“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVII
“Millions of dead motherf*ckers all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question. “You believe in God?” “No.” *Pdoom*. Dead. “You believe in God?” “Yes.” “You believe in my God? “No.” *Poom*. Dead.” – George Carlin, “>Pro Life, Abortion, And The Sanctity Of Life.
So Republicans are upset that President Obama criticized those who would hijack religion. Methinks they protest too much. Yes, President Obama hit a sensitive spot when he spoke out, and now he is being attacked for saying what Jesus himself said about casting the first stone:
It wouldn’t be the first time quoting Jesus to this bunch of fake Christians got the president in trouble.
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. 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. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
These are simple facts. Yet because they don’t paint a picture of an America that is perfect, because they point out the failures of Christians to live up to their professed beliefs, critics say that once again Obama has proven he is not one of us. Apparently, to be “one of us” you have to be not only delusional, but a pathological liar.
Fox News led the charge by initially ignoring the president’s remarks. As Al Sharpton points out, Fox News accuses Obama of ignoring Islamic terrorism but when he talks about it, they ignore him:
Until Friday. Then Fox & Friends loses it, with Brian Kilmeade asking, “How shocked were you about the President’s remarks yesterday at that prayer breakfast, equating the Crusades in the year 1095 to what we’re experiencing today and witnessing with ISIS and their brutality?”
Oh gosh. Considering that the First Crusade killed every man, woman, and child they could find in the city of Jerusalem, with one participant writing, “there was such a slaughter that our men were up to their ankles in the enemy’s blood” and “our men seized many men and women in the temple, killing them or keeping them alive as they saw fit,” not surprised at all.
Sex slaves. Rape. You know – like ISIL. A lot of rape has been done in the name of one god or another over the centuries.
Not to mention all the Jews and Eastern Christians they killed along the way to the so-called Holy Land.
So no, not very surprised at all. Even ISIL, bad as they are, did not do to Mosul what Christians did to Jerusalem when they captured it.
Red State’s outraged headline reads: “Obama uses National Prayer Breakfast to compare Christianity to ISIS,” claiming that, “So Barack Obama, leftwing community organizer and closet theologian, used the National Prayer Breakfast to throw a tu quoque at anyone critical of Islam while continuing to fancy himself as the Pope of Islam.”
Nothing like a little hyperbole with your breakfast cereal.
Which, of course, is not at all what happened.
Rush Limbaugh’s take was equally outrageous: Why Our President Chose to Insult Christianity and Excuse Militant Islam at the National Prayer Breakfast, asking,
Why would you attempt to downplay Islamist extremism? Why would you attempt to put in perspective the actions being taken today by Al-Qaeda and ISIS and Boko Haram and the Khorasan Group and all of the rest of them by claiming that just as many atrocities have taken place in the name of Christ? Why in the world would you make that point? Why in the world would you even be thinking that way?
I don’t know. Maybe because it’s true? To make the perfectly legitimate point that Muslims are not the only ones to ever take their religion to extremes? If anything, the president left out some examples, like the Old Testament’s embrace of religion-based ethnic cleansing.
We get further examples of this criticism the The Washington Post:
“The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R). “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”
If that is the most offensive thing he has ever heard, he needs to get out more. Or turn on Fox News.
The Washington Post tells us that,
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called Obama’s comments about Christianity “an unfortunate attempt at a wrongheaded moral comparison.”
“Wrongheaded moral comparison” to say that one religion has done what another religion has done and for the very same reasons? Facts are just facts. They are not and cannot be wrongheaded.
As the Post goes on to relate, “Critics say that Obama is chastising the wrong people.” Moore, for example, complained that,
“The evil actions that he mentioned were clearly outside the moral parameters of Christianity itself and were met with overwhelming moral opposition from Christians,” Moore said. He added that while he understood Obama’s attempt to make sure “he is not heard as saying that all Muslims are terrorists, I think most people know that at this point.”
To judge by what Fox News and just about every Republican politician you care to name is saying, “most people” don’t know that.
President Obama stood against attempts to demonize the world’s second-largest religion by pointing out the world’s first largest religion has been guilty of the same types of activities. This is simple fact. And here is something else Obama didn’t mention, but it equally true and no doubt unwelcome to right wingers: yes, ISIL burned a man alive, but white Americans did the same thing to African Americans in this country, and not all that long ago.
Of course, if you point that out, you will be accused of comparing “God-fearing Christian Americans” to ISIL. Again. Even though they’re both violent extremists.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said Obama attacked Christians. He complained that, “We have a problem with Islam, okay? Not just with Islamists. We have a problem with Islam.”
Donohue was upset that Obama mentioned the crusades, which he calls “a delayed response to the jihad.” And the Inquisition? Laughably, Donohue insisted, “the Catholic Church had almost nothing to do with it.”
Tell that to Giordano Bruno. Oh wait, you can’t unless you use a time machine to go back to February 16, 1600, because the Roman Inquisition burned him at the stake on February 17, 1600 on the Campo de’ Fiori.
Bruno has been called a martyr for science for questioning Catholic doctrine, including the claim that the earth is the center of the universe. But it doesn’t matter why specifically he was killed, only that he was killed – by the Church.
As Wikipedia relates,
In 1942, Cardinal Giovanni Mercati, who discovered a number of lost documents relating to Bruno’s trial, stated that the Church was perfectly justified in condemning him. On the 400th anniversary of Bruno’s death, in 2000, Cardinal Angelo Sodano declared Bruno’s death to be a “sad episode” but, despite his regret, he defended Bruno’s prosecutors, maintaining that the Inquisitors “had the desire to serve freedom and promote the common good and did everything possible to save his life.” In the same year, Pope John Paul II made a general apology for the deaths of prominent philosophers and scientists due to the Inquisition.
Oh no, there’s that conservative idea of “religious freedom” again, quelling doubt and questions on pain of death. But here is a question for Donohue: If the Church didn’t bear responsibility for their deaths, why was the Pope apologizing?
So Donohue is angry as well as dishonest. No surprise there. It’s just a shame he hasn’t read the Ten Commandments where he would see that lying is a sin.
Let’s make him angrier still and mention what Obama left out: the genocide of Classical Paganism in the fourth through tenth centuries, and the genocide of Eastern European Paganism and Northern European Paganism in the centuries that followed. Let’s talk about the genocide of the Aztecs and other Central and South American indigenous cultures. I suppose the Church had nothing to do with that either.
I will finish this by giving dishonorable mention to June 18, 1452, when Pope Nicholas V issues a Papal bull, the infamous Dum Diversas, which authorized the Portuguese to reduce “Saracens [Muslims] and pagans and any other unbelievers” to slavery.
But let’s hush up about the facts. We don’t want to compare extremist Christianity to extremist Islam.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.