President Obama personally added a reference to the Crusades in his speech this week at the National Prayer Breakfast, aides said, hoping to add context and nuance to his condemnation of Islamic terrorists by noting that people also “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”…
The president wanted to be provocative in his remarks, they said, urging people to see how the current brutality of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, fits in the broader sweep of a global history that has often given rise to what he called “a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”…
Still, White House officials said the president did not expect to start a full-throated, daylong debate about the Crusades. And they expressed surprise that a single sentence in the speech had generated such an outcry.
“What he wanted to do is take on perversions of religions that are out there,” a senior White House adviser said, requesting anonymity to discuss the president’s speechwriting process. “He wanted to make the point that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen faith perverted and it won’t be the last.”
The White House on Friday defended President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast after he was widely lambasted by conservatives for bringing up acts done in Christianity’s name amid a discussion of modern-day terrorist threats.
Americans should hold themselves “up to our own values and our own standards,” deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said aboard the president’s flight to Indianapolis, where Obama is speaking at a community college, according to the pool report.
Obama believes that “when we fall short of that, we need to be honest with ourselves,” Schultz said, noting Obama’s “belief in American exceptionalism.”
“The president believes that America is the greatest country on earth, not only because of our military or economic prowess or because we serve in a unique leadership role amongst the international community,” he added.
Obama’s remarks spoke to his unsparing, sometimes controversial, view of the United States — where triumphalism is often overshadowed by a harsh assessment of where Americans must try harder to live up to their own self-image. Only by admitting these shortcomings, he has argued, can we fix problems and move beyond them…
For the president, the prayer breakfast represented a role he has played before: explaining to Americans why others might see things differently. Joshua DuBois, who headed the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under Obama and has served as an informal spiritual adviser, said the president is conscious of the fact that Islam is an abstraction for much of the general public.
“The president, as a Christian, knows many American Muslims,” DuBois said. “Unfortunately, a lot of folks in our country don’t have close relationships with Muslims. The only time they’re hearing about Islam is in the context of the foreign policy crisis or what’s happening with ISIS.”
In the context of Obama’s long-standing remarks on Islam and terrorism, though, invoking the Crusades and the Inquisition are wholly unsurprising. What is more surprising is that he hasn’t done this sooner…
[H]is comments on the Crusades and the Inquisition represent the latest ratcheting up in his quest to change how people talk about terrorism. He views Islamist terrorists as exploiting their religion; his opponents believe there is something about Islam that creates fanatics who are willing to carry out terrorist attacks…
This could be part of the reason Obama is upping the rhetoric. Words matter, and the way this issue is framed is going to go a long way toward determining how the “war on terror” will be waged. Moreover, the rise of the Islamic State — along with the lesser-publicized Boko Haram — has ramped up the debate over terrorism and its roots to the highest point since perhaps after Sept. 11, 2001. This is a key moment in defining the terms of the debate. Both Republicans and Obama recognize that.
“I don’t think the president knows very much about the crusades,” Thomas Madden, a historian at the University of St. Louis, told ABC News.
“He seems to be casting them as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS,” Madden said. “The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that been conquered, due to Muslim conquests.”…
Asbridge said he doesn’t have a problem with the president reminding the world that the Christian Church “advocated violence, and at times even encouraged its adherents to engage in warfare” but to suggest a causal link between ISIS and the distant medieval phenomenon of the Crusades is “grounded in the manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence.”
[Democrat] Tulsi Gabbard appeared on Fox and Friends Friday, repeating her assertion that the Obama administration has made a mistake by not confronting Islamic extremism in an appropriate fashion.
Gabbard, a military veteran who represents Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, told the program’s host that it’s “a basic principle” to understand the enemy…
Later, Gabbard was asked for her reaction to the president’s speech to the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday — specifically, when he said that Christians have their own dark history regarding religion and war.
“It’s not relevant,” she said, adding, “What happened in the past happened in the past.”
Bobby Jindal on Friday released a statement responding to the president’s remarks on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in which he cautioned Americans from getting on a “high horse” when taking a stance against radical Islam because people have committed “terrible deeds” in the name of Christianity, too.
“It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast,” Jindal said. “Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.”
Our news is increasingly made up of one outrageous act of barbarism committed in the name of Allah after another…
Against this backdrop of horror, our President feels the need to step back and take the long view. Instead of talking about Islam’s connection to the slavery of young girls right now, the President wants to lecture us on Christianity’s connection to slavery 150 years ago. Instead of condemning ISIS’ undeniable connection to Muhammad right now, he wants to re-focus our attention on the Crusaders and the Inquisition. Instead of condemning the Charlie Hebdo attackers Islamic extremism in a clear voice he wants to also condemn those who insult the faith of others (as if these two things were equally problematic).
This is not a much needed exercise in humility. This is a dodge, a cop out.
