of an unmarried priesthood as an actual “state” different from and superior to the “lay state” did not exist until that time. And so while we could say that Christianity does not, in principle, imply the existence of a clerical state as we find it today, it is also not likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Perhaps I’m wrong on that, and I hope so. This is not because there is a problem with the clerical state in itself, but the fact that it, just like a rigid caste, is rendered inoperable at the end of the Iron Age. Moreover, as is clear from the sexual issues frequently coming to light in the Catholic world, celibacy is not a reasonable expectation to be placed on Iron Age men. Again we refer back to Islam and its requirement that women veil themselves, which is an acknowledgement of the weakness in the present humanity that Christianity, at least with respect to priests, has failed to admit.

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