Monday, September 18, 2006

Pope Quotes Byzantine Emperor Who Said that Islam Was Violent, Muslims Respond By Firebombing Five Churches and Threatening to Kill Him

Yet they do not grasp the irony. Two of the churches were, in fact, Anglican. But JunkYardBlog reminds us that:

Actually the Anglicans were probably a pretty good choice. Except for the African Anglican churches, which are engaged in a life and death struggle in the midst of poverty, war, and genocide, and are rising to meet the challenges with resolve and spiritual clarity, most Anglican churches are pretty safe to attack. They aren't exactly big C.S. Lewis fans anymore, instead committing wholeheartedly to the timid relativism Lewis warned about.

If there weren't any pacifist Quakers or Unitarians around, an Anglican church probably makes a pretty good target if you are an outraged Islamist looking for consequences-free religious terrorism. Catholics will go all Oriana on you. JP II fired them up about Communism and look what happened to that. Baptists? They will shoot you. The choir probably has Tec-9s stashed under those robes. The Church of Christ? No, they'll shoot you, too, and then they'll shoot the Baptists for good measure. Pentecostals will do that glossolalia thing and get freak-out Jesus strength with +2 to hit and double damage. A Pentecostal acquaintance of mine, a level-headed teacher not prone to exaggeration, once told me he had seen a ninety pound woman in the grip of the Spirit lift the five-hundred pound top off of an altar and throw it across the room. You don't want to be caught pointing a Molotov cocktail at those people.

But in the Leftist dialectic, it's important to not to connect the dots between brutal violence and Islam. Because that would be dehumanizing, I suppose.

We have far too many voices in the West who have criticized the Pope's remarks and justified the psychotic Muslim response to them. It infantalizes Muslims by not holding them accountable for their actions and teaches them that they can get what they want from the West by threatening violence. As Glenn Reynolds writes of how The New York Times has covered the controversy:

Frankly, I'm pretty tired of "Muslim rage." If they're that insecure about their religion, maybe the problem isn't with the critics. I'm also pretty unimpressed with Western commentators who serve as enablers to such juvenile and destructive behavior.

"Baptist rage" certainly wouldn't get this kind of slack from the Times.

Baptists, notably, are not recruiting suicide bombers, nor crashing jetliners into skyscrapers, nor calling for the assassination of opponents. When a lone nut shoots at an abortion clinic, all of Christendom condemns the act. There certainly isn't dancing in the streets, as Muslims do. Someone get that memo to Rosie O'Donnell, who recently said “Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam.” To this, the Anchoress responds:

I gag. I barely want to waste the energy to respond to it, because she’s really not worth it. So, I’ll simply leave it to Ms. O’Donnell to point out to the rest of us the buildings that have been flown into, the throats that have been slit, the genitals which have been mutiliated, the raped women who have been killed for their victimhood, the countless suicide bombers who have died screaming “Jesus is Lord” as they blew themselves up, the gays who have been hanged for being gay, the raging Catholics who rampaged through the streets burning Andres Serrano in effegy when he submerged a crucifix in urine and called it “art,” the Christian who have murdered filmmakers for making less-than-flattering films about their faith…

Come on, Rosie, make your case and justify that moral equivalence you so easily, lazily, thoughtlessly burp out to the assured applause of your Upper West Side audience. Don’t point to a few sick extremists who have killed abortionists, unless you are willing to admit that the Christians themselves have condemned such violence. Show us the justification for your statement that “Radical Christianity Is Just As Threatening As Radical Islam.”

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg adds:

I don't think the Pope's original comments have elicited nearly as much authentic rage as the images on TV would suggest. But I do think those driving these protests and whipping up anger know what they're doing. The West wants to be loved. It can't stand the idea that somebody — anybody — doesn't like us. This is doubly so in Europe and perhaps triply so at the Vatican. So much of European — and American liberal — foreign policy is based on the idea that being disliked is an enormous indictment, a sign of serious moral failings on our part, rather than resentment, envy or scapegoating on the part of those fomenting anti-Americans.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds. I really don't care if clitoris-slicing, adulteress-stoning, homosexual-hanging, hostage-beheading medieval barbarians like us. In fact, I take their hatred as a mark of pride. If our civilization was actually admired by such people, it would be a sign that something had gone gravely wrong. As far as Islamofascists go, oderint dum metuant.

CORRECTION: Preposition in second sentence of above paragraph changed from "of" to "if".


Joel Thomas said...

Does it really make sense to throw gasoline on a fire, though? If we want to shut out the possibility of offering Christ to the Muslim world, this is certainly one way to do it.

The Pope is backtracking in order to avoid a world holy war that could make our current situation look like a minor skirmish.