The ongoing threat to peace and human dignity from religion is not coming from Christianity, nor does it stem from Christian arrogance. The Christians being slaughtered in Nigeria, in Syria and Iraq, and in Egypt do not need a lecture on humility. The President ought to drop the moral equivalence and confront the threat we face in the here and now. And if he feels the need to lecture on religious humility, there is one religion that desperately needs to grasp the concept, right now in this century. In case it’s not already clear, that religion is not Christianity.
All religions are violent, and all religions are peaceful. If we take those statements as categorical—and the president has formulated the latter one even more categorically than he did yesterday—they are contradictory. They’re easy enough to reconcile by acknowledging that their truth is contingent on circumstance, that every religion is both violent and peaceful at different times and places and to varying degrees. But that is a trivial truth.
Obama’s comments about India have been poorly received there, as the Hindu reports. American Christians have also raised objections to his assertions about their faith (which he also claims as his own). For one, slavery and Jim Crow seem out of place. Suffice it to say that John Brown, an abolitionist who employed terrorist tactics, and Martin Luther King Jr., a civil-rights leader who abjured violence, would both surely be puzzled to hear a black American president describe slavery and segregation as Christian institutions.
Christianity, even in its most terrible days, even under the most corrupt popes, even during the most unjustifiable wars, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.
Christianity ended greater barbarisms under pagan Rome. The church often fell short of its ideals — which all human things do — but its ideals were indisputably a great advance for humanity. Similarly, while some rationalized slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. by invoking Christianity, it was ultimately the ideals of Christianity itself that dealt the fatal blow to those institutions. Just read any biography of Martin Luther King Jr. if you don’t believe me.
When Obama alludes to the evils of medieval Christianity, he fails to acknowledge the key word: “medieval.” What made medieval Christianity backward wasn’t Christianity but medievalism.
It is perverse that Obama feels compelled to lecture the West about not getting too judgmental on our “high horse” over radical Islam’s medieval barbarism in 2015 because of Christianity’s medieval barbarism in 1215.
Also, as a minor point of order, the exact words used by Obama are monumentally stupid: “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.” The Crusades and Inquisition did go down in “some other place.” It’s not even reasonable to tie them to the 18th-century governments of Europe, but if you’re minded to do so, the country that elected Obama President was founded in revolution against those European states…
What sheer, blind foolishness. What dangerous idiocy. It’s terrifying to think our national defense is headed up by someone so willfully blind and shallow, someone whose opinion of his own nation and its history is so bleak and slanted. He really can’t see anything beyond the unyielding borders of his ideology. I hope the Islamic reformation ends well for them, and everyone else, but until that great struggle is complete, we have plenty of mournful examples of what nations governed by sharia law look like. We saw what nations founded on the principles of amoral, atheist materialism looked like in the first half of the Twentieth Century, and the good men of the world were obliged to burn them all to the ground. And we know what a nation founded upon Judeo-Christian principles looks like. Well, most of us do.
Resolved: The future must not belong to those who would slander Christianity by endlessly harping on the Crusades.
See, what Barack Obama and much of Washington’s elite think is that Islam is roughly 600 years behind Christianity. Christians were still running Crusades in the 1400’s, six hundred years ago. The Spanish Inquisition was just about to get underway 600 years ago. But over 600 years, Christianity took a moderating tone. Heck, Christians were burning people at the stake back then too.
So, in 600 years, Islam will be debating gay marriage and have its own Rachel Held Evans and Episcopalians to deal with. They just need to grow up.
That is a view I see more and more from liberals. It is a condescending view of Islam, that somehow it is just primitive and, given time will grow up. But that view is more widely held than most people realize. It is why so many elites want to take a hands off approach — in the same way they don’t want people contacting jungle tribes of the Amazon any more than necessary. Those groups will eventually evolve.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not have six hundred years to wait and, despite this view among intellectuals, it has no basis in reality. But even the President seems to hold that view.
Ah yes, the Crusades; the ne plus ultra of root causes. Whenever a terror attack is perpetrated by Al Qaeda, Boko Haram or ISIS, a flock of secularists will mutter, “to be fair, Sir Godfrey of Bouillon got a little chippy with the Antiochians in 1097.”
We’ve all heard radicals like Jeremiah Wright excuse Islamist violence as “chickens coming home to roost,” but even President Clinton named the Crusades as the root cause of the West’s conflict with Muslims…
The funny thing about root causes is that they always stop precisely when the West can be blamed. Israeli independence is considered a root cause, but not the Arab attacks on Jews that helped motivate that independence. The Crusades are the root cause, not the capture of Christian Jerusalem by the Caliph Umar. If you follow any historical path back far enough, you can always pin the blame on the out group. So why do Western leftists always stop at the incident where they can blame their own culture?
Ultimately every root cause winds up at Adam and Eve, so maybe Obama can focus on them at next year’s prayer breakfast.