Mark Collins – How a Caliphate Comes to Be? Or a Religion Bloodily, er, Reforms?

Consider European Christians in the 1400s…and then many Muslims, especially Arabs, today.  At The Middle Ages by Johannes Fried, pp. 449-452:

Waiting for Judgement Day and the Renassance

…Down on Earth, mighty and all powerful, stands the Angel Saint Michael, the weigher of souls.  Clad in shining gold armor, he performs his duty, separating those those who are blessed from those who have been damned.  Far into the distance, right to the horizon, the dead are seen rising from their graves; those few souls who have been saved turn towards Paradise, covering their nakedness.  At the gates of Heaven, Saint Peter receives them with a handshake, and angels clothe them in the robes of the Blessed.  Some of those who have awakened from the dead still hope for forgiveness and beg for mercy, but an angel uses his cross staff to drive one such desperate sinner back into the clutches of a devil, whose terrible companions drag and push the great mass of the damned off to Hell.  These unfortunates are all stark naked, stripped of all signs of worldly status, and their faces are etched with horror and fear.  Crying, wailing and contorted in agony, they are cast down into the fiery abyss of Hell, plunging head over heels into eternal damnation, and even as they fall they are tormented by demons.

The man who imagined and brought to life this awe-inspiring scene was the artist Hans Memling.  Painted in Bruges in around 1470…

[The triptych:

Cf. Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights“.]

…Angels and devils could be seen engaged in a violent struggle for the soul of every dead person.  Whether in a compact Book of Hours or a large-format triptych, the Day of Judgement revealed its terrifying face.  Hope in trepidation and constant anxiety were the hallmarks of the century…Time and again, be it in Italy, Germany, or France, contemporaries clamored for news about what was to come.  Astrology and prognostic literature were abiding features of the Renaissance period, and its most celebrated authors and artists treated such topics more intensely than most.  Who could have known at at the time that this was a blind alley?  It appeared a perfectly rational approach, and all existing scholarship pointed to its being  a worthwhile line of enquiry.

…Everything, with no exception, was in a state of confusion; nothing and no one could be relied upon any more, downfall and chaos loomed, and everything was going awry.  There was a desperate need for reform, but who could possibly set this in motion?  And where to begin the process?…

In Mesopotamia and the Levant today and…?  Not reform instead reaction.  Yet “There was a desperate need for reform, but who could possibly set this in motion?  And where to begin the process?”

Quite.  Who?  How?  The Christian Reformation was, remember, exceedingly bloody.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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