A religious leader must say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," while a head of state must follow the maxim, "Do unto others before they do unto you."
What divides the president and the pope is not so much their conflicting positions, but rather a difference in the existential vantage point from which each must respond to the great events of the world.
Muslims are in dialogue with a pope who evidently does not merely want to exchange pleasantries about coexistence, but to convert them.
This no doubt will offend Muslim sensibilities, but Muslim leaders are well-advised to remain on good terms with Benedict XVI.
Worse things await them.
There are 100 million new Chinese Christians, and some of them speak of marching to Jerusalem - from the East. A website entitled Back to Jerusalem proclaims, "From the Great Wall of China through Central Asia along the silk roads, the Chinese house churches are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all the way back to Jerusalem."
Islam is in danger for the first time since its founding. The evangelical Christianity to which George W Bush adheres and the emerging Asian church are competitors with whom it never had to reckon in the past.
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