It may be a revelation to Americans in the conservative and religious right movement, but truth means being in accord with facts or reality, or fidelity to an original standard or ideal. It is not a complex concept to comprehend, especially for the evangelical right that embraces the Ninth Commandment of the Decalogue that forbids “bearing false witness” (lying) leading one to believe that every Christian embraces truth. In fact, the Christian religion’s namesake, Jesus Christ, is renowned for saying “the truth shall set you free” in John 8:32. The point is that all Christians should advocate and revere the truth with religious fervor; unless it is uttered by President Barack Obama at which point they “can’t handle the truth.”
Although the President stated the truth during that bizarre event in a secular nation, the National Prayer Breakfast, this week, he violated that unspoken American rule that at no time will any American utter an untoward remark about the Christian religion whether it is the gospel truth or not. The fact is that in stating an irrefutable truth about Christianity, the President grossly understated the reality that throughout history, there has been much more violence and killing in the name of Christianity as in the name of Islam. The truth of the matter is that despite the recent death and violence at the hands of radical Islamists such as the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or IS), it pales in comparison to the history, including very recent history, of violence wrought on humanity by Christians in the name of Christianity.
The President infuriated the Christian right during the National Prayer Breakfast when he said that no particular religion “has a monopoly on violence.” His exact words were, “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. Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.” Of course the President spoke the truth, albeit a grossly understated truth, but it incited the Christian right to apoplexy as if he had insulted their god almighty to his face.
The tea party claimed the President “threw Christians under the bus,” dirty Rush Limbaugh said the President’s remark was “an insult to Christianity” and the Daily Caller was certain the President’s truth was a ploy to put a halt to real Americans’ well-intentioned “criticism of radical Islamists.” None of the criticism is even remotely true, because all the President did was acknowledge that in the same way ISIS uses the Muslim faith to rally followers to, and advance, its violent agenda, radical fundamentalists in the Christian faith have done exactly the same thing throughout world history to horrific effect. The President could, and should, have just uttered Jesus Christ’s words and told Christians so ardently critical of Islam that “whosoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” but one thing the extremist right will not countenance is President Barack Obama citing a scripture or Jesus Christ’s words from “their” precious Caucasian bible.
Where the President held back in speaking “pure truth” was his reluctance to cite that “Christianist violence” was not just reserved to the Crusades and Inquisition, slavery, or Jim Crow. It has continued unabated and in nearly every instance it is just as violent as images and reports of ISIS atrocities. It is why Christians cannot possibly criticize the Muslim religion, or condemn all of its devotees, as violent monsters when their religion has been, and still is, responsible for unrivaled violence from the Old Testament to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and every era in between.
It may be a hard truth to handle, but it is a historically verifiable truth nonetheless and unfortunately for the faithful, Christianity’s violence has a scriptural basis permeating the Christian bible from start to finish. It is important to note that although Jesus preached to love your neighbor, he also instructed his followers to go and “make disciples” and that whoever rejected his message was doomed to a violent death by his own hands in A Revelation 19:11-16.
Besides the extreme violence under the direction of the god of the Old Testament, the Christian Crusades and Inquisitions, during the 20th Century alone, while Muslim violence claimed the lives of around 2 million people during the Iran-Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan, violence by Christians claimed the lives of close to 100 million people. These acts of religious violence include the “World Wars, the Holocaust, the colonial wars in Southeast Asia and Africa, and the sectarian warfare in the Balkans including ‘an explicit genocide‘ against Muslim Bosnians by Serbian Orthodox Christians.”
As Middle East historian Juan Cole notes, regardless the mass violence perpetrated by Christians may not have been directly in the name of Christianity, in “every conflict the combatants were overtly religious, and invoked their religion as part of their military campaigns.” This is particularly true of evangelical Christian George W. Bush’s 2003 “righteous crusade” in invading Iraq replete with “biblical verses engraved on weapons” that claimed the lives of over 655,000 innocent Iraqi civilians; nearly all devotees of Islam. Many of the Islamist warriors in ISIL are fighting to reclaim their homes and place in Iraq society after Christian Bush helped drive them out of their own country; not just because of religion. But as Cole points out, “they are organized around groups that share a common religious and cultural background;” not unlike America’s military forces that invaded, conquered, and killed hundreds-of-thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan under direct orders from their commander in chief; evangelical fundamentalist George W. Bush.
For many Americans, the idea of a National Prayer Breakfast is abominable, but for once President Obama made the most out of a bizarre event and put Americans in the religious right and conservative movement who portray all Muslims as violence-prone monsters in the proper perspective; they are rank hypocrites. Now, it is no more truth that all Christians are violent monsters because of their religion’s incredibly violent history than devotees of the Muslim faith are due to a terrorist criminal attack on America or ISIL militants reclaiming their homes, but it was refreshing to see President Obama, a Christian adherent, utter the truth to make a very prescient point at a multi-faith religious function.
Of course, one cannot possibly expect the evangelical or conservative extremists in this country to accept what they know to be true, because it is like that adage; “the truth hurts.” However, for some Americans being bombarded daily with Fox News and conservative lies that all Muslims are violent due to their religion, it is possible they will take the President’s truth to heart and acknowledge that in the same way all Christians are not violent monsters based on the faith’s precedent-setting historical violence, all followers of Islam are not members of ISIS or prone to violence. It was a truth Americans desperately needed to hear and one religious and conservative extremists can’t handle; especially because President Barack Obama had the courage to utter it in a highly religious public forum the nation’s faithful were paying attention to. From a secular humanist’s perspective, it was long overdue and a stroke of genius from a dying breed of American; a Christian humanist.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.