Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Papal Sword

If any of my readers are still out there, they’ve noticed the absence of new posts here for over six weeks now. I’ve been too busy of late to post, but I will try to do so at least once a month.

Today’s post regards what may be termed Spencer’s pacifist Christianity—or, at least, disquieting hints thereof, as we noted in a previous post here where Spencer failed to correct his friend and colleague Elizabeth Kantor when, in her enthusiastic review of his book, Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is—and Islam Isn't, she boldly claimed that:

. . .the implication of this book is that peaceful Christians will face violent Muslims with the weapons Christians have always used: patience, reason, love even of our enemies, willingness to die (not to kill) to spread the gospel.

Perhaps Kantor has the cocooned luxury of thinking that such a limited quiver of Christian virtues will be sufficient to stave off the global threat of jihad, but it is not reassuring to think that Spencer, apparently, shares her view.

On Jihad Watch today, Spencer posted a story about how the current king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, gave a sword as a gift to Pope Benedict XVI upon their meeting at the Vatican. Spencer comments:

An ironic gift, yes, in light of the furor in the Islamic world over the Pope's remarks at Regensberg. . .

But it does reveal something about Abdullah's self-image as the leader of an Islamic state—a state which, after all, has a sword on its flag, right underneath the Islamic profession of faith. To Abdullah, such a gift is clearly not inconsistent with his view of Islam or of himself as an Islamic leader.

But just imagine Pope Benedict XVI giving anyone a sword. He wouldn't, because such a gift would be inconsistent with his own self-image as a Christian leader, and with his view of Christianity. He views Christianity as a religion of peace.

Oddly, Spencer here displays a remarkable amnesia about Popes who, from the 11th up to the 19th centuries, themselves proffered plenty of swords as gifts to secular rulers.

Probably the most famous instance was in 1507, when Pope Julius II presented King James IV with a sword, its gold and silver scabbard crafted by Dominico da Sutri during the High Renaissance. The last sword officially presented by a Pope was in 1823, when Leo XII honored the Duke of Angouleme with one for his pivotal role in fighting for the French Monarchy. That 1823 was the last date for such an ensidore custom probably reflects the extremity to which secularism and Church-State seperation had evolved by then, with the consequent drastic diminution of Papal temporal powers—at least compared with its Caesaropapism of yore.

In light of the gravity, depth and breadth of the threat we face today from an Islam Redivivus, however—which as it coalesces in our era may well be able to combine its ancient fanaticism, supremacism and expansionism with modern weapons of mass destruction—I would rather, unlike Spencer, hope that the Pope and other important representatives of Christianity revive their ancestors former capacity for defending themselves not with “love even of our enemies, and willingness to die (not to kill)”, but with the kind of rational and measured ferocity the secular West mustered and deployed during World War II, during which, in fighting another world movement of terror, we did not hesitate too long to incinerate whole cities and to kill hundreds of thousands, including tragically innocent civilians. And during a rather unsecular Christendom, Christians for centuries picked up the sword to defend themselves from all manner of enemies, internecine and external—including repeated attacks and attempts at invasion by various Muslim armies. Considering the threat we face today, restoring a good measure of the military verve and edge to Christianity—the real Christianity of history, that is, not the polar extremes of its caricature either as a proto-Hippie pacifism or as a bloodthirsty Crusade-hungry religion—would seem crucial for us.

Perhaps Spencer and Kantor and their like think Christians can continue to be good, peaceful Christians while other Westerners—presumably non-Christians, or perhaps a coalition of non-Christians and “bad”, militaristic Christians—do all the heavy lifting to protect those good peaceful Christians who will, one cannot help but surmise, do nothing physically concrete to help their friends, family, neighbors and nations to fend off the savage enemy as its attacks on us continue to unfold and augment into the future.

According to one credible website, a sword that was never presented, after the last gift we noted above in 1823, remains in the Vatican, unused. Perhaps some day in the not too distant future, a Pope and his surrounding Western culture will have sufficiently grown a pair to be able to present it proudly, and with weighty and acutely pragmatic symbolism, to some new Western leader—abler than any of the PC idiots currently on the horizon—for his, or her, Churchillian defiance of our latest, and longest-lived, Enemy.

No comments: