16 September 2006

I'm gonna break my own rule...

...and comment on Current Affairs(TM).

As we all know, the Pope made a speech in Germany which was erudite and obviously carefully crafted, including a quote from centuries ago to illustrate his point. "...the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come." (source)

Amy's been giving it some thought, and I like her latest:
What did he say that was wrong? He said, if you want to bring it all down to Islam, that in Islamic texts, there are passages that forbid compulsion in religion, but that historically, Islam has used violence to force conversions. This, the Pope said, leads to a conclusion about the image of God borne of holding these two realities as one: that God is not bound by his own Word. Such a belief would leave one beyond/outside of reason, for this God would then be totally unknowable.
and I wondered this, too:
What is astonishing about this - or perhaps not, to those who have been paying attention - is that critical thinking, discussions of history, and philosophical analysis is not allowed, apparently, when it comes to Islam. We will wait a few days to pass final judgment on this, but we are waiting for Muslim scholars - and for scholars of Islam to weigh in on this. Will they come to the Pope's defense, as a fellow intellectual, one who has been quite friendly to and open to dialogue with various viewpoints in the past, as friends and colleagues for decades have acknowledged? Will they see this as one more dangerous threat to freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry in the face of barbarians?
She concludes, and her thought parallels mine in these spots:
I have much more to say, but have to go do things. I simply think that in some way, this represents a breaking point - a point of clarity which I can't but think is not completely unintentional.

It is a point of clarity for the Muslim world: Can you discuss the presumption out of which you operate? Can you explain how the expressions of Muslim law, as lived out in your societies, are consistent with other teachings of your own religion, not to speak of thinking about basic human rights, which the rest of the world has arrived as via...you know...centuries of...reasoned thinking?

Or can you not do this? Do the assumptions out of which you operated make this impossible? Then how are we to dialogue with you? Or is that even not what you want?

And it is a point of clarity for the West - we are rooted in a tradition of discovery, exploration, reason, learning and dialogue.

Is this who we are....or not?

Because if not...there's a force of dhimmitude that's quite willing and ready to absorb you, shut down the voices of those who so unkindly "foment" discord by simply exploring a little history and philosophy.
I believe that what we have seen here is a man - an old man, by his own admission - doing his part to help us win the war against the liar who is trying to bait us into self-annihilating hatred. (Regular readers of this blog will know that "liar" in this context means Satan, who does not discriminate against any religious group when collecting his unfortunate victims - a soul's a soul.)

I think Benedict meant to do this ... or was inspired to do it.

He has made a scholarly, reasoned speech. His point was obvious. The quote was not only taken out of context, it was framed in headlines which were deliberately inflammatory, incomplete, and misleading. "Pope takes private time after slamming Islam."

And two things happened: some Muslims went ape, and the New York Times squatted down and deposited this response:
... In 2004 when he was still the Vatican’s top theologian, he spoke out against Turkey’s joining the European Union, because Turkey, as a Muslim country was “in permanent contrast to Europe.”

A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue.

The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.
The Pope's going to Turkey, you know ... at the end of November. Why do this now? Is he really that stupid?

Probably not.

In order to disable the enemy, you need to find his weakness.

Any man who loses control of himself over rhetoric is pathetically weak. He's not only easily distracted, he dissipates his energies in furious gestures and yelling words.

The other enemy preaches peace at all costs, and demands with sombre tone that a "deep and persuasive apology" be issued for speaking about faith and reason.

Benedict has flushed those enemies out from cover. And, now that they're in the open, he's going to walk right onto the front lines, in full spotlight, by visiting a country where a book entitled Assassinating the Pope: Who will kill Benedict XVI in Istanbul is ranked as one of the bestsellers on the Internet! (Yet more proof that celibacy is not equivalent to castration.)

Amid all the "reaction," there was this gem... forgive me, but I laughed out loud in disbelief: "How can (the Pope) imply that Muslims are the creators of terrorism in the world while it is the followers of Christianity who have aggressed against every country of the Islamic world?" prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh said. "Who attacked Afghanistan and who invaded Iraq?"

Uh, no. More like going next door and saying, "Excuse me, neighbor, but the varmints under your front porch done showed up in my yard and bit my kids. I'm gonna give you a hand to get rid of 'em so we can both be free of 'em. Why don'tchya'll go on down to the hardware store and get some 'Varmint-Not' while we show those pestiferous critters some un-hospitality?"

Someone wise once said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." Good advice, these days.


Lorna said...

muslims are NOT the only terrorists though, and an awful lot of bad WAS (and maybe IS) done in the name of Christ. It's time we really repented and started forgiving.

Muslims do understand violence - it's part of their religion - but the LOVE of God, as extended by us, will undo them time after time after time.

Pope Benedict does not YET extude love like the late pope did ... but it is my hope that he will :)

A. Noël said...

Thanks for your comment, Lorna. I agree with you that the love of God, shown through us, will always overcome all evil! However, I find I have some questions in response to your comment:

If a terrorist is defined as a warrior who goes into civilian populations and hides behind innocents, clothed not in recognizable military uniform but in ordinary clothes, and performs acts of brutal ferocity which, by maiming and horribly killing innocent, defenseless civilians, are meant to scare the populace at large, as well as make a political point - whom else in today's world do you identify as regularly practicing terrorism?

Please tell me how you distinguish between the love JPII exuded vs. Benedict XVI's manner?