It reminds me of how Israel seemed to think that it could weaken Hezbollah by making the entire nation of Lebanon its enemy.

John said...

Muslims have no right to be gasoline, nor should we coddle their tendency to be so. It makes no sense to train Muslims that they can get shut up critics by threatening violence, as the West did with the Danish Muhammad cartoons.

Joel Thomas said...


Why are you so eager to provoke a world holy war in which millions could be killed?

John said...

Much if not most of Islam already considers us to be in a holy war. It's already begun.

What do you propose? That we appease every Muslim demand?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, John's right! Since all they understand is violence we will just round up millions of people and put them in concentration camps. (Oh, I guess we already do that in Cuba)

Well maybe we could just have Genocide. (Oh, I guess that is already going on in Darfur)

Hmm, I wonder WWJD? Maybe we need a Commando Jesus or a General Jesus to lead us to victory!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that John or the Pope want to start a holy war, I think the Islamofascists have been fighting it for years, we just haven't noticed. The poor Pope merely mentioned what everyone knows and the Islamic wackos continue to validate it. Killing a nun, bombing churches and rioting in the streets is kind of an over-reaction wouldn't you think Joel?

Why is it always someone elses fault when these people do violent things?

Joel Thomas said...

The problem is that the Pope didn't limit his attack to Islamic extremists. He effectively said that Muslims are inherently violent.

The Pope should have focused on extremism and violence instead of condemning an entire faith.

Why expand a more limited conflict into one that engulfs a wider arena? Well, if you all are that antsy to put on a uniform and play soldier, go for it. Iraq has been such a shining success I'm sure you'll mop up in no time.

At this moment, why would any Muslim listen to the witness of any Christian?

John said...

If Muslims don't like it when extremists distort our image of their religion, maybe they should march in protest against terrorist and misogyny, instead of people who point that out.

Joel Thomas said...


I think you are avoding my central point and that is that while the Pope's comments may make many Westerners feel better, they don't contribute to Muslims repudiating the extremists. Again, just as Israel managed to change Lebanon from being mostly anti-Hezbollah to greatly pro-Hezbollah, wide-spread denunciations of Islam by the Western world may only encourage more Muslims to embrace extremism.

Let's say that there was a bridge that needed to be gapped between the two of us. Would it really be helpful if I constantly referred to you as an Ann Coulter clone and you replied with "Al Sharpton" wannabe?

The Pope seems to see the potential for trouble, as he has issued an apology, at least of sorts.

Henry Neufeld said...

This is interesting.

The pope gives a lecture at a university, peacefully and quietly. He quotes a Byzantine emperor who incidentally was being invaded at the time of the quote by Muslim conquerors. Then Muslims through fire bombs at churches and protest angrily.

And it's the pope who's the problem?

j2 said...

Joel, please don't rush to project onto John or the Pope so much. Reread the Popes speech and notice his use of quotes out loud to set off the comments of the byzantine emperor from any opinion or belief the Pope himself has. He was saying essentially that christians want to hear a carefully reasoned explanation from Muslims that refutes the emperor's observation from an earlier time of conflict and conquest.

Christians have worked very hard to refute the claim of the crusades and crusaders about the real nature of God. They have slowly disavowed political and military might as a means to spread the gospel. The Pope's predescessor even made a very public apology for the damage caused to Muslims and many other religious groups as a result of that terrible period of Christendom. He is being more than fair to ask for quid pro quo.

It is highly regrettable that the peaceful character of Islam and it's great prophet is obscured from Christians today. But let's be clear that whatever faint whispers from moderate muslims on the matter are being squelched by their fellow extremist brothers in faith. Perhaps the holy war isn't really between Christendom and the Muslim world but wholly within the Muslim world itself.

John said...


Ditto to what Henry Neufield just said.

Free speech is a core value of Western civilization, and I don't think that anyone should give it up because some words offend others. It is completely reasonable for free people to say offensive things, and competely unreasonable for the offended people to respond with murder. Your criticism should address crazy Muslims and their "moderate" apologists. Strangely, it is not. Why is that?

Wes Whiddon said...

Victor Davis Hansen characterizes the New York Times as trying to be the last eaten by the crocodile. And I see that in the kind of thinking that apologizes for Muslim rage. The crocodile is loose in the world folks and it's just a matter of time before he enjoys a nice big meal of Christians, Jews, and anyone else who offends his ultra-sensitive, self absorbed, and distorted view of the world.

Oloryn said...

