On Feb. 5, U.S. President, Barack Obama, spoke at the national prayer breakfast and made a comparison that has had both the historically ignorant and right wing conservatives up in arms.
The national prayer breakfast has been held every February in Washington D.C. since 1953. The breakfast is hosted each year by a political and religious group, called “The Fellowship”.
“The Fellowship” obviously invites conspiracy theorists to look through their backlog of hidden dealings and shadowed daggers in private corridors, but the national prayer breakfast is the only annual public event by the secretive group.
So what comments did Obama actually make to inspire such insipid debate and critical backlash?
“Unless 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,” said Obama. “And in our home country, slavery, and Jim Crow, all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
Within the tempest of ISIS sensationalism and “terror coverage” by the media and the government, these equalizing comments compared the private and political actions, resulting from branches of Christianity and Islam.
While I’m sure any of you who have taken a first-year History credit, or even those of you who have taken a brief gander through a textbook or a Wikipedia, can vouch for these seemingly simplistic and correct comments.
The Crusades were characterized by barbaric violence on a large political scale, which was sanctioned by the Latin Catholic Church. This violent conquest and expansion of the European Christian frontier was almost a “first taste of colonialism” achieved through battles and centuries of violence as the European armies delved deeper into the Middle East, with their eyes on Jerusalem.
Were these comments inflammatory? Yes. Were they incorrect, unjustified or wrong? No. You can almost only justify his reasoning for his comments as “trolling” the attendees.
As a result of the comments, Fox News may actually not need another story all year. The right-wing hosts and panellists immediately began criticizing the President’s speech. One Fox headline states, “Why Obama smeared Christians at a prayer event.”
Well at least they’re not trying to make Obama appear to be a Muslim again… right?
Fox News and Commentary host, Todd Starnes writes, “I was puzzled by something else President Obama said: ‘We are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends’. What did he mean by “our religion”? Whose religion? And why did he compare the Crusades to ISIS?”
One of the only facts that Fox News did get right was that the Crusades, indeed, happened over 700 years ago. Yet it seems as if the actions of those individuals, even seven centuries later, can’t be criticized.
For those who believe that Obama’s comment was a justification of ISIS’ truly violent and gruesome actions, he was simply creating a standard by which to judge the actions of religious extremism. Whether America is founded on the principles of Christianity or not, Obama has now established a precedent that no religion, whether in the majority or the minority should be used to justify heinous acts of violence.
It was not a “smear” to Christians because simply, Christians didn’t do it. The Crusaders did it. Similarly, describing the acts of Islamic extremism and the barbaric violence isn’t smearing Muslims, because they are not responsible. Obama attempted to describe how any religion can be twisted, but in these words, we see a noble, greater push for religious tolerance that needs to be further established within our political discourse.