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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope and Islam

The recent fuss around the world regarding the Pope’s comments has sparked several “politically correct” discussions as well as discussions regarding the reactions of certain Muslims around the world. There are several things I would personally like to address regarding this issue, and some who read this may get offended. If you get offended easily then do not read this.

The Pope apparently put himself in “hot water” with Muslims, and Muslim countries in a speech he presented this past Tuesday in his native country, Germany. The Pope declared that early Islam was spread by violence (he actually quoted from 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus). The media, as well as Muslims around the world, have declared that this comment is a typical misconstrued idea made only by those who are Christian. Therefore, the remark was received by many Muslim communities as an attack upon Islam. I find the reaction, to say the least, interesting.

The reaction from many Muslims around the world has been one of hate, and in some cases violence. Several Catholic Parishes have been vandalized or burned by Muslims, images of the Pope have been burned by Muslims, Christian Churches have been attacked by Muslims, etc. all because of the remarks of the Pope. I can see why the Muslims would respond violently since the comments that early Islam was spread by violence seemed to be unwarranted. (declared with a bit of sarcasm).

While I can certainly understand that the Pope has certain responsibilities as a World Leader to be a bit more mindful about what he says, what I cannot understand is why Muslims react to this type of thing with violence, seeming to confirm the words of the Pope. Of course there is so much more to unpack here than what I have written. However, I can’t help but wonder when certain Muslim countries cheer and dance in the streets of their own country when what they think is a “Christian” country gets attacked by Muslim terrorists and nearly 3000 innocent people are killed, or when Muslim terrorists cut off the heads of American reporters because they come from a “Christian” country and get approval from many other Muslims around the world for this type of violence, that they would be offended by remarks that their early religion was spread by violence.

It would seem that adherents to the religion of Islam today merely confirm ideas such as these (that they claim are false), by performing violent acts against other religions (namely Christian) in the name of their own religion. While I have nothing against the religion of Islam per se, and do not think that merely because some of its adherents are terrorists, means that all its adherents are terrorists. I do, however, have much against unncessary violent reactions to ideas, words, or speeches, simply because someone either disagrees or thinks them to be wrong.


Anonymous Curt said...

All in all, this is a well-balanced and thoughtful evaluation of the issue. I enjoyed reading it.

I think you are correct to highlight the role played by the media in exacerbating the state of affairs resulting from the Pope's comments.

One of the techniques necessary in the production of mass media is simplification. News is reported in small, tight segments under terse time constraints. There are many effects, both desirable and undesirable, which result from dissemination of information related to domestic and world affairs in this way. There is also a significant helping of politics taking place behind the scenes which governs this type of reporting. The politicization of news and of media in general has historically always been more rampant in time of war, and our day is certainly no exception.

I, too, am distressed by the violent outcry in the Muslim word. It does justice to the comments of Manuel II, even though they were quoted out of context by the Pope for what I view to be wholly political reasons.

But I think it is a misconception by virtue of the media depictions of the violent outbursts in Asia and elsewhere, that the anger and the demonstrations have been more prominent and more widespread than they really have been. There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world; if, say, 100 million are involved in violent protest---a number I feel sure is many times higher than in actuality, based on the given evidence thusfar---that represents less than 10% of the Muslim world. Furthermore, it is a mistake to say that those angered by and acting out against the Pope's statements are doing so because their Muslim faith dictates that they do. They are acting violently simply because they feel that their faith has been insulted, which is a misconception on their part, also hand-delivered by mass media.

As you will know from having read the full text of the Pope's address, His Holiness was not issuing any sort of blanket condemnation of Islam as a violent faith. He was indeed quoting a Byzantine emperor writing during an Ottoman Siege of Constantinople, and the Pope did hint, though perhaps not strongly enough, that the emperor's comments were of a partisan nature, particularly given the circumstances in which they originated. The greater message being delivered in Regensburg was the Pope's belief that reason in theology has much to offer thought in the modern world---this is not something with which I entirely agree, but that is irrelevant.

What is apparent to me is that the dissemination of these events by the media has contributed to vast misunderstanding throughout the world. In the Muslim world, it is not being emphasized enough that His Holiness' comments, while perhaps far more politically charged than advisable, were not meant as an affront to Islam but as a sort of parable in a greater argument the Pope was making for the role of reason in faith and its benefits for intercultural dialog, which is actually something that many Muslims would find heartening and agreable. And in America and throughout the West, the interpretation of Islam as a particularly violent religion is also indicative of grave misrepresentations. From the Old Testament through European colonialism, one can name many examples of brutalities and atrocities carried out in the name of Yahweh. I myself am a little mystified at how one could read the books of Deuteronomy and Numbers and walk away with the conclusion that neither evangelical nor retributional violence is in the nature of God, as the Pope claimed, rather unoriginally. Much of this Christian-aligned violence in the modern period has been wholly state sponsored, unlike the denationalized forms of violence which have come to prominence since the end of the Second World War. The pot may not call the kettle black and then feign surprise at an objectionable response. But this is exactly the kind of one-sided morality being portrayed by the media to both the West and to the Islamic nations, individually, with results which are parallel and more or less equally detrimental to intercultural dialogue. That people of all faiths are enamored of positively generalizing about themselves while negatively generalizing about others is a principle of basic psychology, and not something to which either Christians or Muslims are immune. No human being is.

Thank you for an interesting read and the chance to comment.

12:37 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...


Thank you for the remarks. I must say, your remarks are very well put, and I appreciate them.

8:27 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Welcome back, Todd. I thought you made a good point about how some Muslims are reacting to this.

7:13 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Thanks for the welcoming Chris. It's good to be back, I missed it too much!

8:02 PM, September 18, 2006  

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