Conservatives continue to huff and puff about Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.
They’re fuming because he had the unmitigated gall to tell the truth and say that Islam is not the first world religion to resort to violence. Why is this most basic historical fact so controversial?
It seems that the crowing FOX News crowd demands an alternative depiction of Christianity, every bit as imaginary as a hero homily from NBC’s Brian Williams.
In this revisionist version, Jesus is miraculously born to a virgin and the world suddenly becomes a land of the loving, where all Christians act like Mother Theresa. For centuries the word of Jesus remains pure and no one perverts the religion to morph into Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph or Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The homegrown terrorism of these Christians is apparently a figment of our imagination.
They want to pretend that loving Christians don’t occasionally murder abortion providers. Or, that people like Pat Robertson, Michelle Bachmann, and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore never engage in bigoted, dishonest anti-gay campaigns.
We are supposed to pretend that the homicidal Crusades never happened. The Inquisition never occurred, or was merely an exception to the rule. The bloody 30-years war was an anomaly, rather than business as usual. There was no persecution of Galileo and active suppression of science and the Enlightenment.
We aren’t supposed ask the pertinent question: Had Christianity never been invented, might the human race have advanced centuries ahead of where we are today?
In the narrow minds of these conservatives, Christians never used their faith justify slavery or Jim Crow. There was never a time that denying women the right to vote was couched in conservative Christianity.
What pathological fantasy world of serial denial do these people live in?
Of course, Obama should never have spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event hosted by the secretive and dangerous fundamentalist Christian group known as “The Family.” However, during his speech, the president told the truth: There are some interpretations of holy books that are “inspiring people to lift up one another.” There are others that lead to “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.”
The dark, exclusionary, opportunistic strain of faith most often embraced by Republican politicians comes to mind. Perhaps this is why Obama’s speech touched a nerve.
Contrary to the lie being promulgated by conservatives, the president was extremely tough on radical Islam. He mentioned the “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.”
But Obama wisely placed the current violence in historical context. The President said:
“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…. So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”
One would think that this honest and accurate assessment of history would be non-controversial. Unfortunately, too many people of faith actually have no faith at all. They are so insecure about their beliefs that they want Christianity to be painted as beyond reproach. They prefer to wear rose-colored fetus glasses.
History is filled with fatalities justified in the name of religion. No faith is immune. It just so happens that at this moment in time the Wahhabi brand of Islam has its hand on the bloodstained wheel of atrocities.
Had Pat Roberson won his election in 1988 – what putrid direction might this nation have gone in? Had Pat Buchannan won the nomination in 1992 – how extreme might America be today?
The United States Supreme Court handed the presidency to a religious extremist with messianic tendencies in 2000. His name was George W. Bush. He thought Jesus was sending him on a grand mission, so America invaded Iraq. As a result 4,486 Americans are now dead. More than 133,000 Iraqi civilians have died. This adventurism unleashed chaos and created a vacuum filled by the newly formed ISIS.
My point is that religious extremism of all stripes is destructive. If radical Islam continues on its current trajectory, the Middle East will go up in flames. If America goes down the holy road of horrors by electing a leader such as Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, or Sen. Ted Cruz, how bleak will our future be?
Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast were brilliant and he should ignore his whiney critics. Just because we have hypersensitive, bellyaching, Republican Pollyanna’s, steeped in conservative correctness, doesn’t mean we should white wash our past.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”