Nel's New Day

February 8, 2015

President Obama Calls for Humility, Gets Slammed

The National Prayer Breakfast, organized by the far-right congressional religious group called the Fellowship Foundation usually passes by with little notice from mainstream media. When prominent evangelical members from “The Family” supporting this annual event connected with people who pushed the Ugandan “kill the gays” bill to criminalize homosexuality, mainstream media said almost nothing. This year, however, legislators and media figures across the country are atwitter after President Obama tried to explain that violence in the name of religion is a global problem across all religions.

Syria’s war, Nigeria’s killings, Europe’s resurgence of anti-Semitism, India’s violence were some of the issues that he brought up. Where Christians in the United States objected, however, was his comparison of the Muslims’ attacks to “terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” including the Crusades. He explained, “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Jonah Goldberg’s attack on the president in the National Review was inelegantly entitled “Horse Pucky from Obama.” According to Goldberg, the Crusades were justified because of Muslim aggression: it was a “defensive war.” In reality, the Roman Catholic Church paid people from Europe to try to take over Jerusalem—900 years before the United States paid people to take over the Middle East for its own selfish gain. To Goldberg, the Inquisition was a way to stop lynchings. He missed the point that anyone who didn’t declare themselves part of mainstream Christianity, usually after extreme torture, were killed—frequently burned.

In the past, the U.S. has used Christianity as an excuse for colonizing, slavery, discrimination, and cultural destruction. African slaves in the United States were murdered, lynched, burned, and beheaded, and the practice went on for a large part of a century after their emancipation. In the present, the name of Christ is still being used to torment, torture, and kill people in the United States and around the world.

A bizarre part of the argument is that only the Crusades have been referenced, perhaps because the current Christian bigotry in the U.S. is too uncomfortable to discuss. On Meet the Press, conservative Jon Meacham stated that the Crusades was an exception to the rule, as if Christians have not used religion to persecute others outside the eleventh century. Sometimes liberal, but less so as time passes, Andrea Mitchell said that the prayer breakfast was not a place to bring up the issue. To her, “the word Crusade” is “too fraught.” Because “you have to deal with issues that are in front of you,” mentioning anything else is too “nuanced.”

Even more bizarre, however, was David Brooks’ defense of Obama on the same program.

“I am pro Obama. I am totally pro Obama on this. I think he said the right thing. It was a gospel of humility. What sorts of people need a little gospel of humility? People in Washington, pundits, religious believers, — I happen to be all three of those things — and so we are told to walk humbly in the path, that the Lord’s paths are mysterious. And so he was saying we are prone to zealotry. As Jon said we are fallen. So to underline that, that’s useful in Washington today. That’s useful always.”

Earlier this week, the Fox network used the president’s religious speech to attack him by claiming that President Obama is attacking Christianity. According to Eric Bolling, only Muslims kill people in the name of religion:

“Reports say radical Muslim jihadists killed thousands of people in the past few months alone. And yet when you take Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever, their combined killings in the name of religion––well, that would be zero.”

If al-Quaeda had sent death threats to a Christian doctor and then killed him, far-right Christians would be outraged. Yet Dr. George Tiller was killed in his church by anti-abortionist terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009 after decades of threats and an earlier shooting. Far-right Christians cheered at their victory.

Middle East historian Juan Cole determined that Muslims had killed about 2 million people in the 20th century. His 2013 study revealed that during the same time Christians killed almost 100 million people in the name of Christ. Adolf Hitler’s killings were done in the name of Christianity as were the colonial wars in Southeast Asia and Africa. Although some claim that this violence was not Christian-based, combatants used their religion as part of the military campaigns just as today’s Islamist militants organize around groups sharing a common religious and cultural background.

