Faith and the Challenges of Secularism: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue

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Event Name: Faith and the Challenges of Secularism: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 7/18/2019 8:43:19 PM
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Introduction Speeches removed till SHaykh Hamza Speaks:

Hamza Yusuf and that is the challenge we

still have to meet thank you thank you

rather hood sacks shake shake Robbie

what have you been taking the title

faith and the challenges of secularism

atheist like to invert things and I

could see them having a conference

secularism and the challenges of failure

yeah because this is part of the crises

that we're in is that we have and

Jonathan hate in his book righteous

right he articulates I think really well

this this problem that we have of what

we privilege as values like Liberty as

opposed to sanctity and and he actually

despite the fact that he's a liberal

makes an argument that religious people

have a much broader spectrum of moral

considerations than people on the other

side I I think there's a lot of challenges that secularism faces.  But I think the greatest challenge is that religion faces is the stupidity of so many religious people and I think that secularism actually is a response to that stupidity, because there's so much inanity in religion and this is what they love.  Religosity, which was done by Bill  Maher, this film had a huge impact on people.  But it didn't show people like Jonathan Sacks rabbi Sacks it showed people that would be better off just not speaking and and this is a problem because we're in a society that it honors freedom of speech and everybody's entitled to their opinion no matter how stupid it might be but one of the things that mass technology has done is its really given everybody a platform and so somebody who lives in a house with wheels and has cars on its front porch

