Saturday, September 16, 2006

More About The Pope

So now, apparently, many upset Muslims want to kill the pope for quoting a dead Byzantine emperor saying mean (albeit basically truthful) things about the prophet Mohammed. Michelle Malkin is covering this, hour by hour. She calls on everyone to stand up and unequivocally say "I support the Pope". (I would supply links, but heck, you can find all this on Google, and my computer won't do it. Sorry.)

Sorry, Michelle, but I supported Denmark a lot more than I support the Pope, and I even had some crankiness about Denmark. (Stupid butter cookies! Stupid cartoons!)

Standard Disclaimers: I do not want anyone to kill the pope, nor do I want anyone to throw bombs at Christian churches in the Muslim, which has apparently been happening, as folks watch the news and get all anxious to attack the nearest Christians. I observe with cyncicism and concern the increasing trend of irrelevent 'slights' to Islam by any semi-public figure being blown up by media hysteria into giant affairs that agitate the whole Muslim world. Benedict was, of course, entitled to say any durn thing that he pleased. Yadda, yadda, yadda. There is no justification for the kind of outraged "the West has REALLY gone too far THIS time" routine that appears to be playing out.

But Benedict's speeech, which I've read in full (OK, read with glazed eyes in full), is interestingly silent about the record of his own faith. The context in which the notion of Mohammed bringing faith 'with the sword' is set in contrast with the Byzantine emperor's Greek belief that a 'reasonable soul' can be persuaded to truth by reason. Benedict argues that the Hellenic ideal is compatible with biblical truth.

So far, so good. The reason I will NOT stand up and support the pope as unequivocally as Michelle wants, is that Benedict does not, at any stage, make reference to the failures of the Church to live up this ideal in the centuries before or after Emperor Manuel II had this insight while chatting with a Persian guy he met during the siege of Constantinople.

The catch is that refusing to convert, for Muslims and Jews alike during a long period of European history, meant that you were not a 'reasonable soul', and philosophy went out the window. Books were burned. People were burned. A great deal of other unpleasant stuff happened. Benedict talks about late medieval theological departures from the Greek ideal, but he doesn't talk about the human cost of those departures, nor how deep they went.

So Benedict: why not? If you are upholding Christianity's beliefs in this matter, would it not be best to say "We have not always remembered this truth. In the memory of those who were oppressed because both Christians and Muslims converted by the sword for generations, let both Christians and Muslims knock it the hell off in this generation?" Now that sounds rousing to me.

This caught my attention also because yesterday I listened to a lecture about Catholic social justice teaching from a very nice Jesuit who began by discussing the French Revolution as the end of the medieval reign of the Church's teaching about the worth of humanity, and the separateness of human worth from enconomic production. I would have been happier if he had acknowledged, even in passing, that in the days before the French Revolution, the poor were not exactly getting what they needed from the French Church. No mention. No comment.

So, no, Michelle. I don't stand up to say "I support the Pope". I support the Pope's right not to be assassinated. But Benedict needs to get off his high horse and make it clear that his Greek insights came at a high human cost.


Eliyahu said...

more on the Pope:
not that i know anything about the pope. how come the buddists aren't ever at war with us?

alan said...

shh! eliyahu, don't give them ideas