This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Two types of spiritual leaders

What we see in Muhammad is the exemplification of a certain spiritual type, and since this type differs from that of Christ, it is more difficult for Christians to understand.

To simplify the matter, we can place the founders of religion in two categories: those who integrate spirituality with a social norm, and those who an ascetic transcendence of worldly life altogether.

Christ is an example of the second type. When faced with practical questions he would tend to defer the answer altogether or reframe the question in such a way that a spiritual lesson becomes the focus. On the question of divorce, for example, which is a complex social matter, Christ does not recommend legal implementations that are practical in the sense of reinforcing the family but permitting exceptional situations to be handled with care. Rather, he frames the question as one of inner spiritual condition: he who looks at another woman lustfully has already committed adultery, and so on. Now while this may have profound meaning, it does not exactly translate easily into practical norms and law. Christ’s emphasis was on transcending the norms of daily life. This is shown in the way he lived: he was not a politician, nor a businessman, nor a husband. He demonstrated a profound spirituality, but by way of being an exception to the type of life that most men lead. The benefit of this type of spiritual foundation, which is appreciated by Christians, is that the spiritual teachings are easy to discern. What is more difficult, and what Christians often fail to see, is that because he never demonstrated an approach to politics and economics, that it is left for Christians to work this out for themselves, sometimes with success and sometimes not so much. It also has the downfall of permitting the followers of Christians to imagine that there is such a thing as a ‘wall of separation’ between religious life and public life, which has had disastrous consequences for Western Civilization.

When we come to Muhammad, we see a different type. As we’ve already said, he was a businessman, a warrior, a husband, an orphan, and a political leader. For him to avoid answering directly and in an immediately actionable manner to questions of divorce would have been impossible. His vocation was to integrate a spiritual message with a cultural context in such a way that a functional community could thrive on the basis of certain spiritual principles.

The difficulty here for Christians is to appreciate Muhammad without dismissing him as a man of the world, as if a man who delved into human affairs could not possibly possess a spiritual vocation.

Here again we see must recall how inappropriate it is to compare Muhammad to Christ, and say again that it only leads to confusion. It would be far more helpful, and appropriate, to say that Muhammad has a vocation similar to that of Moses, who not only had a prophetic vocation but was also the leader of a nation and who must deal with the endless variations of the human condition and be prepared to deal justice, after the fashion of King Solomon, and where it would be irresponsible to speak in those parables that, on the other hand, we rightfully esteem in the person of Christ.

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