The 1990 sectarian warfare in the Balkans culminated in genocide against Muslim Bosnians by Serbian Orthodox Christians. Balkans researcher Keith Doubt explained in a 2007 paper that the “role of the Church as protector of the Serbian nation gave the Church increasing social control, and with this power clergy fermented a xenophobic and bigoted attitude towards Muslims in former-Yugoslavia.” The Church dispatched Orthodox chaplains to bless “Serbian forces, such as the elite Panthers commando unit, which has been accused of committing numerous atrocities, before they set off on operations.” The Church would offer “Serb warriors communion without requiring confession,” giving them absolution for the crimes they were committing to create a “Greater Serbia.”

During Rwanda’s genocide, “Churches became sites of slaughter, carried out even at the altar.” Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka wore a gun and colluded with a Hutu militia who massacred hundreds of people seeking shelter in his church. After the genocide, Catholic clergy helped church ministers who were guilty of murder flee the country and re-settle elsewhere.

A Christian militia in the Central African Republic beheaded a young Muslim man, the same thing that ISIL is doing to groups determined to be the enemy. Christian-led Mexican cartels had beheaded and killed journalists in other ways. The cartel organizations have deep financial links to Mexican churches.

After the Fox network had its worst ratings last year in 13 years, it changed a policy of not airing violent propaganda videos from terrorists. It is the only U.S. news organization to air the entire video of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaebeth who was burned in his cage. Fox anchor Bret Baier claimed that the reason was to show “the reality of Islamic terrorism.” Even Fox’s national security reporter, Catherine Herridge, admitted that the video is a recruiting tool for ISIL. Malcolm Nance, an expert on counter-terrorism and radical extremism, said, “[Fox News] are literally – literally – working for al-Qaida and ISIS’ media arm.” Before President Obama was elected, Fox frequently criticized other media outlets for airing “terrorist propaganda” because it would threaten national security and U.S. troops. They were right then; they’re wrong now. Nance said, “The whole value of terror is using the media to spread terror.”

Less than 100 years ago, the Ku Klux Klan lynched and burned a young black man, 18-year-old Jesse Washington. Afterward the body was torn into parts that were sold for souvenirs. A photograph shows white farmers, shopkeepers, and laborers from local churches in and near Waco (TX) standing behind the body. The crowd may have been as large as 15,000. A witness who sent home the photo on a postcard wrote, “This is the barbeque we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Joe.” Between 1882 and 1968 were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the U.S., one-fourth of them white people who sympathized with blacks. No one knows how many recorded lynchings happened.

Kid-Setting-Barack-Obama-on-Fire-84399-e1423171421131Some of the people enraged by the president’s statement that religious people can use their beliefs in a “twisted” manner may be the same people who pass along this photo of the President of the United States. Or this lynching on the lawn of Terry Jones’ church. He is the Florida pastor who burned the Quran.

obama lynch

In his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama decried ISIL’s actions and celebrated U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae’s release from North Korea. He talked about faith as a force for good, giving as an example Kent Brantly, the doctor who lived after contracting Ebola in Liberia and donated plasma to fight the virus. He praised former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip as an example of people who speak freely about the role of faith in their lives. Referring to his personal faith,  President Obama said he has sought God’s guidance “not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.” The mainstream media, however, is only concerned about his talking about the Crusades. Maybe it was because he concentrated on humility.

1 Comment »

  1. Excellent post! Humility hurts no one and allows space for ideas and growth. The Crusades are the easiest of the Christian damage to face up to, because they happened so long ago (“not my fault”, “it was a barbaric time”). How about the many ways natives in all the Americas have been injured and killed in the name of Christ? How about how gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people have been hurt and killed in the name of Christ? How about “Christian” business owners who exploit the poor around the world for profit and give this blood money to Christian extremist causes? How about “Christians” who exploit the environment for profit because the book Genesis has been incorrectly translated as “have dominion over?” Jesus Christ himself demanded that His followers live humbly on this earth, but we have been doing a crappy job of it for 2000 years. Thanks for letting me rant. Jenny

    Like

    Comment by Jenny Baltes — February 11, 2015 @ 11:22 PM | Reply


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