by Avi Davis
The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual event held in Washington, D.C., hosted by the United States Congress on the first Thursday of February each year. The event is held in the Hilton’s International Ballroom with invitees from over 100 countries. It is designed to be a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and build relationships.
Every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 has participated in this annual event.
President Barack Obama was there on Thursday and addressed the gathered crowd. Among the many words spoken by him that morning, was this gem:
” 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.
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?
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. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified 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. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try. And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.
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.”
In case the comparison is lost on anybody, the President, in his expression of a piece of naked politically correct nonsense, was making a direct analogy between the depredations of 21st Century barbarians who decapitate and immolate their victims with 12th and 15th Century Christians who were engaged for their own defensive and political reasons in the protection of their realms.
One would have hoped that the President of the United States would have had a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of history. One would hope that he could express a little more faith in his own civilization, founded incontrovertibly on the principles of the Christian faith and seeded with Judeo- Christian humanistic values and ideals.
But before jumping in to address the President’s obtuse and dangerous moral relativism, lets get some important historical facts straight: The Crusades were largely defensive campaigns, sanctioned by the Pope to turn back the tide of Muslim aggression and imperialism. The Inquisition was largely political in motivation, an attempt to secure Christian Spain against the resurgence of the Islamic caliphate which had previously governed Spain for 300 years. And the campaign to destroy the institution of slavery was mostly led by devout Christians such as William Wilberforce in the U.K. and former President John Quincy Adams in the United States – and without their moral force, slavery would never have been abolished.
This is not to say that there were not attendant evils associated with all of these campaigns and institutions. But it is important to grasp the reasons they occurred – and not just their outward manifestations.
The President’s high school level appreciation of history might have been bad enough. But in addition he seemed to embrace the notion that there is no absolute truth to which we all can subscribe – that in fact, there are many varieties of truth which can compete against one another. This is of course a rephrasing of the same cant which appeared in the President’s Cairo speech in June, 2009 and in his embarrassing statement before the United Nations in September, 2012 in which he declared, among other things that ” the future does not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam.” It is all a piece with the President’s penchant for defending Islam and offering himself up as such an expert on that subject that he can confidently declare ISIS and the assorted other Jihadist factions rampaging across the Middle East and Africa as somehow opposed to the genuine tenets of that faith.
Of course as a Muslim apologist – and defender of their faith, he fails to reveal that the handiwork of Islamic State is vouchsafed by Muslim clerics from London to Sydney. And that sanction for the decapitation of infidels can be found deeply and consistently embedded throughout Islamic scripture.
The canard that Christians can be just as bad as Muslims however flings a shocking insult at the thousands of Christian communities which have been attacked and viciously put to the torch by jihadists who are conducting their campaigns in the name of Islam. Let the President be aware that there are no counter offensives from Christian communities against Muslims; there are no midnight burnings by Christian insurgents of mosques with their desperate congregations still trapped inside; no mass beheadings by Christians of Muslim townsfolk; no Muslim children buried alive by marauding Christian militia and no sudden assaults on innocent villagers who run the risk of evisceration if they fail to convert to the Christian faith.
The Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, was therefore correct in declaring that the Medieval Christian impulses to rampage and pillage are well under control. Perhaps it would be appropriate to also remind the President that Christianity has evolved somewhat since the Crusades and Inquisition – having passed through a reformation and intense periods of self reflection and contrition. Since at least the 19th Century, Christianity has overwhelmingly operated a civilizing influence on the societies wherever it has been introduced – earning its credentials as a true religion of peace.
Can the same be said for Islam?
The President of the United States, leading a Christian nation, something he unashamedly admitted himself in his same 2012 speech before the United Nations, needs to stop talking about extremism among all religions, and focusing on the depredations of one – Islam, which threatens the lives and welfare of peoples all over the world as no Christian Crusade, Spanish Inquisition or even the institution of slavery itself ever did.
The reality is that he is unlikely to ever consent to do this this since he has staked his presidency on the same moral relativism which equates America’s role in the world over the past sixty years with the Communists of the U.S.S.R. and the mass murderers of China. His entire foreign policy is actually driven by the notion that the United States has not entirely been a force for good in the world but has often perpetrated the same kind of evil as the regimes it opposed.
That kind of rhetoric may get him standing ovations at the United Nations and in the lecture halls of many of our America-despising universities, but it is no way to inspire and lead a country which has unquestionably, over the past 225 years, provided a guiding light for humanity, propagating values and ideals which have been uncompromisingly drawn from the well of the Judeo-Christian tradition.