09 February 2015

ISIS burns a Jordanian Air Force pilot to death - but let's not judge them because people who are not us were mean hundreds of years ago

See, this is exactly why people need to understand history, to call bullshit when and where necessary.

President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday:
As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another -- to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife.  We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done.  We see faith driving us to do right.

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.  We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism  -- terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see 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, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

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.  Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

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. 
I literally cannot believe my ears, that an allegedly Christian American president stands before a Christian group at a prayer breakfast and instead of attacking the despicable actions of ISIS, he defends them by invoking comparisons to the Crusades and slavery. This is both sloppy and disingenuous, not to mention historically inaccurate and morally indefensible. Is it really necessary to pick this apart? Apparently so. On we go.

The Crusades were a series of wars of retaliation, not aggression, waged by Christians to retake territory conquered by Islamic forces over centuries across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, essentially since the rise of Mohammed. Islam was certainly no "religion of peace" then, it was all about warfare and conquest. Christians fought back and retook some, but not all, of this territory; most of it remained under Muslim control until the Battle of Vienna in 1683. So why is this viewed by so many people today as some sort of unjust war, a killing spree in the name of religion? This is an anti-Christian lie dressed up as history.

The Crusades were also 700-800 years ago -- bringing up a war fought in retaliation to Muslim aggression, in comparison to the acts of today by radical Islamists, is a sure sign that you've got no compelling argument whatsoever. It's counter-productive historical cherry-picking. It's well beneath the office of President to offer this kind of weak tea and expect people to believe a word of it, much less to accept it as morally equivalent to burning a man alive and filming it.

What about slavery and Crow laws? Well, slavery was abolished first in Great Britain, driven by a Christian named William Wilberforce, who served an enormous role in world history in re-shaping attitudes about human rights and what was permissible in Western culture. In the U.S., the abolitionist movement was largely driven by Christians as well. We should also note the courage and leadership of President Lincoln, a Christian who regularly referenced religion as a force for good in his calls to moral authority in his legendary speeches and writings. Wilberforce was a personal hero of Lincoln's. Meanwhile, the Jim Crow era was the legacy of a racist Southern Democrat power structure, codified by a racist Supreme Court decision, Plessy vs. Ferguson, that endowed the "separate but equal" concept with the force of settled law, until overturned by Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. None of this was the legacy of any Christian doctrine. I'm not quite sure what his point was there, except to throw in a gratuitous anti-Christian slam for fun.

Christianity measures itself against an impossible standard - Jesus Christ himself. So the criticism that it is imperfect is spot on. So what? Lots of things are imperfect ... just about everything, in fact. This is not a true criticism, when you really stop and think about it for a few minutes. And on the list of questions about how to live in today's world, and the choices we make every day, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, slavery, and Jim Crow laws do not appear anywhere, because they are all pretty much irrelevant. Old news, all of it. Everybody with an ounce of common sense knows that. And to the very limited extent that these things do matter in today's world, at some point we have to move on and stop obsessing over things that we didn't do, and that we can't undo. It's a giant waste of everybody's time, to be perfectly frank.

Why would the president, who is ostensibly a Christian, engage in such silly, easily debunked anti-Christian rhetoric? His words, and more importantly his actions, give the uncomfortable but unavoidable impression that he is an unrelenting apologist for radical Islam. This would have been very good to know in 2008.

If burning a man to death and filming it for the world to see is not enough to make him admit that the world has a radical Islam problem, when even Muslim Arabs in Jordan and elsewhere can see it, then nothing ever will. And that indicates, to me, that he is actively working the other side -- with radical Islam -- against America and the rest of the civilized world.