A Hindoo Holiday?

Visitors to Jerusalem may have noticed, if they were not told, that a Muslim guard is posted at the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre. He, and his mates, are the security at this church, the pre-eminent Christian shrine in the Jewish state.

The Nusseibeh family is in charge – and has been for at least the last eight centuries, since the formal arrangement was negotiated between the sultan, Saladin, and King Richard the Lionheart. (Remember them?) It has lasted because, you see, it has proved very convenient for all parties.

I have witnessed myself a small amount of what is occasionally a large amount of “argy-bargy” (loud if not violent quarreling) between Latin Franciscans and Greek Orthodox monks, as an aside to their liturgical celebrations on that holy ground. Armenian Apostolic, Copt, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox, are among the other tenants of the compound, and fights can break out between any two or more. (Some of these “fight nights” can be seen on YouTube.)

To my mind, this is a perfectly appropriate symbol of the Christian life – that even at the location of the Crucifixion of Christ, our religious cults are “having it out.” Christ came to save the worldlings as they are, rather than as they aren’t.

But Christ Himself, as gentle reader may notice while reading his Bible, or listening to the homilies, does not provide security services. Nor does He participate in practical politics, at least in His own person. Other arrangements have to be made. Even the Roman pope serves as a kind of referee.

Christians have, on balance, accepted, and are even grateful for, the Nusseibehs (and other Muslim officials) at the Holy Sepulchre, for they can be neutrals. This is an advantage that Christians uniquely enjoy, for there is no neutral Christian guarding the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca (where factions sometimes dispute), or in any of the world’s other destinations of sacred pilgrimage – although all religions have from time to time had to rely on imperial protectors.

I have also witnessed a fallout between Buddhist monks, that wasn’t even slightly edifying. Fighting for space, or Lebensraum, that includes the space to pray, is a feature of human behavior. One must expect to rub elbows, from time to time.

The arrangements must be political in nature. I think they should be minimized, but I don’t think any Christian (a category that includes Catholics, incidentally) can be a complete libertarian, having seen what happens when children are completely unrestrained.


But it does not follow that government, let alone national government, should have any monopoly on power, even among voting adults. Authorities should be as various as the functions within a well-governed “country.”

This is, of course, one of those infinitely extendable topics. Religion has been the guarantor of social order since time out of mind, and every religion that has become major has had plenty of experience with the human condition. Clashes of every sort, including clashes among the different religious, have been endured, and settled, and been rekindled again and again.

By contrast, utopianism has been a farce, wherever it has been tried, as it wasn’t, for instance, by the (mostly Christian) Founding Fathers of the United States. Indeed, their avoidance of such nonce words as “democracy” was an indication that they were, predominantly, sane.

They were not happy with excessive government, or its excessive taxation, and neither am I. And yet within a few decades, “responsible government” had become irresponsible again, as it always does. No people on this Earth are qualified to govern themselves. It always ends badly. (See history.)

To my mind (the mind writing this column), the very notions of “democracy” and “sovereignty” are, therefore, suspect; and I’m inclined to criticize “responsible” government. The purely theoretical idea, of people governing themselves, or of any nation being governed by its own countrymen, is just not sound.

Indeed, throughout history, the great majority of nations have always been governed by other nations, and specific regions arrogate domestic control (Quebec in Canada, for example). This is inevitable, for there is no equality in the real world, and also, no symmetry between the various social units. One will always predominate over another, and the “rights” of the subject customer will eventually disappear.

One thinks, for instance, of the enthusiasm of Bengalis and other Indians for British rule, when it first replaced the Moslem Mughals; or for the Mughals, when Babur installed that dynasty over Lodi’s dynasty before. In both cases, freedom had not been won, but relative freedom had been established. This illusion made the conquerors popular. Later, their popularity wore out, but that is how things go down here.

Similarly, in North America, the American Revolution was generally welcomed among British-American subjects, though not among my Loyalist ancestors. It promised freedom to the winners, but emigration for the losers. This worked, for a while. Lately, the triumph of elite Left Wokishness is bringing the American arrangements to a definitive end. No one seems to have the courage to defend them. (Even the military is disintegrating in “gender identity” squabbles.)

The USA needs a foreign master – who understands how to govern – to take over. Alas, inviting the British back would not be advisable, for the British have lost their former talent for imperialism, which made British rule the “go-to” option in most of the countries of the world.

Indeed, Britain is now ruled by a Hindu technocrat (Prime Minister Rishi Sunak), trying to make the best of its social and economic squalor.

The good news is that I have noticed the United States has its own Hindu ruler-in-waiting, Vivek Ramaswamy – a welcome relief from the domestic, black-or-white American standard.

This is very hopeful. Vivek will be in a better position to judge objectively what you need, and can afford, rather than playing favorites as your previous politicians did. You should welcome him as your new Hindu ruler.


*Image: The so-called Immovable Ladder at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Placed there at least as early as the 1700s, it is “immovable” because the various Christian groups mentioned in Mr. Warren’s column cannot agree who put the ladder there. Likely it was a workman. But of which sect? As Atlas Obscura explains: “The ladder remains there to this date. No one dares touch it, lest they disturb the status quo, and provoke the wrath of others.”

You may also enjoy:

Robert Royal’s Theology and Human Conflicts

John M. Grondelski’s A “Common” Easter?

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.