It is easy enough to condemn these actions as deeply inhumane, but I would like to press the critique a bit further, drawing attention to the work of Pope Francis’s two immediate predecessors. Pope John Paul II was the most vocal defender of human rights in the 20th century. Across the world and in hundreds of different venues, he insisted that the respect for fundamental human rights must be the key to a just political order. And of all the human rights—to life, liberty, a just wage, access to the ballot—the most basic, he taught, was the right to religious freedom. This is because the spiritual aspiration of the human heart is what defines us as human beings. The violation of that most sacred of “spaces” is, therefore, the most offensive, the most heinous and de-humanizing. To use the threat of force to compel someone to change his religious beliefs—which we are regularly seeing in the Middle East—is not only criminal but wicked.
It is also deeply irrational—a point made by Pope Benedict XVI in his address at the University of Regensburg in September of 2006. In that controversial speech, Pope Benedict drew attention to a little-known dialogue between the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a Muslim interlocutor. The Emperor pointed out that the idea of spreading the faith through violent conquest, which is recommended in the Qur’an, is supremely irrational, and the reasons he gives anticipate John Paul II by six centuries. Faith is a function, not of the body, but of the soul, and therefore coercion through bodily persecution cannot even in principle awaken authentic faith. One must, instead, be skilled in arguments that would appeal to the mind: “to convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.” In a word, the idea of the holy war is not syn logon (according to the word or reason). And here is the decisive point: what is unreasonable is out of step with God’s own nature, since God, on the Christian reading, is identified with Logos: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
However, in Muslim teaching, Allah’s nature is so transcendent that it goes beyond any and all categories, including that of reason. Pope Benedict cites the noted French Islamic scholar R. Arnaldez, who points out that Allah is not even bound by his own word, so that if he so chose, he could recommend idolatry as morally praiseworthy. This elevation of the divine will over the divine mind, called “voluntarism” in the West, is, for Benedict, the source of enormous confusion and mischief. Most notably and dangerously, it opens the door to the idea of divinely sanctioned violence. Now I fully realize that many Christians over the centuries have done terrible things in the name of God and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful and non-violent. But I think it is clear that when Christians act in such a way, they are unequivocally at odds with their own conception of God. Is the same true of Muslims? I am still waiting for a compelling answer from the Muslim camp to the question posed eight years ago by Pope Benedict. At the time, of course, Islamist radicals responded by killing a number of innocent Christians – certainly a curious way of refuting the notion that divinely sanctioned violence is irrational!
Much needed and most courageous truth, well written and reasoned, a counter to the politically correct garbage too often put forward about this so called religion of peace, a religion that's been anything but peaceful and more a harbinger for death and destruction.
Hats off to Fr. Barron, more like him would be a Godsend.
UPDATE: By way of The Anchoress, whose own related post is a must read, comes this from the managing editor of the Patheos Muslim channel:
Ya Allah, forgive those among us who are hurting so many, who are twisting the words of faith and engaging in inhumanity. Give us the strength to push for justice, for good, for love and light, for peace and harmony.
There are two great campaigns going on right now in the last ten days of Ramadan showing us how we can help. What we can do from right where we are. One is “Do Something,” spearheaded by Imam Abdullah Antepli and Omid Safi, and the other is“10-10-100”. Read both and get involved.
We shall not be paralyzed. Now is the time to raise our voices, to donate our dollars, to make those calls to our elected officials, to fast and pray sincerely and with full faith that He will hear us. He will help those who need His help desperately. He will show us the way to help ourselves.
If there were more Muslims like this gentleman lady, the world might just be a better place.