Sunday, 10 August 2014

Challenging Islam by Restoring Headcoverings

Joseph Shaw chairman of the Latin Mass Society has suggested that Christians need to respond to Islam by demonstrating traditional morality. He believes part of that includes restoring the use of headcoverings by Christian women:

Rorate Caeli: How to respond to Islam: reply to Geoffrey Sales. Op Ed

'One the one hand, as I indicated there is going to be huge resistance to the restoration of head coverings precisely because it is instinctively understood as a move away from sexual liberation and the like. But to resist it as because it is in some kind of tension with 'Gospel truth': this just seems bizarre. Sales is a Baptist. He knows as well as I do - surely - that women covering their heads in church is sternly commanded by St Paul (1 Cor 11:5). Was St Paul steering his congregation away from 'Gospel truth'? Those who founded the Baptist tradition insisted on head coverings for women in church: were they against 'Gospel truth'? Was everyone in the Christian tradition against 'Gospel truth' up until the 20th century?

What I can't help wondering is that, despite engaging with my general argument that the Christians of the West have made a great mistake in throwing their lot in with a set of Western values which, on any mainstream religious view, are grossly decadent, Mr Sales remains attracted by the idea that by becoming decadent, by leaving behind the Gospel message as our ancestors of all times until less than a century ago understood it (fifty years ago for Catholics), we've become more faithful to the 'real Jesus' or some tripe like that. That, in short, a bit of decadence is actually a good thing.

But let's examine what Mr Sales balks at: doing something which gives us something in common with the Taliban (and every practicing Muslim on the planet); in this, he says, we would be making a mistake, because we should be confronting them with the 'Gospel truth'. Where, in fact, the divergence of our customs with theirs has created an obstacle to mutual understanding, we should refuse to reconsider our customs. And this even when this rebellion against this formerly shared custom was in truth a rebellion against a shared understanding, a shared understanding to which we continue to pay lip service. We claim to reject sexual decadence; the Muslims look at our lifestyle, and even the clothing in which we worship God, and draw the perfectly correct conclusion that we may talk the talk but we don't walk the walk.

For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord: so says St Paul (2 Cor 4:5). This is a saying sometimes seized on by the enemies of Tradition. In this case, the boot is on the other foot. The decadent customs of the West are so important to liberal Christians that they don't want to give them up, whatever the cost for evangelisation. These personal preferences have become more precious than the Gospel message.'

I very much agree. I very much agree, I think it is tragic that Catholics have followed the majority of Protestants in abandoning the Biblical and historic practice of headcovering.

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