Obama accuses Christians
President takes shot at Christianity, equating it to radical religious violence
Last Thursday, Feb. 5, President Barack Obama attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast. As many remember, this event has brought the President much grief over the past few years. A year ago in February, Dr. Ben Carson, a possible Republican candidate for President in 2016, persuasively dissected many of Obama’s policies during his address at the prayer breakfast.
This year, the President brought much of the criticism on himself for his comments on ISIS and Christianity.
Despite assurances from the Obama administration that Al-Qaeda has been completely decimated, the strength of terrorist movements based on a Medieval interpretation of Islam has been clearly on display, whether it is the shootings at Charlie Hebdo or the attacks in Australia.
Just days before the president took the stage at the prayer breakfast, ISIS burned alive a Jordanian pilot. This presented an opportunity to deliver a strong foreign policy speech that could rally the world to action, much like George W. Bush’s remarks on the embers of the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
However, this speech seemed to attack quite a different group than the one doing the killing.
The president began by criticizing ISIS, referring to them as a “death cult,” stating “we are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends.” Yet, the speech quickly turned in a different direction when the president shifted his attention to a very different belief system.
“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,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
The most glaring failure is the president’s disastrous attempt at moral equivalence. Every college student who has taken an entry-level history course has learned that you cannot simply take a prominent event from the past and equate it with one happening in the present.
Historical events do not take place in a vacuum, but they have long and extensive contexts that surround them.
Obama fell into the trap that so many before him have. He oversimplified a complex incident in the hope of making the point he wanted. Ross Douthat, in his article in the New York Times, writes “to be persuasive, a reckoning with history’s complexities has to actually reckon with them.”
Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, recently wrote an article challenging the conventional view of the crusades that drives Obama’s comparison. He summarizes the problem of making this moral equivalence beautifully.
“The point of this article is not to make us fans of the Crusades, but to make us more careful in our denunciation of them,” DeYoung wrote. “We fight for nation-states and democracy. They fought for religion and holy lands. Their reasons for war seem wrong to us, but no more than our reasons would seem wrong to them.”
The worst failure of the president’s speech was the missed opportunity. The president was speaking just days after a horrific act that shocked people across the globe. The world was ready to be called to action, to finally take the strong steps necessary to eliminate ISIS.
But instead, our president told the world that no one should cast the first stone. That is hardly the inspiring moral call to action the nations of the world needed to hear. This is another in a long line of foreign policy blunders, including the lack of attendance at the Charlie Hebdo march. Lincoln, Churchill, Thatcher and Reagan saw moments where bold leadership was needed and acted on them. Obama has wasted his moment.
SUTHERLAND is an opinion writer.