Today First Things published an interview I translated between the German novelist Martin Mosebach (more famous in America for his traditionalist views than his fiction), and the Muslim writer Navid Kermani, who has recently written a book appreciating Christian art from his Muslim perspective.
Much of the content of their conversation is relevant to this blog’s project; here I will quote two passages that readers are likely to appreciate, on living tradition vs. “traditionalist” attempts to recover the same:
Kermani: Unfortunately, we live in a time in which both the Catholic and Islamic traditions are breaking off; this is not just unfortunate, but dangerous, because traditions that have been broken off usually return as fundamentalism, as something reactionary, and then violence arises.
But a return to the sources is exactly what fundamentalism claims to want.
Kermani: Yes, but in the process it wants, so to speak, to skip over tradition. It turns decidedly against the tradition, insofar as it claims to return to a first beginning.
Then should one not simply allow traditions to be torn down?
Kermani: Tradition cannot be kept alive artificially. But where it still exists, one can respect, protect, and renew it. Tradition is the mediation of divine revelation across the generations; it is more than an individual can know or come up with for himself. But today, everything must be in accordance with our sound human reason, and we do not consider that this reason, like all human reason before it, is temporally conditioned. Religion should be just as we’d like it, it should pronounce what we already think, it should be compatible with our time. But it is of the very essence of religion that it is not compatible with our time, or with any time. Jesus was quite obviously not compatible with his time.
The full interview is well worth reading, and can be found here.