The whole 'sensitivity' bit is rather one-sided, in a way. I once bumped across a quote of Isaac Asimov saying something to the tune of "What we need is a lot less sensitivity", and realized he had a good point. As useful as 'sensitivity training' may (or may not) be, it tends to give carte blanche to anyone who might hear something that by a remote stretch of the imagination can be interpreted in a way that touches on being offensive to treat it as a deliberate insult, worthy of rage and high dudgeon. Of all places, FidoNet had the right idea: "Don't be annoying, and don't be easily annoyed". "Sensitivity training", if it's ever appropriate, needs to be accompanied by "Insensitivity Training", on how to give people the benefit of the doubt and not be quick to anger over a potential offense.

John said...

Agreed. People should usually strive not to offend others, but only within limits (as Jesus did). But no one has a right not to be offended.

Joel Thomas said...


There are common sense limits. I have the right to express my opinion that your views are ignorant ((at those time when I think they are) and that you are a right-wing extremist (on some issues). However, if I want to work out any reconciliation with you it would be better for me to use more moderate language.

Sometimes a lady will attend my church and ask what I think of her most hideous looking dress. I see nothing wrong with answering, "it looks very interesting."

Yes, truth is important, but if more diplomatic language can be used to avoid a world war in which millions are killed, I'm all for it.

It seems that you are insistent on advancing a policy in which every single Muslim hates us. Accomplishing exactly what?

John said...

Are you being serious, Joel, or are you jerking my chain? Western criticism of Islam is responsible for their lunacy, and not the other way around?

John said...

Let me add to this.

If Muslims are reasonable people, then they will look at my criticisms as completely legitimate and be gravely concerned about the perilous state of their culture. They will not be insulted, but alarmed at what they have done to anger us and inspire our contempt.

If they are reasonable people, Joel, then the scenario that you are describing simply won't happen.


John said...

Another thought has popped into my head as I stay up all night studying systematic theology:

Joel, by suggesting that Muslims are incapable of moral reasoning, are you the one being insulting to them?

Joel Thomas said...


Where have I suggested that Muslims are incapable of moral reasoning?

What I object to is a nation of alcoholics, drug addicts, pornographers, gamblers, dishonest business people and such claiming moral superiority in every realm over and above Muslims.

Again, if we were asking that Muslims reject violence, fine. Instead, we are insisting that we will be at war with them until they acknowledge that their founder was an evil person and that their religion is false. One witnesses by convincing people of the truth of one's own religion, not the falseness of the other's religion.

Craig Moore,

Ever hear of Fred Phelps or David Koresh? There are wackos in every religion. Ever hear of the murderer who went by the name of John Calvin? Oh yes, that fine Christian man who put to death people who didn't agree with his theology. Or that fine Christian anti-Semitic Martin Luther who also encouraged the deaths of thousands of innocent peasants?


I could go into a synagogue and peacefully read Mein Kampf, but I expect that the reaction would be the same.

The Pope has some fine qualities I'm sure, but this is also the same man who once wrote that gays should expect to be the victims of housing and employment discrimination and shouldn't be surprised if they are the victims of violence.

John said...

Joel, by saying that Muslims are not responsible for violent overreactions to criticism, you are implicitly suggesting that they are not morally responsible for their own behavior. That's very dehumanizing to them.

John said...

Joel, are you saying that present Christianity is as violent as present Islam?

Oh wait, you have to go back all the way to the Reformation to come up with examples.

I guess not.

But I get your point: a handful of crazy Christians condemned by their countrymen justify the worst excesses of militant Islam. Too bad about all those little girls getting sexually mutilated. I guess that because of our theological ancestors, we have no right to object to the way that they are being treated.

Henry Neufeld said...


I am not an apologist for the Pope. I feel free to disagree with him and criticize him at any time. "It was said by a bad person" is not a good argument against any particular statement.

In the good ole days, at least back to Usenet, there was an informal rule that the first person to invoke Hitler would lose the argument. Your comparison of the Pope's statement to reading Mein Kampf in a synagogue seems to miss a few things.

The pope spoke to a group of theological professors in a university, and was not in a mosque or standing side by side with any Muslims.

The Pope did not quote anyone who advocated genocide; he quoted from an Emperor whose territory was under attack by Muslim invaders.

As I understand it, the Pope criticized Islam. He didn't call for its extermination.

Now, as for me, I think there are a number of things in Catholic history of which one should not be proud. I think the modern Catholic church combines excessive authoritarianism with an inefficieny at enforcement that results in combined tyrrany and chaos. The Catholic church is in danger, I think, of returning to the days of an authoritarian combination of church and state power.

You know, I bet not a single Catholic is going to throw a firebomb at the nearest United Methodist Church because I said all that. Of course just let me get started on the United Methodist Church.

At the same time, the fact that I criticize the Catholic church or the United Methodist Church as institutions doesn't mean that I believe their clergy and members don't have the right to criticize anyone else.

Joel Thomas said...

