Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Muslim letter to Pope Benedict

On October 13th, a group of Muslim clerics and scholars sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI and several other leaders of the Christian world (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) in which they set forth what they claim are the great similarities between Islam and Christianity: love of God above all and love of neighbor. The first two sections consist of lengthy quotes from the Koran on how love of God above all other things is obligatory upon Muslims and follows that up with injuctions from the Koran to love one's neighbor. The scholars then quote several similar verses from the Sacred Scriptures that relate to loving God and loving one's neighbor. In this they claim that we have great similarity and a basis for common ground and thus are really allies.

How ought we react to this letter? I have little doubt that the Muslims who composed this were sincere, but the contents of the letter betray a very fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Christian message. I do not deny that we share love of God and love of neighbor with the Muslims. But there are two things to be said about this supposed common ground:

1) What religion is there that doesn't emphasize love of God (whatever that god may be) and love of neighbor? Have you ever heard of a religion that taught that men ought not to love God or their neighbor? These are just matters of simple justice, common to all men who have any religious sensibilities at all. Thus, the fact that both Islam and Christianity teach love of God and love of neighbor doesn't mean a thing; every religion in the world believes those two tenets in some way or another.

2) Just because we both believe that men ought to love God does not mean that we are loving the same God, and Allah is not the same God as the God of the Catholic Faith. First and foremost, their god is not a Trinity (as this letter continually points out) and the essence of our doctrine of God is precisely that He is a Trinity. Also, their god is not a Father, but Fatherhood defines what our God is. Allah was originally a pagan-Meccan moon-god, and is in no way the same god as the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To put this another way, suppose there is one religion that adores the Sacred Square, and another that worships the Celestial Circle. They may claim, "Hey, we both worship the Supreme Shape! We have so much in common!" While they both may worship a supreme shape, the essence of what the shape is is completely different in each case.

The letter closes with this warning to Christians [my comments in red]:

"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them—so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes [okay, and where in the world right now are Christians oppressing Muslims because of their religion? Shouldn't it be the other way around here? This agreement to live peacefully sounds as sketchy as Gollum's promise to Frodo that "we will be kind to Master if Master will be kind to us"].

Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders. Christianity and Islam are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world [and which side is really the one who is most likely to resort to "terrible weaponry?"]; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake [this seems like a veiled threat to me; "don't think about confronting us, because you won't win and you'll just destroy yourselves"].
And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."

How will the Holy Father respond to this? I have three scenarios: what I hope he doesn't do, what would be acceptable if he did, and what would be awesome if he did.

What I Hope He Doesn't Do: Issue some kind of flowery document in complete agreement with the Muslim's claims, calling them "bretheren" and saying that we worship the same God and calling for more "dialogue." Or even worse, invite them to some kind of interreligious dialogue meeting ala Assisi.

What Would Be Acceptable: He does nothing at all. The letter is not responded to and no comments are made about it.

What Would Be Freakin' Awesome: Benedict issues a long response in which he sets forth the importance of the Trinity and delineates why Allah and God are two different things essentially. He stresses the importance of belief in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity and His atoning death on the cross (in which Muslims disbelieve); he reiterates the Christian call to evangelize and does not exempt Muslims from this call. Finally, he ends his letter with a plea for conversion from the Muslims (whom he refers to as "Mohammedans," "Saracens" and "Mussulmen") and invokes the prayers of Our Lady of the Rosary/Our Lady of Victory.

Click here to read the whole article (it is 16 pages long with 13 pages of footnotes).

9 comments:

Mr S said...

The "template" for a response has already been established.....

Our Pope might just say:

"....so, I apologize...... if you have misunderstood what I said...."

God love him.

And, sorry Holy Father, I have used your "template" often. Thank you

Clavem Abyssi said...

What would be freakin' awesomer, is if he referred to the Muslims as "The Wicked Turk" and preached a new Crusade. I could use my credit card debt being waived by His Holiness. Man, that would rock.

318@NICE said...

I think the main problem lies with President Bush who is a Protestant. Protestants love Jews in the wrong way, in fact certain sects like the Southern Baptists believe Jews are part of the Church already. So, with Muslims, they don't distinguis between the Catholic Church and Protestants, they group us all together.
I think the Pope needs to make this clear to them that it is a Protestant president of the United States under the heretical influence of Dispensationalism that is at war with Islam and not the Catholic Church.

Dave

BONIFACE said...

Dave-

I agree that the Protestant's views towards Jews have something to do with Islam's antagonism towards the West, but where we differ is that I think the Catholic Church should be more anti-Islamic than the current Protestant President is being. You see, Bush is trying to make a distinction between "Peace Loving Muslims" and "Jihadist Muslims." He should in fact realize that Islam itself, regardless of how you try to divide it, is an inherently violent religion, and that the war should be against Islam, not against terrorists. Islam's whole existence is due to terror and is unsustainable without it.

When does the next Crusade start?

Daniel Mitsui said...

Perhaps he should call on them to renounce their worship of the false deity Termagant?

BONIFACE said...

Haha! That'd be hilarious...while they're at it, they can renounce Apollyon and Mahound also. I love Song of Roland .

Clavem Abyssi said...

Peace-loving Muslims are like vegetarians who eat seafood (and sometimes chicken). A moderate stance is often an irrational one. The true-believers know it, and even the moderates know it, which is why they are little heard from.

Gimignano said...

(Great comments above! And the distinction between protestants and Catholics is CRUCIAL, since I would not even call them Christian)
The post itself is great, though I very much doubt the Pope will issue any strong statement, considering world matters. Though everyone knows who suffers most in the Middle East (the Christians of course, and who talks about this?), much is at stake, and may bring about great evils if the Pope decides for strong words. But this is what is lacking these days, strong, clear, Scholastic distinctions, a la Option # 3 in the post.

-Gimignano

sean said...

Mussulmen LOL! I stick to mohammedan myself but am tempted to throw in a blackamoor here and there.

Saint James the Moorslayer, pray for us.