Thursday, October 07, 2004

Deus lo Volt!

In the Middle Ages, poorly informed people in northern Europe believed that the Muslims were pagan idolaters; but just as anybody with a modicum of education knew that the world was round, the well informed knew that Muhammad had actually been a monotheist. They understood Islam as a Christian heresy rather than an alien faith and treated Allah and God as names for one and the same Power. One of the alarming things about the current scene is the way in which many Fundamentalists seem to approach the Arab world with the rather tribal notion that what’s involved is a fight between our God and your God and that religious strife can only be settled World Wrestling Federation style Deo a Deo. The neo-cons know better. Following Aristotle’s advice on dealing with the masses, they regard their theological allies with light irony. But the cultured apologists for the Crusade in Mesopotamia operate with some fairly rustic notions of their own.

The justification of the invasion as a way to bring the light of the West to the benighted people of Asia is not so different from the line taken by many generations of intellectuals in the Latin West. The monks and bishops also believed that their ideology would be welcomed with open arms once the natives recognized its obvious superiority though I don’t know if any abbot of Cluny who ever actually suggested that the citizens of Babylon would name a square after the Pope. At all events, whether in 1095 or 2003, the respective publicists never seemed to have seriously entertained the question, “What gives us the right to decide what people in a foreign land should believe and/or how they should govern themselves?” In both cases, the obvious superiority of the Roman Faith or Democracy was beyond debate. The Saracens weren’t and aren’t entitled to an opinion on the matter since the truth of Christianity is proven by the Gospels and the inevitability of Democracy has been settled once and for all because a man named Francis Fukuyama wrote a book.

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