Protestantensau

Immer diese Moslems! Das hier in SPON

Wegen eines papstkritischen Liedes wird der evangelische Pfarrer und Liedermacher Clemens Bittlinger von katholischen Fundamentalisten mit Morddrohungen attackiert und im Internet wüst beschimpft. Die Polizei nimmt die Drohungen ernst.

In seinem Song “Mensch Benedikt” hält Bittlinger Benedikt XVI. unter anderem vor, durch die Ablehnung von Kondomen die Ausbreitung von Aids in Afrika zu fördern. Zudem kritisiert der Darmstädter Pfarrer und Liedermacher die Haltung des Papstes, keine andere Kirche neben der katholischen anzuerkennen. Seit Bittlinger seinen Song im Mai auf dem Osnabrücker Katholikentag aufführte, sind laut Informationen des SPIEGEL auf rechtskonservativen katholischen Internet-Seiten zornige Hinweise auf den Song erschienen.

Die Wutwelle habe ihn “vollkommen unerwartet” getroffen, sagt Bittlinger. In Drohschreiben wird der Songschreiber als “dreckige Protestantensau” bezeichnet, andere halten ihn für “vom Teufel besessen”, einen “Stinker” oder beklagen, keine “Aggressionen” gegen ihn “rauslassen” zu können. Die hessische Polizei nahm die Drohungen so ernst, dass sie ein Konzert unter Polizeischutz stellte und eine verdächtige Postsendung an ihn von einer Spezialeinheit öffnen ließ.

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On hopes, disappointments and surprises: recent books by Günter Grass and Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie and Günter Grass, two of my favorite living writers, have both published new books recently. Both writers have a mixed track record of late. Rushdie took a downward turn with The Ground Beneath Her Feet and hit literary rock bottom with the astonishingly bad Fury. He regained some ground since, with the mixed but good Shalimar the Clown. It wasn’t all good, in retrospect there were many problems with it but I for one heaved a big sigh of relief upon reading it. Especially the Kashmir passages were among his very best work, and in the WWII passages I felt he was slowly getting the hang of writing about the west without descending into self-parody.

Grass has started his bad years with Mein Jahrhundert (My Century), which showcased why he shouldn’t write more short prose, but wasn’t as excruciatingly bad as the poetry he published in the following years. Novemberland and Letzte Tänze were bad. Very bad. Embarrassingly bad. Lord knows, Grass was one of the best German post-WWII poets when he started his career, I’d still recommend his debut volume of poetry, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner to anyone who cares for poetry and my opinion. I can’t really explain what happened. He also published a novel that read like a bad parody of himself, Im Krebsgang (Crabwalk).

So I awaited both writers’ new books with hopes and fears. With Grass, admittedly, the hope was solely based on my love for his older work and wasn’t strong enough to make me pay for the hardcover. When I finally bought the paperback of Beim Häuten der Zwiebel (Peeling the Onion) I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, some irritating ticks, too much talk of Grass’ penis and too much of a hurry marred the book, but it cohered wonderfully, was a great read and contained much of what I loved and love in Grass’ work. A shifty memoirist, he slips in and out of truth, offers interpretations for his own work by claiming real life counterparts to some of his most famous creatures, including the precocious son of an acquaintance of his, who walks into the living room with his tin drum. Grass relates of his talks with a friend in the army, who was to become Pope Benedikt XVI, he does a good job of discussing Germany’s dark past without providing excuses (but also without being really open about it, more on this soon) and his writing often shines as it did in the old days. It’s the old baroque Grass again, who lays it on too thickly but it feels rarely forced. An inspired book.

Not so The Enchantress of Florence. Well. There are two ways of looking at the book. They are not compatible, but they are both true. According to one it’s easily his best work since The Moor’s last Sigh. No matter how you look at it, it’s not as good as Moor or the Verses, or Shame, or Children, or indeed Haroun, but it bests the rest of his novels. There is some glorious writing and there are few writers out there who can do as much justice to the sumptuousness of the setting of the novel as Rushdie can. Without even having to indulge in long descriptions, it’s there, in his prose. He needs few words to paint a whole, finely detailed, rich world. Days after finishing the Enchantress I had vivid visions of Florence. It made me pull Mandragola and The Prince off shelves and reread them.

There are many strange and great characters, often pained with broad brushstrokes that left an intricate pattern in the novel. The story is straightforward enough told with an enormous pace, actually, but without ever seeming hurried. He seems to have regained his talent for telling a rich story in few words, something which has amazed me ever since Shame (which, at the time, I picked up reluctantly, as any thin book, but which, in retrospect, seems like that house in Danielewski’s House of Leaves, it’s bigger inside than outside.)

However, there are, once we invoke the masterpieces of this great writer, some respects in which The Enchantress somewhat short. It’s never as moving, as warm, as his earlier work. People move past you and even though their characterization is superb, the book is still cold. With a writer of Rushdie’s abilities, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had recognized his strengths and crafted a better novel, to the best of his abilities. Unlike Beim Häuten der Zwiebel (Peeling the Onion) this is most certainly not an inspired book, no sir. It’s a supremely well crafted book, but there’s something missing at the heart of it all, although I admit that Rushdie’s language does carry a certain warmth, the warmth of a room hung with thick, rich carpets, in the midst of summer, in a household lonely with cruelty. The child alone in his room basks in the heat, but still shivers, from a different kind of cold.

And this is where we turn to the second point I alluded to before. Rushdie was never a good thinker. Take a peek into one of his volumes of essays and you’ll see what I mean. The best parts of them are inspiring, even thought provoking, but less like real philosophy and more like (at times) good aphorisms. Not that they are aphorisms. If that is confusing, it’s all you’re going to get. Well. Back to Rushdie being a second- or third-rate thinker.