From the reports I read, the Pope failed to mention a single instance where Christians were violent. He placed the entire blame on Muslims.

Anyway, you totally missed my fire and gasoline story. Let's say that I'm the one that started a fire. The fact that I began the fire doesn't excuse you from responsiblity for throwing gasoline on that fire. You can rightly blame me for the fire, but you ought to try to help put it out, if only for your own protection, and not make it even bigger.

It seems to me that almost every single thing we have done since September 11 has widened the gap between Arabs and the Western world and between Christians and Muslims. We should have been going after Islamic extremists but have decided to go after an entire religion. That's a war that will only have losers.

Anonymous said...

As is often the case, I was with you in the beginning, nodded my head and thinking "sure, I can dig it." Then it seemed you turned, gave me an eerie, knowing wink, and jumped over an edge straight into some places I wouldn't want to go.

The Pope's comments? I guess an imperfect an analogy would go like this: a pissed off former employee walks into my building strapped with explosive and carrying a rifle. A few of my coworkers start trying to talk him down. At some point where it's still unclear whether or not they're going to be successful, I look at the guy and say "hey, Joe, didn't we fire you because you kept exposing yourself in the ladies' room? What a perv loser." As Joe starts spraying the office, I can feel confident of the fact that it's really not my fault that Joe is violent and unstable and that I have the right to call it as I see it. Still, my coworkers might find my contributions unhelpful and spend some of their last moments saying as much.

I will wholeheartedly agree with you, however, that mob reactions to the Pope's comments are reprehensible and very, very stupid. And I was disgusted, during the whole cartoon fiasco, by some of the arguments made in defense of that sort of mob violence. Someone draws a mean cartoon (and, yeah, it was mean), mobs go crazy, burn down fast food restaurants and threaten assassinations, and members of the "left" defend them? Unbelievable.

And I'm with on that whole clitoris-slicing/homosexual-hanging thing. The people on my side of the political split have to stop telling ourselves that our enemy's enemies are our friends. Often, they're not. Bush's incompetence (as we perceive it) does not automatically imply his enemies' nobility. There are some nasty people out there doing some nasty things, and it's sad when the supposedly self-serving, hate-mongering right has more to say about it than "progressives." Always, always, always we should be on the side of real justice, inclusion, civility, reason. Even if that makes us, on some issues, on the same side as this Administration.

You lose me, though (and I may be responding in part to the next post you put up on the topic, it's kind of a two for one here), with what I would call your "broad strokes." While I certainly agree with you that there are barbarians and murderers out there, you seem to too often be too quick to apply that tag to everyone who belongs to a certain faith or culture. I remember seeing, in the midst of a hysteria over youth violence in this country, a shirt which read "nine out of ten kids prefer crayons to guns," a reminder that, yeah, there's some bad kids doing bad things, but we need to remember that not every kid is a bad kid. While I haven't asked for a show of hands or done any official polling, I'm comfortable with the notion that nine out of ten Muslims prefer living in relative peace to slitting throats or flying planes into buildings. Your rhetoric just doesn't seem to allow for the fact that, while there is certainly something wrong in Muslim societies right now, this is not proof or even very strong evidence that there is something intrinsically wrong with Muslims (one could say, for instance, that there is something wrong with inner city, black neighborhoods without thinking that there is something intrinsically wrong with black people).

As for the Rosie O'Donnell comment, I didn't hear it, and even if I had, I wouldn't want to try to say that I know exactly what she meant. A defense of those comments could be made, however. Is radical Christianity as dangerous as radical Islam? I applaud the Christian right for not burning down record stores that sell Slayer albums or blowing up clubs full of Deicide fans or threatening from the pulpit to assassinate museum curators for showing Pisschrist. But I imagine that if I was an Iraqi listening to Bush's fundamentalist-infused rhetoric, watching war planes flown by (ostensibly, predominantly) Christian pilots dropping bombs on my town, hearing stories of (ostensibly, predominantly) Christian soldiers raping girls and torturing prisoners and covering up murders of civilians, I might start to believe that maybe Christian extremism is pretty wild and dangerous, too. I wonder if "barbaric" is ever, for you, an esthetic term? It's barbaric to blow up a building with a makeshift bomb, not barbaric to blow up a building by dropping a fancy bomb from a plane.
And if there wasn't "dancing in the streets" during the early stages of the current conflict, that's because the gloating and celebrating was done primarily in front of televisions in air-conditioned living rooms. (And I certainly don't mean that the motivations of our soldiers and politicians are necessarily as base and hate-driven as the worst terrorist, just that criticism is far from absurd.)

Anonymous said...

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13: Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15: For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. 18: I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. 19: Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 20: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. John 13:12-20