The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, November 15, 2003

The foundations of the Dome of the Rock


The First Amendment is under attack, and not just by state Senators and Democratic presidential candidates (both of whom should know better). Most Americans don't want free speech when the wrong person offends their core beliefs. And they think that the oath to the country ought to include acknowledgement of the unitary Deity: i.e. that atheists and pagans can't be Americans.

In particular, there is a general movement toward acceptance of religion in "public life" - code for government subsidy. This much the current President endorsed while he was running in 1999:

Bush endorsed last week's House of Representatives vote supporting public display of the Ten Commandments, despite objections it would violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

"I have no problem with the Ten Commandments posted on the wall of every public place," he said.

Asked if he favored the Protestant, Catholic or Jewish version of the Commandments, which differ slightly from one another, Bush replied: "The standard version. Surely we can agree as a society on a version that everybody can agree to."


In other words: America is now casting about for a state bedrock orthodoxy.

Lately, the Alabaman justice Roy Moore got kicked out because he set up a huge Ten Commandments monument. What is less well known, is that the real reason was that the monument exceeded the limits for orthodoxy. His Attorney General is Catholic, and struck them down because it retained the "extra" commandment against idols. But Bush, for one, hopes for a Ten Commandments that will meet with Catholic approval. Muslims will want input too, of course, and Jews, and there may be a consensus in the next decade or so if they want one.

Moore's attempt was not the first time bibliolators have set up a monument to orthodoxy. Some decades after Muhammad, a certain caliph 'Abd al-Malik designed a temple to the polemic works then extant in Islam, which (I think) included suras 3 and 4. This monument, built on the ruins of Herod's Temple, is the Dome of the Rock and reads thus.

The interesting feature of the Dome is that those suras were not cited as suras. They were also not for only the Muslim to read, in the way of sura 5: the Dome's quotes were to be read as standalone critiques of Trinitarianism. Christianity as such was fine; the Dome even allowed that Jesus died and rose alive (19:33). This contradicts the Islamic belief that Jesus only "seemed" to be crucified (4:157), unless one posits a second time for Jesus to die and arise.

The point wasn't to get the Christian reader to convert to full-fledged Islam; but to accept the suras' arguments against Trinitarianism, and to accept Muhammad as a prophet. It was Christians "of the Book" who "exceeded in their faith" (4:171). Likewise the Muslim reader had to accept the death and resurrection of Christ; to put it off to the future, perhaps, but still to accept it.

The Dome of the Rock, then, was an assertion of the limits of orthodoxy. 'Abd al-Malik wanted all his subjects to be on the same theological page.

When (not if) America accepts Bush's standard version, it will be set up in an imposing monument, alongside the "under God"-version of the Pledge of Allegiance. That will be America's Dome of the Rock. Our established state religion. The death of that naïve and outdated First Amendment.


posted by Zimri on 14:06 | link | 0 comments

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