If we believe that peace is a desirable goal, then all of us, including the pope, should try to resolve conflicts rather than start them or inflame them. The Holy Father is too smart a man to not realize that what he said recently would inflame Muslims.
It’s a good rule to talk only about your own religion and not someone else’s. I quit going to a fundamentalist church because every sermon was a lecture on why everybody else in the world was wrong except that particular denomination. It’s a challenge to reason to believe that you are a chosen people. The Baptists were wrong because they used a piano in their service; the Methodists were wrong because they sprinkled instead of dunked; Jews were wrong because they had rejected Jesus; and, of course, the Catholics were wrong because they worshipped idols.
For a 13-year-old boy trying to figure out life, such denominational carping had no appeal.
As for the pope putting his foot in his mouth, many non-Muslims apparently do not realize that the prophet Muhammad is to Islam what Jesus is to Christianity. You never hear Muslims insult Jesus. They revere Jesus as a prophet. Well, the prophet Muhammad is both the founder of the religion and was a direct conduit to God. Any insult directed against the prophet will outrage Muslims.
As for violence, it ill behooves any European or person of European descent to criticize others for that. We are the most warlike, war-loving tribe in the whole human race. Virtually all of our technological progress has been a direct result of looking for ways to better inflict death and destruction on our enemies. Nor does Christianity have a clean slate in the categories of war and violence. For centuries, blood ran almost constantly in what was once called Christendom.
During one of those wars between Catholics and Protestants, it was a supposedly Christian general who said, upon being told the city just fallen contained both Catholics and Protestants, "Kill them all and let God sort them out."
The Crusades were not about religion but about loot. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem, they killed everybody — men, women and children, Muslims and Jews. They wanted all the possessions in the city. The Crusaders would later sack Byzantium, a Christian city, for the same reason. Any unbiased comparison between the history of Islam and the history of Christianity in terms of wars will clearly hand the peace prize to Islam. It wasn’t Islam that slaughtered 212 million people in the 20th century. The present pope, of all people, should recognize that.
There are some people who want a "war of civilizations." Well, the world needs more wars like a leper needs more sores. Wars are one of the more stupid of mankind’s activities. Not only do they cost lives, but they are a drain on the economy. A few profit from wars, but the majority lose loved ones and are burdened with taxes and public debt. And if the war is fought in your vicinity, you can lose everything.
There probably isn’t a larger constituency for peace in the U.S. because it’s been nearly 150 years since a war was fought on our soil. Some Americans seem to enjoy war in other people’s countries, as if it were a television show. The attack on 9/11 was just a taste, but if we keep in power those who want that "war of civilizations," then our luck will eventually run out. When war comes here, we’ll see how many of these jingoists like it.
Every empire that ever existed has died from the drain of foreign wars and foreign occupations. We will be no different unless we change directions. Peace is sweet, and there are many, many problems to which the resources now going to war should be applied. In the meantime, we should keep our noses, our troops and our mouths out of other people’s business.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.