Benedict is not the charismatic world figure of John Paul II or the gentle harbinger of hope and ecumenical unity as was John XXIII. Benedict first and foremost is a theologian, a man of the mind who thinks upon and expounds about religion.
In a nutshell, Benedict's argument against fanaticism is such: Violence is the enemy of reason. Violence has no place in religion because to act against reason is to act against the nature of God. Reason is the line he draws in the sand; it creates and interesting fulcrum from which to juxtapose comparisons of faith, fanaticism, violence and the secular proclivities of modern religion.
Christianity has a rich history of sectarian violence. The Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Anglican cleansing of Catholic England, the burning of heretics in Lutheran Germany and the removal of the Huguenots from France are a few examples. Many of these persecuted sects found their way to our American shores. Here they establish a relatively harmonious Christian conglomerate. Lately we have witnessed a revolutionary evangelical fundamentalism in America; faith based incursions into the societal and political arenas often fall short of the measure of reason. While such fanaticism seems minimal compared to the murderous intent of Sunni/Shiite sectarianism the religious right's interference in human and constitutional rights is obsessive and unreasonable. Make no mistake; Benedict is also addressing this sort of secularism.
The pope's remarks rekindle an examination of whether spirituality and religiosity can stand on faith alone. If faith stands at odds with scientific and moral truth it must assert itself through coercive means. Life is reduced to confliction in which the most powerful and violent among us reign supreme. Righteousness absolves the faithful from moral clarity and human charity. At once Moqtada al-Sadr and Pat Robertson appear more similar than dissonant.
Benedict seeks an alliance with Islam and other monotheistic faiths to confront the larger danger of liberal secular humanism, hedonism and unbridled consumerism that he feels corrupts the moral core of Western society. Beware! Pope Benedict XVI wants the keys to your SUV and the remote to your plasma T.V.