Watching Our Words

October 30, 2006

The Christian Century has an interesting piece about Pope Benedict XVI and the importance of being careful with words. Here are a few highlights:

A slip of the tongue or an off-the-cuff remark is one thing; words used in a carefully prepared speech to a university audience are another. So one has to wonder what Pope Benedict XVI was thinking when he dredged up the comment of an obscure 14th-century Byzantine emperor who accused the Prophet Muhammad of "things only evil and inhuman."

... As he has probably learned, he has to choose his words very carefully.

... Christian leaders still must take responsibility for their words—which means imagining how they are likely to be heard.

... One Islamic leader said after this meeting that the pope expressed profound respect for Islam, but another complained that the event was a monologue by the pope about the need for dialogue.

John Danforth, former Republican senator and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently suggested that given the religious nature of much international conflict, a forum should be created in which leaders of the world's religions could work together to address pressing issues. The pope could use his position to help launch such a forum, not only for the sake of dialogue but for the sake of resolving ongoing conflicts.
Amen! There are some important lessons to be learned from this case. Most of the discussion from Christians seems focused on criticizing Muslims for their reaction. However, this piece finally gets to what is really important—the need for Christians to learn from this so that we do not drive more people away because of our thoughtless words.