It shows in the new novel which cites and sometimes paraphrases contemporary discussions of that infamous idea of the “Clash of Cultures” and of religion and fundamentalism. Tired, all too well known witticisms, bad arguments that pose in the novel as novel (excuse the pun) ideas, and brilliant and/or daring ones at that. How could Rushdie have read period pieces (it is to be assumed he has read all or most of Macchiavelli’s work, including the luminous work that is the Discourses on Livy) and assumed that his cut&paste method of transplanting weak contemporary arguments into that setting could work at all?

Hence my comparison to Fury. Both are, in their own ways, failed novels of ideas, in both cases because Rushdie hasn’t many good ideas, in the philosophical sense, of his own. It’s not just because Rushdie is channeling the Football Hooligans of Rational Thought, although he is, and it’s not a nice thing to behold. No, this novel immediately takes a nosedive anytime he engages in anything philosophical. It recovers quickly, but I have been known to shout angrily from time to time while reading it. I’m not sure I want to reread it. I’ll try to just remember the great parts and look forward to the new novel, which is, hopefully, emptier of philosophy and fuller of awesome (yes, I use awesome as a noun). ISBN

Pope Benedikt XVI has a field day

*sigh* This Pope should get a Nazi medal or something. In the Post’s On Faith columns

But in condemning Nazi antisemitism before that Jewish congregation in Cologne, Pope Benedict defined it univocally as having been “born of neo-paganism.” That was true, a reference to the odd mysticism that underwrote the Teutonic myths on which claims for Aryan racial superiority rested. But Nazi hatred of Jews was born of two parents, and the other one – the long history of Christian anti-Judaism – the pope did not mention. This was not a slight omission. It is urgently important, in going forward into the 21st century, that the context out of which the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people grew, and within which it nearly succeeded, not be forgotten. The crimes of Hitler were not the crimes of Christianity, but the Final Solution depended, both for the recruitment of active perpetrators and for the passivity of a continent’s worth of bystanders, on the ingrained anti-Jewishness of Christian theology, liturgy, and tradition. You would not know that from what the pope said in the Synagogue in Cologne. […]

Benedict went to Auschwitz, he said, “as a son of the German people, a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation’s honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation.” In Germany itself by now, there is an established tradition of a much fuller recognition of national complicity in the Nazi project. For a generation, Germans have declined to portray themselves as mere victims and dupes, and German church leaders in particular have been forthright in confessing their sin in relation to the Holocaust. In his portrayal of the past, both at Cologne and Auschwitz, Benedict is becoming a German apart.

And as a Christian? Here is how he defined the Nazi aim in murdering Jews: “Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people…by destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the tap root of the Christian faith.” As if to dramatize this astounding claim that the “ultimate” Nazi target at Auschwitz was the Church, Benedict greeted 32 camp survivors, all but one of whom were Polish Catholics. A lone Jew represented the more than one million Jews who died there. With no apparent embarrassment, the pope prayed, “Why, Lord, did you remain silent?”

[…] the dark legacy of Christian antisemitism began to be redeemed when the Second Vatican Council both repudiated the “Christ-killer” charge against the Jewish people, and affirmed the on-going validity of Jewish religion. The days of scapegoating Jews, and seeking their conversion are over. Or are they? When Pope Benedict meets with Jewish leaders in New York this week, the cordial greetings will be heartfelt, but so will an undercurrent of wondering. Why, under his authority, has the Vatican recently restored the pre-Vatican II Good Friday prayers for the conversion of Jews? Does this pontificate represent a retreat from Christian moral reckoning with the Holocaust? Does it intend to restore the lethal Christian conviction that God’s only plan for Jews is baptism?

Here is the complete English transcript.

Und hier ist die deutsche Version seiner Rede.

Catholic Conversion

More on the Pope’s outrageous behavior. Susan Jacoby wrote last week

Benedikt has taken less trouble […] to conceal his dedication to a theology that regards other religions (not to mention secularism) as inferior. The pope’s personal baptism, at a widely publicized Easter vigil service, of an Egyptian-born Muslim, Magdi Allam […] is a case in point. Allam, in a column discussing his conversion, wrote in his newspaper that the “root of all evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual.” […]

Allam, who once attended a Catholic school in Egypt, is persona non grata not only to most Muslims but to a great many secular Italians, who tend to view his conversion as an exemplary “out of the frying pan, into the fire” move. […]

Does anyone seriously think that the Vatican finances mission schools around the world because it does not hope to gain converts? In this regard, it should be noted, the Catholic Church does not differ from other proselytizing Christian churches that offer a wide variety of social services along with a strong dose of religious indoctrination. […]

The Catholic emphasis on conversion has remained remarkably consistent throughout history. Pope John Paul II’s canonization of the Carmelite nun Edith Stein, a German Catholic convert from Judaism who died in Auschwitz, is a prime example. Stein was sent to Auschwitz for one reason: she was born a Jew, and for the Nazis, no religious conversion wiped out the “racial” stain of Jewishness. Yet the church considers her a Catholic martyr–a position as offensive to many Jews, and as impervious to the fact of who was targeted for extermination during the Holocaust–as some of Benedict’s statements about Islam have been to many Muslims. Stein was murdered by the Nazis because of her Jewish “blood,” not her Catholic faith.

Of course, Benedict can get away with offending Muslims more easily at the moment than he can with offending Jews. Much of post-Christian, secular Europe is terrified of the Muslim immigrants in its midst and would probably love to see a population of Muslim converts to Catholicism.