Weighing in on President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Insult, Offense and Debacle
On Thursday, February 8, 2015, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, took the podium at the National Prayer Breakfast held at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Well, my mother always taught me to speak well of those in authority. It is terribly hard to do in this instance. Perhaps, as my dear old mother also used to say, I can hope that “He meant well”.
However, once again, rather than being the uniter in chief as he promised, he is proving to be a divider in chief.
I am saddened that the President used a National Prayer Breakfast to make an historically inaccurate and misguided comparison between events from the early part of the second millennium (referred to as the Crusades) – and events from the middle part of that same millennium (referred to as the inquisition) – and the current evil being committed by the Islamic State (ISIS).
There is no comparison.
These contemporary Islamist Jihadist terrorists shed innocent blood and proclaim to the whole world, on every available social media platform, that the evil they are perpetrating is a response to the commands of their “god” – to whom they must submit.
That is what the word Islam actually means, submission.
They further demand that the whole world embrace and submit to this evil interpretation of their reading of the meaning of such submission.
They then advance their “religion” – not by persuading free people that their “religion” presents a compelling claim which should invite the exercise of human freedom – but by using the sword, both literally and figuratively.
They demand absolute adherence, by the whole world, to their spreading Caliphate. They back up this demand by the use willful use of terror, such as beheading, crucifixion and mass murder inflicted on entire villages.
Most recently, they added to their evil repertoire by burning that Jordanian Muslim soldier alive – and then sending the evil act out to the whole world. They do all of this evil while crying out Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) and smiling for the camera!
At least the U.S. President got one thing right, he called the actors who engage in such terror a “death cult.”
There is another danger lurking in this imprudent effort at a comparison by the President. It could give cover to these Islamist Jihadists. I can see their social media strategists using the word crusade to feed their perfidious productions which are aimed at recruitment.
They have referred to President Obama as a “crusader” in the past. They love the comparison. It plays right into their diabolical script!
Offensive to Christians
This speech was understandably offensive to many Christians. I am included among them. A U.S. President, who professes to be a Christian, used a Prayer Breakfast to lecture us. He used condescending words with which to wag a verbal finger at us as he said:
And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.
I find this condescension patently offensive and reject it.
First, the crusades happened a thousand years ago. They were a response to invasions by Muslims and unjust aggression by Islamists. They can even be analyzed as a defensive response – even a “just” war – under a classical just war analysis.
One of my favorite authors, sociologist Rodney Stark, wrote a book entitled God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades in 2009. It is well worth reading, even though controversial.
I could spend more words on what is called the Inquisition. It was actually committed by the Crown. No doubt, the intertwining of secular and ecclesiastical authority was improper back then. However, others have dealt with this issue – and I do not need to join the fray.
The bantering back and forth about the crusades and the inquisition are just one more example of the divisions which were being unleashed by this Prayer Breakfast speech given by President Obama.
Sadly, our attention is being deflected from a vital National Security objective. How will we respond to the clear and present danger which is posed to the common good by the evil Islamic Jihadists who commit evil atrocities in the name of their “god”?
They are literally hell bent on spreading their evil design and leaving in its wake a river of blood.
While some bad acts have been committed in the past by and between some Christians and some Muslims, we have learned the lessons of history, repented and turned away from such errors.
The Catholic Church has been outspoken in this renunciation and has repeatedly sought forgiveness. One example can be found in this text from the Day of Pardon in the year 2000 called by Pope John Paul:
Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbor, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium.
Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.
Christians have asked to be pardoned. Christians have accepted responsibility. So too have some Muslims. The question which must be answered by the Islamist terrorists such as ISIS is why they refuse to learn the lessons of time.
Not on a High Horse
Even though Christian history has examples of abuses committed in the name of the Christian faith, no one denies that – or pretends otherwise. We are not on a “high horse” Mr. President.
Rather, we are on our knees.
Further, though Christianity has examples of sins of omission, such as failures to act promptly and decisively to more quickly end social evils such as institutionalized slavery, we have learned from our error.
Also, the Christian Gospel has informed and sparked the heroism of great men and women such as William Wilberforce, Maximillian Kolbe, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr, to effect needed social change.
Militant Islamists of today approve of slavery and promote human trafficking. They openly engage in heinous subjugation and degradation of women. Rather than renounce it, they brag about it.
The Christian Church is always in need of reform. It is in the midst of a reform at this very hour. Those immoral acts of the past, committed by a few Christians, with a mistaken reference to Christianity, have been openly condemned and rejected.
Sinful and immoral acts committed between Christians have led to open repentance – and prompted change and growth within the broad Christian community.
Can the same be said for radical, terrorist Islam? The answer is – NO.
For all who seek to live honestly, time either becomes a tyrant or a tutor. That is when men and women of faith and good must choose freely to live their in the light of objective truth.
Time for Truth
On the day the President made this comparison, reports on social media were that ISIS executed two Muslim Imams in Mosul who spoke out against burning the Muslim Jordanian pilot alive. The reports further indicated they beheaded four other Muslims for speaking out against the evil act.
The Islamist terrorists calling themselves the Islamic State (ISIS) have no room for human freedom. That includes free speech and free inquiry. They consider them enemies.
Seven years ago, in a lecture at the University of Regensburg, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reaffirmed the Christian assertion that faith is not at odds with reason – and that God is reasonable.
Therefore, to act contrary to reason is to act against God. He affirmed that there can be no room for compulsion and coercion in true religion because human freedom reflects the Image of God. He invited a dialogue with the scholars of Islam on this and other propositions.
Though a few in the Muslim community reacted negatively to a quote which Benedict used from a Persian emperor, a month later, 100 Muslim scholars from around the world signed an open letter, to begin the dialogue.
The National Prayer Breakfast speech by President Obama is one more example of the failure of his leadership at a critical time in the history of the United States and the global community.
Radical Jihadist Islam is a threat to all freedom loving people; including freedom loving Muslims. It must be exposed and opposed. We need leadership – not lectures.
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