Tuesday, September 19, 2006

His Holiness Tells It Like It Is

At the University of Regensburg in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI used a historical vignette to expound on the need for Theology departments in universities. The short form of the lecture is that faith and reason must be intertwined to prevent the self-destruction of both concepts. The historical vignette he chose was that of Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologus and his argument with a Persian scholar, a Muslim. Emperor Manuel had seen his empire crumble, and was even forced to attack his subjects while he was a hostage of the Ottoman Turks. He argues with the scholar, calling the position that Mohammed took in regards to religious warfare evil. Later, he goes on to give the example of the scholar Ibn Hazn who states a belief in a capricious God who only keeps His word to His faithful because it is suitable for now. The implied comparison is to the belief among Christian and Jewish faithful that God keeps the promises made in His covenants.

As we can see, the Pope struck a nerve. The usual threats of violence followed, which only made those who spoke for Islam to look foolish. It's as if the religious leaders in places such as Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, and even Yet someone found the time to murder an Italian nun simply because she was the closest and most obvious Christian in the area. She was helping to train nurses to ensure the health of Somalis, and she's killed because a couple of Muslims don't want to see the Pope's point. Here, a group of Muslims decide that harassing British Catholics in return for the so-called slight to their honor is peaceful. At least there were a few Muslims brave enough to show their faces when they demonstrated. A final series of incidents in Palestine show that Muslims would rather attack Christians with weapons than respond to verbal criticism with verbal defenses.

The Pope's argument isn't that Islam is pure evil, nor is it that Islam is an unfit religion. Benedict's argument is that faith and reason have diverged within Islam and reason has been replaced with violence. We Christians know of what we speak when we talk about that divergence. We've had enough wars between the various denominations to know that faith must be tempered by reason to remain true, and that reason must be tempered by faith in order to ensure that we continue to choose what is good.

His Holiness scored a bullseye with this speech. Sadly, Muslims proved his point for him.

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