Pope Benedict, President Bush, And The "Dialogue Of Cultures"


Released: 28 September, 2006.
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Pope Benedict's meeting with the Representatives of Science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg on 12 September 2006 triggered a global Islamic protest. Why? Benedict's lecture at Regensburg included this quote from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "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"1 (my emphasis). Muslims were insulted.

Why were Muslims insulted? Simple. Muslims (and many Christians) are sick and tired of Western "doublethink." I like Benedict, I agree that the logos (reason) is essential if we are to have a "dialogue of cultures." I also agree that "theology rightly belongs in the university . . . as inquiry into the rationality of faith"1 (my emphasis). But Benedict's lecture has a problem. Benedict quotes Manuel II on Christianity, Islam and truth, and forgets to mention the violence of the Christian crusades. Benedict appropriates the logos for Christianity, but not for Islam, and remains silent about the Church's foolish crime against Galileo's scientific reason. Unreason has its own historicity in Christianity.

More important, the Gospel of Thomas attributes the following quote to Jesus: "Jesus said, 'Men think, perhaps, that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know that it is dissension which I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. . . '"2 Apparently, Islam has no monopoly over crossing swords in faith!

What was on people's mind?

For many around the globe, Western doublethink has reached its apex with President George W. Bush. President Bush cants daily about freedom, democracy, and the "rule of law" -- for Afghanistan, for Iraq, for Syria, for Lebanon, and for other Arab countries. But Americans look at themselves and see an indentured people. They look at their "rule of law" and see a Darwinistic legerdemain that favors lenders over borrowers. Many Americans are disillusioned with America's freedom, democracy, and "rule of law. As at the end of 2006Q2, America's total debt (domestic financial and nonfinancial sectors and foreign) was in excess of $42.760 trillion (up from $2.173 trillion as at yearend 2003)!3 People cannot be free when their debt is so monstrous. The Tanach states clearly: "The rich rule the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender" (Proverbs 22:7). If we are to believe the Hebrew sages, given the monstrosity of America's debt, we have to conclude that there is too much slavery in America.

"Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II.1 It is time, we in the so-called West, start acting with authentic logos. Only then can we begin to have an authentic "dialogue of cultures." On this, Benedict and I, and I suspect most Christians and Muslims, can be of the same mind.


1 Pope Benedict XVI. Faith, Reason and the University. Memories and Reflections. Meeting with the Representatives of Science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg, 12-Sep-06. The Holy See, Benedict XVI, Speech. (Provisional translation.) http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html

2 James M. Robinson (ed.). The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 3rd completely revised edition. Translated and introduced by members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont, California. Afterword by Richard Smith. E. J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 1978, 1988. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990. The Gospel of Thomas (II,2). Introduced by Helmut Koester. Translated by Thomas O. Lambdin, at 128. For additional quotes and references, see Gnostics in the Macroknow Library.

3 See Z.1 Flow of Funds Accounts of the United States, 19-Sep-06. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. [D3. Debt Outstanding by Sector.] http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/current/z1r-2.pdf