"The BBC reported that the pope “admired the statue but merely touched the sword.” I think it is a great thing these two men met, and that King Abdullah came bearing gifts. But what would have really caught my attention — and the world’s — would have been if King Abdullah had presented the pope with something truly daring: a visa.
You see, the king of Saudi Arabia, also known as the Keeper of the Two Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina, can visit the pope in the Vatican. But the pope can’t visit the king of Saudi Arabia in the Vatican of Islam — Mecca. Non-Muslims are not allowed there. Moreover, it is illegal to build a church, a synagogue or a Hindu or Buddhist temple in Saudi Arabia, or to practice any of these religions publicly.
As the BBC noted, “some Christian worship services are held secretly, but the government has been known to crack down on them, or deport Filipino workers if they hold even private services. … The Saudi authorities cite a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that only Islam can be practiced in the Arabian Peninsula.”" Friedman
Tom Friedman is hard at work in this column (as usual) at convincing humanity of its homogeneous future. He desperately wants to see mankind in this way and hopes and hopes that the sense of separateness that prevails in so many people across the world is going to disappear soon. One wonders if he is thinking of ALL groups that way. This egregiously utopian view of the future places him squarely in the Jacobin neocon "camp." There is no real evidence that this process is approaching "fruition" or even that it is seriously underway in many parts of the world. Economic integration and a desire to enjoy the benefits of technology do not necessarily lead to cultural homogenization. Some people prefer their traditional ways. Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last five years should have taught us that, but it has not. In the case of Friedman his insistence on this idea, despite all evidence to the contrary, is special pleading whether he realizes that or not. Since he expects that mankind in all its variety will come increasingly to see its differences as unimportant it is natural that he should dream of a future in which the Saudi king would invite the Catholic Pope to Saudi Arabia. Friedman has been in Saudi Arabia many times and should know that popular opinion there would overwhelmingly reject such an idea, but, that matters not to him. He continues to pursue his dream.
David Brooks of the New York Times remarked on the "Newshour" a while back that "people" do not care about theology. By this he meant that Governor Romney’s chances of becoming president of the United States are not damaged by his adherence to the Mormon religion. Brooks said that what "people" care about is the social behavior of the members of religious bodies and that since Mormons are notably responsible and patriotic folk, the general public would not care about what it is that they profess as divine truth.
Brooks and Friedman have missed something in their discussions of religion. They have missed a simple truth. MOST PEOPLE WHO PROFESS RELIGION ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN THE TRUTH OF THEIR GROUP’S TEACHING ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE AND THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE. They do not see their sect, denomination, church, etc. as a mere vehicle for the expression of social concern for the welfare of others.
Orthodox Christian theology proclaims the majesty of a triune God. Muslims and Jews do not. Mormons believe in something altogether different.
Members of those groups (if they are truly members and not just "life cycle" auxiliaries) are capable of accepting each other as "good people" and fellow citizens. They are NOT CAPABLE of accepting the truth of groups who deny the essential beliefs of their own group.
That is what was meant in the recent pronouncement from Rome of the limits of Christian-Muslim dialog. Dialog among all religious groups is desirable as a means of establishing a harmony of the peoples, but there are limits imposed by THEOLOGY beyond which such discussions can not progress.
Friedman and Brooks should know that. pl