[KB] The Pope's Speech

Stan Lindsay slindsa at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 18 23:58:10 EDT 2006


I did as you suggested.  I read the Pope's speech in
its entirety.  The primary thesis of the speech, as I
understood it, was that religion is not inconsistent
with reason.  The Pope briefly outlines the history of
Christianity as it was influenced by Greek concepts of
reason, one of his two definitions of logos.  As an
introduction to his dialectic, he cites the
"offensive" material--a dialogue in which a Muslim
from the Middle Ages appears to argue that God is not
restricted by rationality.  It is that specific view
that the Pope challenges.  His speech does not appear
designed to argue that Islam as a whole is evil.

Nevertheless, the assessment of Islam contained in his
quote is indeed antagonistic toward the popular
Islamic view of Jihad.  Having just published a book
of Burkean analysis that examines the rhetoric of bin
laden and his sources in the Koran, I am very much
aware of much more incindiary rhetoric directed
against Christianity and Judaism by modern Islamic
spokesmen than that relatively minor reference by the
Pope.  Extreme anti-Christian and anti-Semitic
rhetoric is constant fare in the Middle East.  Let's
try to keep things in perspective.  How does one go
about confronting the psychotic entelechy that is
driving the current terrorist version of Islam without
citing some textual evidence?  The issue must be
raised, so that it can be dealt with more
dialectically, and less militarily.  To his credit,
the Pope did employ some Burkean "distance" in
addressing the issue.  Instead of citing contemporary
Muslims, he at least cited one from the Middle Ages.

It appears to me that the extreme response of the
Moslem world has been irrational, the very criticism
the cited material was lodging.  On the other hand,
the Pope is the most visible representative of
Christianity in the world.  He would have been better
advised to have edited his citation more than he did.

Stan A. Lindsay, Ph.D.
Dept. of Communication
Florida State University

--- Edappel8 at cs.com wrote:

> The Pope's speech at the University of Regensburg is
> available online.  One 
> can easily google it.  Whether Islam in general, or
> the Qu'ran in particular, 
> incites to violence more so than other major
> religions in the contemporary 
> world is not at issue in this post.  Nor is the
> possibility that the alleged 
> proclivities toward violence of Muslim societies is
> a cultural phenomenon more so 
> than a mainly religious one, Middle Eastern cultures
> being situated, in part, 
> in intermediate stages of development, not yet
> integrated into thoroughly 
> modern modes of social relationship.
> Those caveats having been made, I submit that the
> protestations that this 
> speech was not meant to offend, that the
> objectionable words in the address were 
> those of the 14th century Byzantine ruler, not those
> of the Pontiff, are a bit 
> disingenuous.  That dodge is a rhetorical trick I've
> seen before.  Hey, the 
> speaker didn't say that!  The guy he's quoting said
> it.  Don't blame him.
> If you do even a superficial cluster/agon analysis
> of this discourse, you'll 
> find that the emperor's charge that Islam has
> brought only "violence," "evil" 
> and "inhuman[ity]" to religion by way of "new"
> incentives, is not only not 
> countered by the speaker's line argument.  It is
> validated by the placing of 
> Islam as a violent faith on the side of Muslim
> theologian "Ibn Hazn," his "image 
> of a capricious God," a God of absolute "otherness"
> and irrationality, 
> "idolatry," and "the mockery of the gods who are
> merely the work of human hands."
> Last spring I posted at length on CRTNET on the
> features of intermediate 
> cultures we teach in even introductory communication
> courses, attributes our 
> leaders seem to be oblivious of as they stumble
> through the thickets of Middle 
> Eastern lifeways.  One that's relevant to the Pope's
> quotation is intolerance 
> toward diversity, or "high uncertainty avoidance,"
> as the anthropologists put it.  
> Whether the Pontiff made something of a valid point
> via his quotation, or was 
> way off the mark in respect to Islam as a whole, he
> and his spokespersons 
> should take responsibility for the obvious import of
> this message, and not try to 
> pretend that no insult was intended at all.
> By the way, the address looked at in toto makes a
> sophisticated case for 
> rationality in Christian faith as in modern science,
> and for something of an 
> "analogy" between God and human beings on this
> score.  It truly sounds like the 
> work of a former German professor of theology. 
> Ed        
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