Monday, December 4, 2006

A summary

In seeking to wrap-up the whole Regensburg Lecture/Apostolic trip to Turkey continuum, I offer a summary of what has gone down as far as our Holy Father's approach to Islam, that also also touches on other religions. So, with a little assistance from John Allen, I have to say that the real target of Pope Benedict XVI is not Islam; it is relativism. In common with Christians, both Jews and Muslims believe in a public morality and in the truth. This is not to be religiously indifferent in the least because it is undeniably true that the three monotheistic faiths make truth claims that contradict each other and that what makes Christianity unique is Jesus Christ. On these no quarter will be given, nor need it be. Nonetheless, Pope Benedict sees relativism and secularism as bigger issues presently than the differences between religious believers- this also holds true for Eastern religions. This is one reason why Pope Benedict has endorsed Fr. Hans Küng's Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic and the work of Küng's Global Ethic Foundation. It is the view of the Holy Father that all people of faith can and, indeed, must make common cause against secularism and its resultant relativism. The true clash of civilizations, then, is not between Islam and the West, "but between belief and unbelief".

These insights, I believe, are spot-on. What many Muslims resist most is not Christianity per se- though aggressive proselytism would not go over well- but unreconstructed Western enlightenment values, which lead secularism, that, in turn, results in relativism, which leads to decadence. It also leads to the fraying of families, the core of all societies. When people in non-Western cultures speak of family, it is not merely the nuclear family, it is a broad extended family. As for Christianity in the West the Holy Father sees the need for the Church to bridge-the-gap between, on the one side, human life, sexual morality and, on the other, the environment, peace, and social justice. Again, this where a global ethic, rooted in faith, can be very important. He also wants to challenge Islamic countries to allow freedom for Christians to worship, to build churches, to own property, to organize, etc.

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