Pope, Spinach and my response to comments

September 22, 2006

Some interesting comments from Patrick and dubyus on my posts about the pope and spinach (separate posts, no obvious connections).

Re dubyus comments. Agreed the Pope could have used other references but he didn’t. Let me ask you this, dubyus: Can you imagine an equal reaction in the western/post-Christian world if a prominent Muslim leader were to quote a 14th century source that equally disparaged Christianity? Of course not. We are accustomed to the most outrageous disparagement of our religion and its leaders including Christ himself and do not react in this way. The promised violence against anyone espousing any religion other than Islam expressed in reaction to the Pope’s comments are evidence for the one-side nature of “offense” in this current debate. There is no equivalence here.

I stand by my comments about the Pope’s message being ill-advised–precisely because of this inequality of political correctness. I also agree with dubyus that in retrospect, the Pope’s apology fell far short of what was needed. He apologized for the reaction in large part. It fell short.

As to the comments about moderate Muslim leaders taking a stronger role in healing the rifts caused by extremists and unfortunate statements like this, where are they? If the Western media has ignored all the action that has taken place, then I implore the Muslim world to do what the rest of us in crisis communication advise our clients: when the media won’t carry an important message, you have to take it direct. Ads can be purchased. Messages sent by email and snail mail. Websites can be launched and promoted. Blogs can enable people to engage in conversation. There is much that can be done and it is not really an acceptable excuse to say that the media won’t cover it. It is too important.

By the way, thank you for dialoging about this. We may not agree, but it sure is helpful when people start talking. And you have helped me understand better a different viewpoint.

Patrick on spinach–you are right of course that the best way to deal with crises is prevention,a nd likely this could have been prevented. But those of us in crisis communications need to deal continually with what happens when people don’t take the prudent and necessary steps. So I’m not sure how helpful it is in talking about a crisis communications response to say it should have been prevented. Talking about how it will be prevented in the future is very helpful–but that was exactly my point.

Now– I am on my way out the door for a weeklong trip. First, a little more archery hunting, then working with one of the nation’s largest universities on crisis communications planning, then to Houston for a user group meeting for PIER and an exciting seminar with the Global Energy Management Institute and World Energy.

I’ll try to keep up while on the road, but in the meantime, keep those thoughts coming. Artisansweets–I would have commented but I’m too much of a hurry so I will get back to you later.

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One Response to “Pope, Spinach and my response to comments”

  1. dubyus Says:

    Your reaction is appreciated

    By the way, thank you for dialoging about this. We may not agree, but it sure is helpful when people start talking. And you have helped me understand better a different viewpoint.

    I can’t imagine the setup you propose…
    The Pope is the dominant spokesman for Christianity. The present day embodiment of an infallible principle for 2000 years. A direct descendant of Disciple Peter. The guy with his hands on the Divine Steering Wheel. Disparaging other religions? What? Even if it’s done in weasel fashion by using the words of another man (who presumably spoke from divine right–a Christian emperor), there’s something out of place.

    But if were to happen, a Muslim spiritual leader disparaged Jesus as Benedict did Muhammed, I would expect and hope that other spiritual leaders of Islam would speak out against it. But as a practical matter, speaking only for myself, if an Islamic spiritual leader (not a goofball spouting Islamic nonsense) said that the only purpose of Jesus the Christ was to enable folks like Torquemada or the lovelies that exterminated the Incans, I’d say “Huh?” You mean the Jesus who said “Blessed are the Peacemakers, the meek”? The GodMan who told the story of the Good Samaritan “The question is not what will happen to me if I help, but rather what will happen to that person if I don’t?” Nothing to get upset about.

    Further, as this is really a conversation about culture and politics as much as it is about religion, it is difficult to separate suppositions about reaction from other things that might contribute to the reaction. We are not winning hearts and minds by how we’ve handled Iraq or Afghanistan (even in this country). Or how we have abetted Israel’s actions against Lebanon. Or how the Pope’s comments seem to support the above. I think that Christians would be a little upset if Saddam had imposed his government on the U.S. There’s a mind experiment for ya.

    It doesn’t help when we’ve got highly regarded radical clerics like Robertson advocating the assassination of heads of state. Or Falwell blaming the loose morals of Americans for God’s retribution in the form of the tragedy of 9/11.

    It’s all of a piece. The spiritual message of Jesus does not fit with what one of his purported main representatives said. Gratuitously chose to say.

    As far as winning hearts and minds, it doesn’t seem like any Muslim leader or organization is trying to win this kind of support in the U.S. Rather we have crazies using Islam for political means in conflict with mainstream Islam–in predominantly Islamic countries. Not much is known about how that tussle is going if one depends on conventional U.S. media. When was the last time you read anything about Indonesia in the local paper? A country with almost as many people as the U.S., and it has almost no existence for us. Immense Islamic population. How are they doing? Who knows? Who cares?


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