Thursday, August 31, 2006

No Muslim Susannah Wesley

Sometimes when I read of Christian Puritan regimes of the past, they sound uncomfortably similar in some respects to Muslim Puritan regimes of today. Zealous restoration movements are, by their nature, intolerant of the old corruption that they are trying to clear away. Some of the excesses of Cromwell's Commonwealth, and Puritan Boston, were so wrong that even the most gung-ho Christian today must contemplate them with shame. I am glad that we don't massacre Irish villages or hang Quakers on the Common anymore.

The succeeding wave of Christian revitalization, with the Wesleys at its heart, was a much more humane and thoroughly honorable improvement. The Christian movement after the Puritan revival was better because women were at the honored center of it. And no woman deserves more credit for the pious remoralization of English-speaking society than Susannah Wesley. The mother of John and Charles Wesley, and 17 other children, schooled them in zeal and service. The fruit of her piety changed the world, and the Pentecostal heirs of the Wesleyan movement are still setting the world on fire for God.

In stark contrast, women are ruthlessly suppressed even by the "moderate" Puritans like the Saudi regime. Al Qaeda and the extreme Islamists are so brutal in their condemnation of women that you wonder if they had mothers.

Someday, perhaps a century from now, there will be another wave of Islamic revival. They will likely look back on the Taliban and their ilk with shame. But it is hard to see how a new Islamist movement, built on the smoking ruins of this one, could build an honored place for women teachers and spiritual leaders.

There will be no Susannah Wesley of Islamic Puritanism.

1 comment:

halifax said...

It would also be difficult to envisage an Islamic Marsilius of Padua (and successors), arguing for an explicit separation of temporal authority from spiritual authority. Separation, which has textual support in the Bible and support within the traditions of Christianity, has none in either the Koran or in the Islamic tradition, at least as far as I am aware.