Now some in the religious community along with some of the conservative opinionates are telling me that if I am a Christian that I should be outraged at Barack Obama.
As Franklin Graham has on his Facebook page with more than 63,000 likes and just under 28,000 shares as I type my feelings:
“Today at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President implied that what ISIS is doing is equivalent to what happened over 1000 years ago during the Crusades and the Inquisition. Mr. President–Many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish evil things for their own desires. But Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness. He came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Mohammad on the contrary was a warrior and killed many innocent people. True followers of Christ emulate Christ—true followers of Mohammed emulate Mohammed.”
The Tea Party News Network writes: IT’S ON: Obama Throws Christ and Christians Under the Bus to Prop up Islam at Nat’l Prayer Breakfast
Western Journalism in Watch How Obama Just Compared Christianity With Islam…At National Prayer Breakfast has video of the “relevant remarks.”
Well I am outraged. I’m outraged because I did get thrown under the bus, but it wasn’t by Barack Obama.
The President’s speech this morning was approximately 2800 words in length.
Here is the section that has certain Christians and media outlets in a hissy fit:
“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. “
As a history professor, I think the statement is overly simplistic but more or less correct. Now if you want to challenge the Crusades with the Muslim activities before, during, and after, you won’t find disagreement from me. That’s one reason why I described it as overly simplistic. The period and events, however, of the Crusades are not one of my research or primary teaching areas, so I’d recommend finding another prof for reading material.
Now slavery and Jim Crow are within my teaching and research areas, and again the assertion is overly simplistic but more or less correct. It doesn’t mean that all Christians in the US agreed with the “peculiar institution” or the separate codes of conduct. Both the Baptists and Methodists split over the issue of slavery during the time-period of the Civil War. People justified Jim Crow in more manner than Carter has liver pills to use that Southern expression.
It’s not the historical aspects that have me outraged, but that people like Franklin Graham and these “news” outlets ignore the majority of the speech. For example, the President remarked:
“And, first, we should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.
Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments. And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process. And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty. No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.
And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends. And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.
Did he encourage terrorism or ISIL?
Well he also stated:
“But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.
So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?”
As a Christian, the question before me appears to be that I can demand that God accept my opinions of truth because I’m special, and I’m right. I may be misinterpreting, but that’s what I’m getting from Graham and these Christian sources.
On the other hand, I can try to conduct myself according to God’s will, admit that I ain’t perfect or even have answers for a number of things, will continue to make mistakes, but should treat others as faithfully and as fairly as I would hope to be treated. It is not my place to judge. It is not my right to oppress just because someone is weaker or lesser in number.
As the President concluded:
“Each of us has a role in fulfilling our common, greater purpose — not merely to seek high position, but to plumb greater depths so that we may find the strength to love more fully. And this is perhaps our greatest challenge — to see our own reflection in each other; to be our brother’s keepers and sister’s keepers, and to keep faith with one another. As children of God, let’s make that our work, together.
As children of God, let’s work to end injustice — injustice of poverty and hunger. No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty. As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.” None of us are home until all of us are home.
As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.”
If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose. We can never fully fathom His amazing grace. “We see through a glass, darkly” — grappling with the expanse of His awesome love. But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required: To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
I pray that we will. And as we journey together on this “march of living hope,” I pray that, in His name, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint, and we’ll heed those words and “put on love.”
If that is being thrown under the bus, please throw me as quickly as possible.