Today’s lesson is simple – just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.
Magdi Allam is a well-known writer in Italy who also happens to be an Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim. Allam decided (for whatever reasons) that he wanted to be baptized a Christian and convert to Catholicism. Fine, that is his right and really isn’t that big of a deal. Enter Pope Benedict.
Religious tension around the world is so thick you could cut it with a crucifix. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists (yes, even them!), and the super-delusional Scientologists are all embattled in their own struggles brought about by their religious convictions. This tension can manifest itself violently in the blink of an eye. So, what does the Pope do? He personally baptizes Magdi Allam on Easter Sunday in Saint Peter’s Basilica to much fanfare. Why the show? I’m all for civil rights and free speech, but did he not consider that doing so could put a target on the back of every Catholic around the world? Couldn’t Allam have been baptized in his local parish like everyone else?
When Ratzinger became Benedict there was much talk about his extensive intellectual credentials. He speaks multiple languages with almost native fluency and has authored volumes on theology (i.e. historical fiction). But how could someone so smart do something so stupid? Arrogance, that’s how. He believes his own hype (that he was chosen by God) and is basically giving the finger to over 1,000,000,000 Muslims and, in the process, putting all Catholics in danger.
The Muslim world needs to be engaged by the West. Not all nice and snuggly, but seriously engaged. They need to be educated them that our values like free speech, gender equality, and democracy are things we will never, ever give up. The message needs to be sent clearly that they don’t have to like our ways, but they’d better get used to them. Unfortunately, we won’t get to that kind of direct dialogue as long as high-profile religious zealots like the Pope continue to sabotage the way with unnecessary incitement. Baptizing a Muslim on Easter Sunday in Saint Peter’s Basilica?
That’s almost as bad a drawing a Mohammed cartoon.