Monday, September 18, 2006

The Pope and Islam: Friends?

I hate this when these major religions are fighting. Can't we all get along? The pope recently came out with something very Catholic and now he's apologizing to Islamics for it. Well, sort of apologizing. I think his apologies have been kind of funny. I can't laugh too hard at them because a Catholic might think I'm making fun of him and then I might have to apologize. Anyway, just to make it easier, here is a link to the offensive speech the pope gave in Resenburg (make sure you have a hot beverage and plenty of fresh air as you read it, or zzzzzzzzzz). And here is the highly offensive paragraph of the address:

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threaten. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without decending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably (συν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

I, um, highlighted the particular offensive part. Certain Islamics don't like that interpretation of Mohammed. Of course, the Romans Catholics did the same thing. Does the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre come to mind? 100,000 French Huguenots killed in one night by Roman Catholics. The pope forged a new coin in celebration. Putting that aside, here's the word from the Vatican on the address:

The pontiff was "very upset that some parts of his speech could have sounded offensive to the sensibility of the Muslim faithful and were interpreted in a way that does not correspond at all to his intentions," Bertone said in a written statement. That Benedict quoted from Paleologus does not mean the pontiff thinks like him, Bertone said.

Two words: Carefully worded. He's backing away and yet not backing away. Part of the reason he must back away is because people just don't take doctrine seriously any more. It's either the truth or it isn't. This is the pope. Catholics aren't supposed to think that what he says is up to a vote. The New York Times thinks that they should be the pope, so they wrote an editorial to the pope. Here are the words of the NY Times editorial on September 16:

There is more than enough religious anger in the world. So it is particularly disturbing that Pope Benedict XVI has insulted Muslims, quoting a 14th-century description of Islam as “evil and inhuman.”

In the most provocative part of a speech this week on “faith and reason,” the pontiff recounted a conversation between an “erudite” Byzantine Christian emperor and a “learned” Muslim Persian circa 1391. The pope quoted the emperor saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Muslim leaders the world over have demanded apologies and threatened to recall their ambassadors from the Vatican, warning that the pope’s words dangerously reinforce a false and biased view of Islam. For many Muslims, holy war — jihad — is a spiritual struggle, and not a call to violence. And they denounce its perversion by extremists, who use jihad to justify murder and terrorism.

The Vatican issued a statement saying that Benedict meant no offense and in fact desired dialogue. But this is not the first time the pope has fomented discord between Christians and Muslims.

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.

I think the New York Times may have the most arrogant group of editors on the planet. What does anyone expect a Roman Catholic to say about Islam? Perhaps the pope should just say: "We're all closing up shop, donating our property to Mecca or Medina, and admitting that Islam is the one and true religion." Shouldn't he be able to outline some differences? I would respect him in a small way for doing so. Caving to political correctness bothers me. What about you? But I guess this is what we must expect.

I don't agree with the crusades, because I don't agree with state religion. I believe we are in a holy war for the souls of men, but it is a spiritual one fought against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). However, as a historian, I believe God providentially spared Europe for a reformation by stalemating Islam at its borders by means of those crusades. Those pilgrims left Plymouth to a free, Protestant Leiden, Holland and then ultimately to the Mayflower and to Cape Cod because the crusades kept Islam from taking over Europe.

Spiritually, it's a coin flip between Roman Catholicism and Islam. They're both false religions askew of the truth of the Bible, readily condemning anyone who believes their doctrine. Politically, however, we aren't presently threatened by any Roman Catholic back-pack bombers, hi-jackers, or WMDs. I don't think the pope should apologize.

Shouldn't the New York Times defend free speech? If they want to shut down vitriol, they should think about ending their opinion page. I can't see how anything is more inflammatory than Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, and Maureen Dowd, which you get, if you read that paper, on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Aren't we a pluralistic society that defends the free competition of ideas in the public marketplace? Do not these competing ideas by nature proclaim their superiority? After all, as a friend of mine mentioned to me, Coke doesn't advertise for Pepsi. Just because one thinks it's better, doesn't mean the other gets to blow it up. In this society we are free to proclaim the doctrine, and as long as it is just words, we get to keep doing it. We even get to say that what we believe is the truth and what others believe is error, that what we say is good and what they say is evil. The other side can declare just the opposite. And that's the way we all get to keep believing something and still get along.


Anonymous said...

Your blog was very interesting to me. Have you ever read any of Jack Chick's publication? The final in his Alberto series is very interesting indeed. It states that the catholic church helped to start Islam. (Mohammed's wife was catholic.) However, this backfired. INTERESTING concept indeed.

Don Johnson said...

I don't think Jack Chick's claim could possibly be true. Mohammed lived between AD 570-632, about the same time as the first real pope, Gregory the Great, ca. AD 540 – March 12, 604. At that point the Roman Catholic church as we know it today was hardly in existence. It would take many years for the corruption to thoroughly take over the church. Furthermore, I would question any claims that Mohammed's wife was catholic. How in the world could anyone document such a claim?

I hold no brief for the Muslims or the Catholics, but we shouldn't be irresponsible with the facts either.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

And I quote:
Matthew 7
1“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Just a thought...