Here is your first assignment as we start a new week. It has to do with the most amazing quotation from last week. First, open Google. Now, insert -- in direct quotation marks -- the phrase "perfect righteous human being." Search in the News category.
Now, what did you find? Not much.
This phrase is, of course, taken from the final act of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's dramatic address at the United Nations. Click here for the full text, but here are the crucial quotes:
"I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.
"O, Almighty God, all men and women are your creatures and you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause."
Does that sound familiar? Did you see this passage played over and over on the evening newscasts and debated on the niche-market shows on cable?
To grasp the importance of what is happening in these paragraphs, please head on over to The New Republic (that right-wing rag to which we link quite a bit) and read the fairly recent cover story titled "Ahmadinejad's Demons: A child of the revolution takes over" by Matthias Kuntzel.
Now, back to the United Nations. Try to imagine what would have happened if President George W. Bush had ended his U.N. address with a call for the second coming of Jesus Christ and pledged that he would strive to see this event come to pass, sooner rather than later. Imagine the mainstream media response. Do you think this would be mentioned in major media? Do you think journalists would jump to cover that topic (as well they should)?
Andrew Sullivan states the obvious, quite well, beginning with an appeal for readers to read the quotes in question a second time:
Ahmadinejad is calling upon God to bring about the coming of the Twelfth Imam ("the perfect human being promised to all by you"), who heralds the Apocalypse. He is also saying that he will "strive for his return." It is the most terrifying statement any president of any nation has made to the U.N. We have a dictator on the brink of nukes, striving to accelerate the Apocalypse. Think of the Iranian regime as a nation-as-suicide-bomber. And anything serious we can do to prevent it may only make matters worse. No wonder Ahmadinejad smiles. Paradise beckons.
So why have newspaper readers and television viewers not been swamped with coverage of this part of this address? Why is that Google News search so wimpy?
Here is what Joel C. Rosenberg has to say over at National Review. I think you will not be surprised to learn that his argument, when boiled down to its essentials, is this: Too many people in the mainstream media simply do not get religion. But, beyond that, there is a good chance that many journalists are simply afraid to dig into the details of Ahmadinejad's beliefs and his own unique faith journey (which includes some literal minefields).
It is, you see, much, much easier to stick to writing stories about the Left Behind novels. Saith Rosenberg:
American journalists aren't asking Ahmadinejad about his Shiite religious beliefs, his fascination with the coming of the Islamic Messiah known as the "Twelfth Imam" or the "Mahdi," his critique of President Bush's faith in Jesus Christ and encouragement of President Bush to convert to Islam, and how such beliefs are driving Iranian foreign policy.
Time's cover story and exclusive print interview with Ahmadinejad never broached the subject of his eschatology. Nor did [Brian] Williams. Nor did [Mike] Wallace. Nor does a just-released book, Confronting Iran: The Failure of American Foreign Policy And the Next Great Crisis in the Middle East, by British Iran expert Ali M. Ansari. Nor does almost any of the saturation coverage Ahmadinejad is receiving.
Journalists aren't typically shy about asking tough, probing questions about the religious views of world leaders. President Bush has been grilled at length about being an evangelical Christian and how this informs his foreign policy, particularly with regards to Israel and the Middle East. Clearly the pope's views of Christianity and Islam are now under fire. Why such hesitancy when it comes to the religious beliefs of a leader who has called for the Jewish state to be wiped off the planet and urges fellow Muslims to envision a world without the United States?
Good question. Of course, you knew that's what we would think here at GetReligion.
Image: A devotional picture of Ali, the first Imam of the Shiites.