Nan Vernon: Manta Ray
Dawn Eden Goldstein On the Idea of a Priestless Church

May 29

It happened to come to my attention earlier today that this was the date in 1453 when  Constantinople fell to the Turks. Many years ago I read a book about that event which was sad and disturbing, as is almost any account of mankind's propensity for conquest and slaughter. 

I thought often of that story in the days following 9/11 when more than one prominent American sought to defuse American anger by reminding us of the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099. This event, we were assured, was a memory still very much alive and important in the Islamic world. The suggestion was that our outrage ought to be lessened or at least balanced by Muslim outrage over that nearly-thousand-year-old event. In particular I remember Bill Clinton talking about it, and including a gruesome story of horses wading in blood up to their knees (which seems likely to have been an exaggeration where no exaggeration was needed). 

There was nothing wrong with that in itself. It is well for Christians, and Westerners who though not Christian have an attachment to Western civilization, to be reminded that the Christian-Muslim conflict has over the centuries included atrocities and injustices on our side as well as theirs.

What is however wrong, and wrong in a very significant way, is that I never heard any of these enlightened persons mention the sack of Constantinople, or any other historical instance of Islamic aggression. It hit home to me, not for the first time by any means, but powerfully, that sophisticated Westerners would not or could not defend their own history, at least not if it meant defending Christianity. Oh, they might go to war for the usual very concrete reasons having to do with wealth and power. But they had no affection for or pride in their civilization as something existing in history as well as geography. Increasingly, they have no real knowledge of it, even the putatively educated. It's possible that Bill Clinton did not know that the event of 1453 ever happened.

Or if they have knowledge, it consists mostly of the knowledge of the bad things. Western history for them consists of the so-called "Dark Ages," colonialism, slavery, and Hitler. (The ignorance involved in referring to the medieval era as "the Dark Ages" is an amusing irony.) Western civilization is held to an impossible standard of perfection, others indulged and patronized.

This is no compliment to the others, as it suggests that they aren't capable of meeting the same standards that we are and shouldn't be held to them. But that's another story. 


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