without wheels can actually have a Quran

burning day and it ends up causing riots

in other parts of the world this is the

type of environment that we're in so

it's it's a very precarious situation I

think for all of us

and and I think faith for me the tragedy

is I just see these these great

religious traditions and I in all

honesty I mean my undergraduate was in

comparative religious studies but all of

the religious traditions Buddhism

Hinduism Catholicism and the Protestant

formations Judaism have extraordinary

truths in them that have nourished

countless people through the centuries

and one of the problems with religion is

that when when people study religion

they tend to study the history of

religion they actually don't study the

religion itself so very few most people

know about the Crusades and and they

know about the Inquisition but they

don't know about st. Thomas Aquinas or

the zoom or what he has to say

about the nature of the self or the

trials and tribulations of the self when

we think of Islam now people

unfortunately think of Isis they don't

think of Gaza Lee who had a huge

influence on st. Thomas

they don't think of arrow ease who had a

massive influence on your European

thought they don't think about these

giants when they think of Islam they

think of Isis and these and these

horrible iterations that have manifested

and so I think religion is an incredible

victim of a lot of really poorly

practiced religion and and I think the

secularists they just this is what they

latch on to and when they attack

religion and so for me I think if we

look at secular the secularization and

just to define terms I'm going to use

Harvey Cox has I think a good definition

which is the idea of removing religious

and metaphysical considerations in in

society so that religion and metaphysics

doesn't inform the society but another

definition is the disenchantment of

nature because religious traditions all

of our traditions see the human being is

a steward of the earth and and that

there's a moral responsibility as a

human being whereas in in in in a

disenchanted world nature becomes raw

materials and resources to be exploited

and the same happens to the human being

so you have a D sake realization of

politics so that the the the this and

this occurred obviously first in the

West but it's continued all over the

world this idea that political service

has nothing to do with moral or

spiritual responsibility and and then

finally the D consecration of values

this idea that that values become

relativized and that we don't values I

mean secular is from a Latin word which

which meant the here and now and so this

idea that

that the past doesn't have anything to

tell us to inform us and just to give

you one example in a book that I read

recently the Benedict option yeah I'm

glad you mentioned yeah which is a Rod

Dreher book it's a very interesting book

but one of the things he says I mean

he's very pessimistic about the

situation and he's basically arguing for

a kind of to create enclaves of sanity

where religious people can raise their

children I mean that maybe the Amish in

the end will you know have been the

wisest of us all but he says that the

two things that most threaten the church

today are sex and technology and and I

think the the the the sex aspect

obviously is the type of culture that's

been created in the West the hookup

culture it can't sustain family and and

we're seeing if some of you saw the

stats on marriages recently that have

just completely flipped in the last 15

years people don't want the problems of

just getting married and having to deal

with a spouse it's obviously harder for

the women than the men but dealing with

a spouse is part of marriage and people

don't want the emotional entanglements

of these things and then also they don't

want the sacrifice of raising children

so a lot of people just aren't having

children this is a major problem in

Europe and and increasingly in the

United States and Japan so I think

technology is is is also enabling this

this this detachment into a kind of

autistic world so a lot of young people

now are are growing up completely

detached from the world that they're in

I mean I see them at the University

almost every day with their phones in

walking with their their their iPhones

and these things and really in another

world and so one of the most fundamental

things about religion is it creates

community you need a minyan in in

Judaism you have to have at least 10

people to do certain prayers in as long

a need 12 people to Jamaa you know the

ecclesia in traditional Christianity

the the Songhai in buddhism the idea

community is at the essence of religion

and at the essence of community is

family and family then becomes an

extended it extends out to the community

so the breakdown of these things are

directly related to the breakdown of

religion and and this is what I think is

really being lost on a lot of people

what rabbi sacks said people don't

realize what we're going to lose with

the loss of religion family I do not

believe I don't believe that family can

be sustained without religion if you

look in this country in 1968 there was a

I think Humphrey did it about the the

crisis of the Negro family which Daniel

Patrick Moynihan morning 1665 so the

crises of the of the black family was

that twenty percent of the children were

being born out of wedlock that now is is

well past fifty percent seventy it

exactly and it's it's it's in the in the

white community you're looking it's well

past twenty percent and so in Britain

it's nearly fifty percent fifty percent

almost fifty percent of children in

Britain are born outside marriage now to

be fair some of this is common-law

marriage I mean there are people that

are in committed monogamous or committed

relationships and raising children

without having gone through the process

of marriage but a lot aren't and so the

breakdown of the family which is it's

the it's the building block of the

society I think so we're you know I

think we're we're dealing with a lot of

variables out there and and then finally

the last thing increasingly I think in

the United States what we're seeing is

is a French model of a governmental

attitude towards religion the United

States traditionally was not a lay

assist model in it secularism did not

mean that we exclude faith from the

public square and that's very clear in

the foundational writings that we have

and it was confirmed consistently by the

Supreme Court throughout the 19th

century and others and but whereas now

you're seeing that it's the Steven


model you know the culture of disbelief

you can tinker with God but in your

garage and well unto you if you bring

him him out into the public space and so

I think that to me is deeply troubling

and I think institutionally it was

traditionally a lot of institutions now

are being threatened especially

religious colleges churches I mean the

birth control and the Hobby Lobby

situation these are all affecting all of

us so we've talked a great deal about

