Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pope's "Concerns" Show Insularity Of Conservative Christians

By Manifesto Joe

Pope Benedict XVI has been in trouble before for speaking his real mind. On Saturday, he gave the world another insight into his theological and moral mind-set, as statements came out of his meeting with another "conservative Christian" of sorts, George W. Bush.

The Associated Press reports that the pontiff:

"... expressed concern that the Muslim majority in Iraq was intolerant of Christians. A Vatican statement said Bush, in talks with the pope ... discussed the 'worrisome situation in Iraq' and the 'critical conditions in which the Christian communities (in Iraq) are found,' the statement said."

According to the AP report, Bush said that "there was no discussion whether Iraq was a 'just war'."

I realize that as bishop of Rome, the pope is empowered to speak about faith for the world's 600 million-plus Roman Catholics, and that on faith he speaks specifically for them. But the last time I checked, Muslims are humans, too.

And they are the majority of the Iraq war's civilian deaths, which are now thought to be approaching 700,000 by some estimates. It seems like Benedict should have expressed some serious concern for them as well.

I consider myself a tolerant Modernist Christian, which of course makes me a heretic to traditional Catholics. If given a choice between Catholicism and any form of Islam, my first question would be: "What else have you got?"

But it seems like a natural moral imperative to recognize and defend the humanity of both those groups, and all others; and yes, even nonbelievers. In expressing his concerns, the pontiff seemed to be telling the world something practically out of Animal Farm: All people are equal, but Christians are more equal than others.

Iraqi Christians are truly enduring horrific times. Their prewar population was reported to have approached 800,000, or over 3 percent of the people. An Iraqi Christian legislator, Ablahad Afram Sawa, estimates that 500,000 of them have fled, many to Damascus in neighboring Syria.

Ironically, this is yet another byproduct of the stupid and mendacious U.S. invasion of "3/19." Iraq's Christians didn't face this before then. Since the Pandora's box of sectarian strife was opened in Iraq, they have been viciously persecuted. A group affiliated with Al-Qaida, not there before, now offers them a few options: (1) Convert to Islam. Now. (2) Offer one of your daughters to marry one of our fighters. (3) Pay the jizya, a prohibitively high tax on non-Muslims. (4) Leave Iraq with the clothes on your back. Or, (5) Die.

Of course this has decimated the Christian minority in Iraq. Yes, this is an exodus of major proportions, and one of the world's many current human rights tragedies.

But Iraqis in general are dying every day in car bombings. They are being shot, beheaded, anything you can imagine. And most of them are Muslims.

And yet it would appear that Benedict, while sitting with the "leader of the Free World," lacked the moral courage to even debate whether this is a "just war." As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he at least showed enough courage, once, to denounce the war. It would appear that his calling as a moral leader has become secondary to his willingness to play the nasty Machiavellian game of geopolitics with the likes of George W. Bush.

The previous pontiff, John Paul II, was also far too conservative in many ways, out of touch with realities of modern life. But he set a far superior example as a world moral leader. Around 1991, when the Soviet Union had collapsed, John Paul had the nerve to remind the world that capitalism was not the real winner of that battle. This from a Pole who had seen Soviet-style rule firsthand. He had the honesty and clear vision to see that the world's poor are still hideously abused by private enterprises, and he said so.

This pope has no such vision, or courage. The world saw that vividly on Saturday. His firm embrace of Catholic dogma matters to him far more than to defend any basic dignity and worth of all humans. If you're not on the Jesus team (and especially on the Roman varsity squad), you don't seem to count quite as much.

It wasn't hard to read between the lines. I'm quite familiar with this line of Christian dogma: As an apostate Southern Baptist, what I found most irreconcilable with any kind of common sense was the right-wing Christian belief that one who "hears" and yet doesn't embrace Jesus -- even Abdullah in Islamabad, who's been quite indoctrinated there -- is going straight to perdition. There are supposed to be few, if any, exceptions. Maybe for South American Indians so backwoods that they've never "heard." Some of the hard-core "Christian" types don't even make exceptions for them.

I'm sure Benedict didn't intend for people to gather this from the "subliminable" meaning of his parlay with Bush. But it's not hard to see that for him, there are two types of people in the world: Christians, and not.

And, there was a chance here to repeat his earlier protest against a manifestly immoral war. As a moral leader, Benedict has failed -- again.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

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