The reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s characterization of Protestants as not really belonging to the "true Church" set off a wave of global upheaval.
Evangelicals burned the pope in effigy in the United States. Catholic cathedrals were burned down in Europe. Catholic missionaries were attacked in Asia. Catholic Bibles were thrown on a bonfire in Africa. Protestants kidnapped priests and nuns in Latin America and held them for ransom. Threats on the life of the pope poured in from around the world
You saw all this on the news, right?
Oh, you didn’t?
You mean non-Catholic Christians did not rise up in anger and violence when insulted by the pope? Why is that?
After all, look at what happened in the Islamic world when Pope Benedict ever so gently chided its history.
Last fall, Pope Benedict gave a speech at Regensburg, Germany, in which he quoted a 14th century text that denounced as "evil and inhumane" Muhammad’s decree that Islam could be spread by the sword.
Within hours of the address, priests in Islamic countries were murdered and churches were burned. Muslims "protesting" the speech — because it insulted their "peaceful" religion — shot an African nun in the back. Threats were made against the life of the pope. When the pope traveled to Turkey two months later, he was met by tens of thousands of angry demonstrators.
With that recent experience in mind with what we’re told is "the religion of peace" should we not have expected the non-Catholic Christian world to ignite like a powder keg when insulted by Pope Benedict?
Yet, it did not happen. Why?
It’s quite simple.
Christians, generally speaking, though constantly criticized by non-believers as intolerant, are actually the most tolerant, peaceable people in the world. They believe in debate. They believe in dialogue. They believe in lively and free expression. They believe in permitting others to speak their minds — even when they profoundly disagree with what is said.
As an evangelical Christian, I was disappointed the pope would approve a document that characterized my faith as "defective" because I did not submit to his authority and the authority of priests but instead live only by the authority of God and His Word.
I disagree with the pope that the church Christ established on this Earth had anything to do with an institution run by men. The church Christ started was not a building. It was not a corporation. It was not a set of rules. It was and is a relationship between Creator and His creation.
Nevertheless, no matter how profoundly I disagree with the pope on this issue, I am not even slightly tempted to burn down Catholic churches or take nuns and priests hostage. I don’t think many other non-Catholic Christians are either — as evidenced by the quietude we have experienced in the world since the pope’s action.
There’s a lesson here.
Some non-believers like to portray Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists as cut from the same cloth. I think the reaction to these two separate pronouncements from the Vatican illustrates just how profoundly ignorant, unenlightened and bigoted such conclusions are.
No heads were chopped off in the creation of this column.
No children were recruited into the suicide bomber profession as a creation of this column.
No women were stoned to death in the creation of this column.
And none of those things will happen as a result of the pope’s difference of opinion with the non-Catholic Christian world.
No, I don’t want to kill the pope because of his wrongful conclusions about me and my faith.