« In defense of the Pope | Main | Al-Jazeera's cartoon »

September 18, 2006

Comments

Rich Leonardi

The Emperor's quote may be the jumping off point, but in reading the text of the speech it comes off as a minor prelude. The larger obstacles to authentic dialogue about truth, rationality, and the nature of the soul emanate from the West: multiculturalism, moral relativism, and various Christian attempts to separate faith from reason. My $.02.

Grant Gallicho

By way of comparison, Sandro Magister's headline: "Islam’s Unreasonable War Against Benedict XVI."

GB

We stopped paying any attention to 'mainstream' media years ago. Newsweek et al have long since lost the ability to recognize & report unbiased truth. If that's what they do when the wood is green, what will they do when its dry (like now)...to parphrase Our Lord?

JACK

The sad thing, Amy, is that your concerns will be dismissed by Newsweek as being "religious" versus "journalistic". Which is quite an irony as to what the definition of good reporting has become.

The scary thing is that we might see some horrid consequences from this bad reporting. I think journalists have gotten too used to the West's reaction to anything, which amounts to not much of a reaction at all. Do bad journalism -- at best you get some public comment and maybe a threat of a boycott, which one can easily dismiss by describing it as "ideologically-motivated" so one doesn't have to confront it. Islam takes these things a bit more seriously and often with terminal consequences.

Janice

By the way, Christianity's "encounter with the classical world" can be seen in the Gospel of John.

Don Anon

"Your religious text claims there is to be no compulsion in religion. Yet you practice compulsion in religion. How do you harmonize this?"

Why did Benedict use Islam as an example?

And, without ignoring the very real oppression of non-muslims after the Islamic conquest, it is important to note that were always large populations of non-muslim believers in most of the Islamic world through the early 20th Century. So, whatever compulsion was used in the name of Islam should be taken in that context.

Bill

When Martin Marty who is usually reserved criticizes the pope, you know that it is serious. He even gave him a bye of Dominus Jesu.
Sightings 9/18/06

The Pope and Islam
-- Martin E. Marty

Pope Benedict XVI has had a free ride so far. Back when there were
still Protestant anti-Catholics, some would have found much fault with
him, but most appreciated his encyclical on divine and human love, and
said so. Many Catholics and non-Catholics whose friends suffered
under him as Cardinal Ratzinger now empathically choose to help the
wounded nurse their bruises. Some among the Catholic right even think
he should be more of a hardliner.

For all those reasons, it is regrettable that in the midst of a well
worked out (of course) formal speech at Regensburg, his old academic
turf, the pope lapsed for a moment and did what we tenured folk
sometimes do -- and remember, the pope has lifetime tenure: We come up
with an allusion that gets us in trouble, let a side point take center
stage, or fail to count the cost of a remark. So it was that almost
inexplicably the pope began his talk in Regensburg with inflaming
words from an obscure fourteenth-century Byzantine emperor to show
that jihad as holy war is bad. That emperor through this pope said
that what Muhammad brought to the world was "only evil and inhuman,
such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Like Christians often did? The pope did not mention that.

His Holiness must have underestimated how useful such words would be
to extreme fight-picking Muslim clerics and right-wing American talk
show folk. His people now stress that he did not intend to offend
Muslims, but his plea for "genuine dialogue of cultures and religions
so urgently needed today" will be set back and out-shouted by those
clerics and rightists. What sounds at least half appropriate in a
history-and-theology classroom sounds different when spread to a
billion Christians and a billion Muslims, as words such as these will
be. The only thing that will be remembered from the pope's new call
for reason and dialogue is the unreasonable and monological citation
that Muhammad contributed only "evil and inhuman" speech and action in
human history.

I know I'll get hit for suggesting "equivalencies" here, though I am
always clear in stating that there is no equivalency between today's
radical and extreme Muslims and today's ordinary Christians. But it
must also be said that Christians, from the fourth to the eighteenth
century, can match the Muslims one-for-one when it comes to having
spread the faith with the sword. Read the history of the
Christianization of Europe and you have to go hunting for that
minority of the faithful who spread the faith without the sword,
merely by witness and works.

We live today not in the time of Christian Crusades and Inquisitions,
but in a time when the pope is needed as a bridge-builder, a
link-maker. Having quoted claims seven centuries old that only "evil
and inhuman" things were new in the program of the Prophet and in the
name of Islam, it will be harder for the pope to have dialogue with
the Muslims who do good and human things. Some on the Muslim and
American right seem to be craving a war of civilizations, a war about
which we know only one thing: Both sides (or the many sides) would
lose.

Rather than point to the "evil and inhuman" nature of Islam's,
Judaism's, Christianity's, Hinduism's, Buddhism's, and other holy
wars, the pope will serve better if he can still find dialogue
partners in search of the good and human. All is not lost. Yet.

Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events,
publications, and contact information can be found at
www.illuminos.com.

----------

The current Religion and Culture Web Forum features "Learning Religion
at the Vineyard: Prayer, Discernment, and Participation in the Divine"
by Tanya Luhrmann. To read this article, please visit:
http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/webforum/index.shtml.

Doug Barber

Was the Pope's choice of an opening text really a clumsy mistake, as Meacham suggests?

I agree with this, at the blog _Cartago Delenda Est_: "The logic of what Benedict has done is a real masterstroke. Its effect reminds me of an exorcist commanding a demon to state its true name."

I also agree with this by Robert T. Miller at _First Things_: "Benedict is hinting that Muslims can expect Christians to present their grievances, current and historical, against Islam with the same frankness that Muslims present theirs against Christianity...."

Mike McG...

"Your religious text claims there is to be no compulsion in religion. Yet you practice compulsion in religion. How do you harmonize this?"

How much more felicitous these words would have been, especially if they had been accompanied by some recognition of the blood on our own hands. But these weren't the words Benedict used.

I'm having difficulty understanding the hint of "you tell 'em, Benedict" jubilation in some Catholic quarters. I don't see why it is disloyal to recognize some truth in the Newsweek analysis.

I suspect that Benedict is more open to the critique of his speech than many of his supporters.

Christine

As a convert from the Lutheran tradition I have noted Martin Marty's shift from historic confessional Lutheranism over the years.

I don't pay too much attention to his opinions on things Catholic.

Christine

As a convert from the Lutheran tradition I have noted Martin Marty's shift from historic confessional Lutheranism over the years.

I don't pay too much attention to his opinions on things Catholic.

AnglicanPeggy

Here is my defense of the use of the quote that I tried to post at the Daily Telegraph. I'm not sure it went through. Still I think it is a good fit here so I'll repost it.

"It seems so easy to say that the Pope made a mistake quoting this passage but noone seems to even want to try and understand why he did so. It is unlikely given his past statements and behavior that he is some sort of closeminded bigot. I think that he was trying to illustrate the worst that can happen when a faith resorts to violence to spread its message ie the people who are the victims of that violence see nothing but negatives in that faith. How could they help it?

We dont have many written records of what people of the past thought of islam when they were in situations analogous to ours today. There couldnt be much to choose from that would fit the point trying to be made. In other words, when a religion resorts to violence, it does violence to its own cause. Instead of assuming that Benedict should have chosen another quote or else just said nothing, why dont you really try to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I think its more than likely that the quote was chosen because it wasnt as bad as some others he might have chosen. I think it also may have been chosen because the Emperor wasnt himself ignorant of islam or muslims and had good relations with them. This to me really makes the point. The Emperor would have had better relations with islam if his nation wasnt being attacked by them. An opportunity was lost when things could have been different. It was the resort to violence, not the reaction to it that was to blame for the bad relations then and the same holds true now. I say Bravo, Benedict!"

PS. We need to try and be sure that Benedict's point doesnt get lost in all of the trouble the way the fanatics and their anti-Catholic allies want. I think we should all unite behind the Pope and an accurate interpretation of his remarks instead of some of us saying that he should have never cited the quote. The quote is relevant to the point being made and I dont think he should at all apologize for using it.

Chris Sullivan

But it must also be said that Christians, from the fourth to the eighteenth century, can match the Muslims one-for-one when it comes to having spread the faith with the sword.

This is absolutely true.

My wife comes from Bolivia and she made this point last night about how the Spaniards brutally "converted" the South American indians at the point of a sword.

God Bless

JP

Yes, Chris. Our Lady of Guadaloupe took up her sword to convert all of those Indians in Mexico.Gosh, I'm sure you wonder why couldn't Mary've shown more respect to third world cultures? It's good to see you defending the faith so readily. You must be having a swell time.

TerryC

"Pope Benedict XVI has had a free ride so far. Back when there were still Protestant anti-Catholics,"

Gee I hadn't realized that all of the Protestant anti-Catholics have either passed to the great beyond or suddenly become supporters of euchumentical harmony. That must mean that all of those anti-Catholic web addresses in my Favorites folder are dead links now.

I'd better check....

Nope. Still seem as anti-Catholic as ever.

"My wife comes from Bolivia and she made this point last night about how the Spaniards brutally "converted" the South American indians at the point of a sword."

Saint Francis Solano-
"Francis came from a leading family in Andalusia, Spain. Perhaps it was his popularity as a student that enabled Francis in his teens to stop two duelists. He entered the Friars Minor in 1570, and after ordination enthusiastically sacrificed himself for others. His care for the sick during an epidemic drew so much admiration that he became embarrassed and asked to be sent to the African missions. Instead he was sent to South America in 1589.

"While working in what is now Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, Francis quickly learned many native languages and dialects quickly, and it is said that he preached to tribes of different tongues in one language and was understood by all. Reputed to have converted 9,000 natives during a single sermon. Could play the lute, and was known to play and sing before the altar. Noted healer.

"Around 1601 he was called to Lima, Peru, where he tried to recall the Spanish colonists to their baptismal integrity. Francis also worked to defend the indigenous peoples from oppression. He died in Lima and was canonized in 1726."

Seems that Saint Francis was more concerned with wielding a lute than a sword, and seemed to have little patience with swords in general.

M. Simon

The "no compulsion" bit was an early sura. Replaced with later ones with the opposite message.

i.e. the early moderate Islam was superceded by the later writings.

The mixing of religion and politics is a bad idea.

OTOH Catholics and Islamics can agree on homosexuality and abortion.

TerryC,

It would seem that Catholicism like Islam has two wings. One religious the other military. And like Islam we must not hold the religion responsible for what the military wing does in religion's name.

I do admit that Catholocism's military wing is not what it once was. Still we cannot erase the record. Unless we wish to subscribe to another form of PC.

Marie

Chris,

I come from the Philippines (the last of the Spanish colonies) where people recognized the difference between the tyrannical Spanish fortune-seekers and the Spanish Catholic missionaries.

Your wife needs to do some intelligent thinking.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.