September 16, 2006

Anyone who knows the dino-media shouldn’t be surprised when it: a) gets a news story wrong, and/or b) does all it can whenever it can to paint Christianity in a negative way and Islam in the most positive light possible. For example: someone wants to say a prayer before a graduation ceremony or comes out against same-sex marriage? Why, the media and the ACLU go ape-$hit over right-wing extremists threatening the separation of church and state! On the other hand, when Muslim women insist they be allowed to wear headscarves for their drivers license pictures and the state resists, it’s an affront to their religion!

Consider the issue of offensive religious cartoons. Remember those Danish cartoons published earlier this year depicting Islam and the prophet Mohammed in a negative light (covered extensively, BTW, by Michelle)? The Muslim world exploded with outrage, riots and even deaths, and the media was all over it like white on rice, with nary a discouraging word. Two weeks ago, cartoons derogatory to Christianity appeared in a student newspaper at the University of Virginia, but do you hear a peep from the dino-media? Of course not.

…and don’t even get me started on the lack of media coverage on Rosie O’Donnell’s comments on “The View” this week, when she compared radical Christianity to radical Islam. What a jerk.

So there’s a double standard at work here. Why that is, I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself, but it’s something to keep in mind as your hear and read those reports about Muslim reaction worldwide to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent speech in Germany about religion, faith, and reason as they apply to historic and modern-day Christianity and Islam.

And, what exactly has the Muslim world all hot and bothered? In his speech, the Pope recounted a conversation that took place back in 1391 between Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and “an educated Persian”, documented at that time by a professor Theodore Khoury of Muenster. The Pope used Khoury’s report to make a point about “jihad” and forced conversions of people to Islam by way of the sword (a contemporary topic, as it turns out, given the forced conversions experienced by FOX News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig during their recent captivity). Here are Benedict’s actual words:

“In the seventh conversation (“diálesis” — controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 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 [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

“Without descending 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 (“syn logo”) 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….”

Human rationality both inspired and invoked by the love of God to in turn reflect God’s love for us towards each other, then (as opposed to, say, force and the threat of violence), is the raison d’etre of religion itself, and the Pope restates and invokes this same philosophy as closes his speech:

“The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur — this is the program with which a theology grounded in biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.

“Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God,” said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.”

So here we have the Pope, recounting a conversation that supposedly took place over 6 centuries ago, trying to make a point about the role of human reason and faith and trust in God as a means to reconcile religion, philosophy, and Western thought against the current and historic backdrop of Islamic practice. So how does the media report this? The AP headline on Yahoo! news – “Pope’s comments on Islam unite Iraqis” – includes no actual content of the Pope’s remarks (no surprise there), just a report on Muslim cleric outrage in response to those remarks. Same thing at Reuters – again, without any actual words (or even context) of Benedict’s speech included. Truly great reporting.

Unlike the AP and al-Reuters, Europe News gets it right by reporting German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s correct defense of the Pope’s words:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday weighed in on the controversy caused by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany earlier this week with his remarks about the concept of holy war in the Islamic faith.

In the Saturday edition of the mass-circulation Bild newspaper, Merkel defended the pope against accusations of blasphemy and provocation, saying: ‘Those who criticize the pope have misjudged the intention of his speech.’

Benedict had issued an invitation to inter-faith dialogue, she said.

‘The pope has expressly championed this dialogue, which I also support and consider to be urgently needed.’

What Benedict XVI was seeking was ‘a decisive and uncompromising rejection of all use of violence in the name of religion,’ she added.

(Hat tip: NRO’s Corner)

As you might expect, a number of bloggers have got the Pope’s speech and world reaction to it covered from beginning to end:

* Thomistic at Roman Catholic Blog not only has the Pope’s speech in full, but links to practically every angle on the story you could ever want.

* Michelle says we shouldn’t be surprised at Muslim outrage – after all, they’re always outraged about something.

* And, as she often does best, The Anchoress compresses the whole brouhaha down into something easily understood by everyone, so to her goes the last word:

Just so we’re straight – Pope Benedict made a speech in which he invited Muslims to dialogue, criticized terrorism as a means of movement and then quoted a 14th Century Byzantine to make the point that Islam and the West have had rather a long history of struggles. Three paragraphs of the speech covered all of that. The rest of the speech was about faith and reason, and a criticisim of secularism in the West. The pope was basically doing the job of the pope, and doing it the way a scholar, teacher and theologian – that would be Benedict – would do it.

Couldn’t have said it better myself – just don’t expect the dino-media to have the smarts and the talent to report it that way.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:12 | Comments Off on The Pope and The Press
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