the the terrible challenges that are

being thrown up by secularism and

secularization before we turn to our

audience I want to ask each of you to

talk about possible responses you

mentioned Rod Dreher written a book that

a lot of people are talking about that

is one recipe for responding to an

aggressive secularism namely doubling

down and trying to build structures that

will help form our faith communities to

become more strong and resilient but I

want to ask the question this way what

do you think in this trial log your

respective faith communities can learn

from each other

rod rear and his book actually talks

very movingly about a visit that

Archbishop Charles Chaput a Catholic

Archbishop of Philadelphia made to

yeshiva University in 2012 rabbi sacks

and Archbishop chef who talks very

movingly about how struck he was by the

intensity and the passion and the love

of the students that you see before the

Torah he was struck by the the way the

students studied in pairs and he thought

this is something that Christians can

learn from from from Jews are there

other instances of that sort where

Robbie you you've you've learned

something from hamza about how we can

respond to these challenges or how can

muslims perhaps learn from christians

and jews hamza and in terms of

responding to the challenges of

secularism start with you

well I mean the first thing that any

faith tradition that's attentive can

learn from Judaism and from the history

of the Jewish people is survival of all

the ancient peoples who has survived the

Jews now I'm a critic of the Benedict

option I have great respect for God rare

I have great respect for Roger I

represent the other point of view which

I'll talk about in a moment but but I

have to concede to rod if we look at

Jewish experience throughout history and

this would be an oversimplification that

Jonathan can correct a lot of the effort

was separation separating from the

corrupted nations refusing to capitulate

to infanticide to sexual immorality

temple prostitution always with some

members of the community sometimes large

members of the community falling into it

but always with the core and the remnant

sticking and and and separating from it

so if I were if I were doing a brief for

Rods Benedict option I would point to

those aspects to Jewish separation from

corrupt surrounding cultures and nations

as as as evidence for that but I think

that the tenacity of faith the

determination to hand on faith to to the

children the refusal to accommodate and

capitulate to what from the point of

view of the faith can only be judged to

be wrong despite the carrots and the

sticks that are used to compel

capitulation the the there's always the

temptation no matter what your faith is

in the face of

a hegemonic power opposed to that face

the temptation is always to give in in

order to get ahead and sometimes if you

don't give in or sometimes whether or

not you're prepared to give in there's

there's compulsion but historically the

Jewish people have as a people not

individuals may go their ways but as a

people has refused either to accept what

is contrary the faith in order to get

ahead or to yield to the the

intimidation and bullying of the

hegemonic power well I mean I think I

wrote an article some time ago for the

Christian Science Monitor what what

Muslims could learn from Catholics which

talked about just the Irish Catholic

experience of coming here the Irish

Catholics were looked down upon my own

family changed their name from Oh Han

sook - Hanson and and I I don't think

people realize how difficult it was for

that assimilation to take place in

Catholicism it took a long time for

Catholics ruling to be accepted but what

they did was they created extraordinary

educational institutions that became the

envy of even the Protestant communities

and and so I think for me it was the the

grit that the Irish Catholics showed

because a lot of those institutions were

built with small donations from Irish

workers and I know my own family

supported st. Joseph's College in

Philadelphia so I think that's something

that Muslims could definitely learn from

the Catholic experience and you're

putting this into action with Lacuna

column right and and Zaytuna College is

I mean we have we have a Catholic Dean

we have a priesthood and we we have we

have a priest teaching rhetoric and

English literature and when we have

Vatican visitation a couple weeks ago

and and when the bishop came in to the

classroom and it was a surprise I didn't

know the priest was teaching he saw the

priests and all these Muslims and he's

just his jaw dropped in so the priest

comes runs and kneels down because he

had the bishops

and ask for a blessing in front of the

Muslim class and and and then he looked

down he said it would be a Franciscan


but I think that that definitely did the

aspect of education and also the

determination that the Catholics have

have held I mean there's a lot of

capitulation going on and caving in and

a lot of different places but by and

large the Catholics have held to a

tradition that is not in any way

consonant with the zeitgeist and and

that that takes immense moral courage to

to be true to your principles I'm seeing

in our Muslim community a lot of young

people completely capitulating to basic

principles that we have and it's for me

it's very tragic because it once you

lose that you lose your faith I just I

don't see how you can hold on to your

faith in terms of the Jewish experience

I think the the incredible things that

Muslims can learn from the Jewish

community the number one the thing is is

about the halacha

law and how the Jewish community has

been able to grapple with a lot of

pre-modern concepts in the modern world

and I think what my teacher sheikh

abdullah bin bae is trying to do is very

similar to what a lot of the rabbi's did

much earlier with jewish law so there

there's a lot that can be learned

because the halahala

and the sharia have a lot of

similarities they do make that we do

hustle and and many other things in fact

there was a I saw a somebody go around

Israel asking Jews in Israel what what

religion is closer to Judaism Islam or

Christianity and most of the Jews

actually said Islam and historically I

think that's how a lot of the Jewish

rabbis felt largely because of the

monotheism but also because the Jewish

community saw Islam as having a lot of

the an extension in in essence of the

Mosaic law so and also I think holding

on to your faith despite incredible and

a lot of Jewish people have lost their

faith undeniably along with Christians

and other people because of what


in the two world wars in Europe but the

fact that you can have somebody who who

probably has relatives that were in in

the Holocaust and and saw what happened

collectively to a group of people and

maintained your faith in spite of that

and I think had it up there for the book

of Job I think it would be a lot more

difficult for Jewish people to hold on

to their faith in spite of all these