Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Paradigm for viewing human rights on a traditionalist or classical system of thought

Daniel Steinmetz: February 22nd, 2009 at 7:09 pm
Though it may be a tangential remark, Schmalzbauer could be accused of conflating post-liberal mainline protestantism (Stanley Hauerwas) with American neo-Evangelicalism. The difference between the two is quite significant, especially since the latter over the last 50 years views political participation as a responsibility. That is, they acknowledge the legitimacy of democracy (not voting, for instance, is viewed by the typical Evangelical as irresponsible—whether conservative or liberal). However, the current post-liberal trend views the equal distribution of political power expressed via the vote as some type of simulacra of an egalitarian Christian community. Put differently, one could say that Evangelicals view voting as something of a fundamental right that is therefore good. What Wolterstorff is criticizing with Hauerwas, I believe is qualitatively different.

John Schmalzbauer: February 22nd, 2009 at 9:22 pm
Daniel Steinmetz makes an excellent point. I mentioned Stanley Hauerwas mainly because Wolterstorff did. There is certainly a clear distinction between the American evangelical movement and post-liberalism. At the same time, some of the evangelical scholars I know are attracted to post-liberalism. Within that group of post-liberal evangelicals, some are suspicious of rights talk (even of the kind that Wolterstorff celebrates).

Steinmetz is right to point out that evangelicals have been politically engaged for several decades. However, this is not the same thing as valuing documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A case could be made that evangelical anti-abortion rhetoric draws on rights language (the “right to life”). Nowhere did I mean to imply that all evangelicals are suspicious of rights talk. But some (like my professor at Wheaton College) certainly are.

Robert D. Crane: February 24th, 2009 at 5:04 pm
The question would seem to be not which brand of religious tradition is trying to support human rights on specific issues, such as Darfur or asset-based money, but rather is the question who is trying to revive human rights as a systematic paradigm for viewing all of human life based on a traditionalist or classical system of thought that may have been lost in the modern age. In other words it is a question of conscious paradigmatic transformation.

An good example of an issue-oriented approach favored perhaps by most Protestants is Jim Wallis’s, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. A good example of the systems or paradigmatic approach favored by Roman Catholics would be Russell Hittinger’s The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World, which I reviewed, along with several other recent books in my article “Taproot to Terrorism: The Loss of Transcendent Law in America and the Muslim World,” published in The Muslim World Book Review, Summer 2005.

The second question is which of these consciously paradigmatic approaches is being revived under the rubric of justice as another word for natural law and as simply an older term for human rights. The best book in the Roman Catholic tradition, with specific reference to the current issues of banking, credit, and taxation, is Michael D. Greaney’s collection of his articles from the Social Justice Review under the title In Defense of Human Dignity: Essays on the Just Third Way: A Natural Law Perspective.

Within the Islamic tradition, the best book on natural law and justice is the monumental tome by Jasser Auda entitled Maqasid al Shari’ah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach. This is part of an entire library of books being published by the International Institute of Islamic Thought either as translations from the Arabic, such as Ibn Ashur’s seminal treatise of 1946, published as Ibn Ashur: Treatise on Maqasid al-Shari’ah, or else written, like Auda’s, originally in English and translated into Arabic and other languages. Some of these books are reviewed, for example, in my article, “Human Rights in Traditionalist Islam: Legal, Political, Economic, and Spiritual Perspectives,” in The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Winter 2008.

The IIIT is now preparing for a twenty-year project to publish in Wikipedic form a twenty-volume Encyclopedia of Natural Law and Justice, perhaps categorized according my own preferred formulation of the irreducibly universal principles of justice, known as the maqasid, as developed during the high point of the Andalucian civilization by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

This formulation consists of two categories of principles, each consisting of four major purposes as headings for an architectonics that recognizes two levels of sub-categories (known as hajjiyat and tahsiniyat), perhaps first introduced in the modern West in the book The Sun is Rising in the West, edited by Haleem and Bowman in 1998. The categories and component parts are listed below in order of priority as a code of human responsibilities and human rights: The Immanent Frame 5:56 PM

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