Thanks for comments so far. I'll get around to responding later on today or tonight.
Continued from here.
Can there be a place for Sharia law in our multi-cultural society?
Any provision of Sharia law within a multi-cultural western society would be extremely complicated, and not something I’m in any position to comment upon. But it’s complication shows us something – it shows that admirable liberal values like “respect” and “tolerance” can’t, by themselves, arbitrate in a multicultural society. What does it even mean to “respect” a cultural practice that is entirely alien to modern, liberal western values? How should the British Raj have “respected” the Hindu practice of burning widows on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands?
For all talk of “respecting” different faiths and outlooks, a single rule of law must, by the nature of the case, outlaw certain religious practices that are dear to certain of its communities. The tolerance card only goes so far – everyone finds something intolerable. There are, it turns out, taboos, sacred cows and unforgiveable sins even for the most secular legislator.
Therefore, for all the attempts to make our laws neutral with regards to faith communities, the rule of law cannot be neutral. Every rule of law is faith based. It embodies a certain vision of the healthy, flourishing society. It comes from a certain worldview.
What faith is embodied by this country’s laws? I’m certain that we have passed a tipping point whereby Christianity is no longer our shaping faith commitment in the passing and upholding of laws. Instead there is another faith informing our laws: liberal, pluralistic humanism. That is our grand vision for humanity and what we are and what we should aspire to – it shapes our legislation and our judiciary. And necessarily so. All laws come from faith commitments.
Now I’m not here advocating that we lobby against liberal pluralistic humanism and try to get Christianity back onto the statute books. I don’t think you legislate Christianity, I think you preach it. But I’m a preacher – of course I think that.
If the debates about Sharia law do anything, I hope they make us more self-consciously aware of the faith commitments we already hold as a society. I hope we scrutinize carefully what it is that Sharia law wants us to believe. It has a vision of what it means to be human, what it is to be woman, what it is to be man, what is right, what is wrong, what is just. And I want us to scrutinize and question those things very carefully. But I also hope we scrutinize what it is that our own law-makers want us to believe. Who are we, what do we need, what must be protected, what must be rejected, what is true, what is just. The answers to those questions are not obvious. And simply to slide along with the majority view on those questions is not wise. Neither will it allow us to say a firm "No" when a faith community demands something really abhorrent in the name of "tolerance." We need a firmer foundation than "tolerance" or "respect."
Jesus Christ says, Come to me and I will show you who we are, what we need, what is true, what is false. He frees us to think again about what life is really about. And His vision is not the Sharia vision and it’s not the liberal humanist vision either.
But His rule is the one rule which outsiders should fear the least. Because here is One who loves and bleeds and dies for His enemies. He does not merely wish us to "tolerate" outsiders. He commands us to love our enemies.
And He invites you into an alternative, counter-cultural kingdom, even as you live in the United Kingdom. He tells you to honour the law-makers as far as is humanly possible: He says “Give to Caesar what is Caesar, but give to God what is God’s.” And a society in which Christians are vigourously living out Christ’s other-centred life in the world – whether they happen to wield political power or whether they are a small, oppressed minority – that society is better off.
Once again, I very much appreciate your comments...