Monday, September 18, 2006

We Are All Paleologi Now

The furor over Pope Benedict's remarks continued unabated over the weekend, following what is now a predictable and depressingly familiar pattern. Only two sentences from an academic speech by this former academician have apparently offended the whole of Islam. The silliness and absurdity of the protests rival that of the Danish cartoon "scandal." For Islam, this may be another Emperor-has-no-clothes moment.

But protests in the Muslim street appear to be the order of the day. In the face of their own homegrown poverty, endemic and institutionalized corruption and near hopeless economies--all legitimate reasons for protest--many riot over this obscure quotation of a 14th-century Byzantine emperor by a German Pope. The indignation is not confined to the "streets." Muslim political leaders compare Pope Benedict to Hitler and recall their ambassadors from the Vatican. Official apologies are demanded across the board, but it is doubtful any will be sufficient to assuage the tender sensibilities of the professionally agrieved. Meanwhile Palestinian churches are indiscriminately torched, with Orthodox and Anglican churches suffering alongside Catholic. (Proof, if any were needed, that despite the distinctions we ourselves make, we are all very much in the same foxhole.) And apparently, elderly Catholic nuns are now to be shot in the back, as evidenced by the tragedy in Mogadishu.

That is the world we live in now. Of course, the irony here is that this reaction in the Muslim world only validates and reinforces those very sentiments--expressed by Manuel II some 600 years ago--that the protestors find so reprehensible today.

Victor Davis Hanson has some insightful comments here, and including this absolutely spot-on summation:

... by quoting from the emperor rhetorician Manuel Paleologus—whose desperate efforts at strengthening the Morea and the Isthmus at Corinth a generation before that awful Tuesday, May 29, 1453 all came to naught—the Pope failed to grasp that under the tenets of radical Islam of the modern age, context means little, intent nothing, learning less than zero. If a sentence, indeed a mere phrase can be taken out of context, twisted, manipulated to show an absence of deference to Islam, furor ensues, death threats follow, assassins load their belts—even as the New York Times or the Guardian issues its sanctimonious apologies in the hope that the crocodile will eat them last.

Rod Dreher has a good discussion here, with a link to Michelle Malkin here, who in turn has a link to a must-read article that puts the original 14th-century remarks of Manuel II Paleologus in their proper context, here.

Dreher thinks something about the reaction to Benedict's speech seems to have pushed Christians...over the line, concluding that if any good is to come out of this mess that began with Pope Benedict's speech, it will be that fewer and fewer ordinary people will be gulled by political correctness, and will start to understand exactly what we're all up against.

One can hope.

Finally, Dreher notes "in any case, Benedict's speech will go down as a defining moment in this conflict."


s-p said...

When the irony of fulfilling the worst expression of your philosophy becomes the very response to someone pointing out that expression is lost on a person there can be no negotiation or reasoned response. It becomes a Monty Python bit with horrific real outcomes.

Dee P. said...

I think that Muslim reaction to the Pope's speech (as well as countless other actions and words throughout the Islamic world in recent years) are a call to unity for Christians...and soon! The Ottoman Turks feared Christian unity in the 13th and 14th centuries, and their religious descendants fear it even more today.

John said...

s-p: Oh yeah. I've always appreciated irony, but I think I'm suffering from irony overload in this instance. Monty Python is an apt anology.

david: Welcome! The point you raise is one I have seen echoed on several blogs the last few days. Hopefully, this will indeed lead to greater awareness, both of the adversary we face, as well as the critical need for "closing ranks," so to speak, among Christians.

Also, I checked out your blog, and encourage others to do so--you've got some good stuff posted. I also notice that you are only recently Orthodox (as am I); also that you are in Iraq. May God bless and protect you and your young family.