There are moments where it becomes painfully apparent that the media elites think that the only thing redeeming about Western culture is its ability to regret its existence. Their dream president is a lip-biting man from Arkansas, traveling the globe apologizing for every historic fault, real or imagined, America has ever committed.
This was exactly their mentality with Pope Benedict XVI over his remarks at the University of Regensburg. One wonders if any of his critics had bothered to read his address, the theme of which was the inseparability of faith and reason.
He quoted a Byzantine emperor -- who argued that God could never countenance the coercive violence of radical Islam, and therefore a radical Islam invoking God is irrational. Lost on the outraged was the other argument posed by Benedict: A religion that embraces reason but not faith is also bankrupt. That message was directed at radical Catholics. His call was for a serious and urgent "genuine dialogue of cultures and religions" based on faith and reason.
You would think that this call for a religion based on love and peace, not force, would ring well in peace-loving liberal newsrooms. But this lecture was ignored by the secular press until Muslim riots and threats broke out. Then, predictably and incredibly, the media demanded apologies -- but only from the pope. They treated him like a bumbling candidate for political office, a man too unschooled in the art of public relations, which they know so well. They called him "heavy-handed" and "clumsy." They auditioned on TV and radio shows to explain how the pontiff could be less "tone deaf."
They did not ponder how Muslim violence, from assassinating a nun in Somalia to blowing up Canadian solders in Afghanistan as they hand out candy to children, might be, to say the very least, "tone deaf."
This mind-numbing double standard was set perfectly (and ridiculously) by the New York Times editorial page on a sleepy Saturday, which lamented the pope's desire for a "uniform Catholic identity," which is "not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue." These people seem to have no clue that the holy father's first duty is to maintain a Catholic Church that is united and true to its historical roots. His first duty is to defend an ancient deposit of faith and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. This, to the sages of the New York Times editorial board, is an inherently offensive mission -- exclusive, intolerant, conservative.
But the next paragraph was worse, demanding that Benedict confess his offense to the secular and Islamic worlds: "The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal."
This is rich from The New York Times, whose editor, Bill Keller, has deliberately and carelessly handed out the "pain" to reverent Roman Catholics in a 2002 column by comparing John Paul the Great to a communist despot. Deep apologies did not follow. Hypocrite, heal thyself.
But the networks followed that incompetent example, setting up the debate as Victimized Muslims vs. The Pope Who Needs to Apologize -- immediately and abjectly. On NBC, Brian Williams said, "The pope says he's sorry, but is his apology enough?" On CBS, reporter Mark Phillips said, among Muslims, "even moderates ... say the pope's words make their job much harder." ABC brought on professor Fawaz Gerges to predict, "I think it's gonna take years for the damage done to Christian-Muslim relations to be repaired."
I wonder what Gerges said about those "tone deaf" radical Muslims in the days after 9-11.
From their secular standpoint, the media's view of the highest point of religion is not the grasp of a true God, but the maintenance of an interfaith dialogue. Conflicts over serious issues, such as whether one religion is true and another false, or whether one religion is compatible with liberal democratic cultures and another is not, are annoying, unnecessary squabbles.
Pope Benedict has long noted that majority-Christian countries tolerate the free exercise of Islam, but Muslim-dominated countries often do not tolerate the free exercise of anything but Islam. The reaction to his address reveals that Western journalists don't care about this. They have elevated Islam to a special standard, an unofficial Victim Religion, which is only the victimized and never the victimizer. Even the forced Islamic conversion of American journalists taken hostage does not stir their ardor.
As I file this piece, I've read that a Palestinian cleric in Gaza, Dr. Imad Hamto, has declared "Aslim Taslam" on Pope Benedict XVI. It is a phrase taken from the letters of the prophet Muhammad to rival tribal chiefs -- urging them to convert to Islam to spare their lives.