Like you, I’ve heard what the President said at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. But did you hear what he didn’t say?
Yes, speaking about the barbaric hideous murderous violence that man perpetrates against man, the President said:
“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.”
Was this a jab at Christians? Maybe, but maybe not. The President did not say that “Christians” had committed terrible deeds nor justified slavery. He said that terrible deeds and slavery had been justified “in the name of Christ.” The President’s words are carefully chosen and his speeches carefully crafted and he would not have delivered those barbs without forethought.
So, parsing out what he said from what he didn’t say–what’s the difference?
The President consistently rejects that terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko-Haram are Muslim. He continually seeks to segregate them from what he perceives to be the majority Muslim faith. If you understand that, you can easily connect the dots to what he was trying to communicate at the Prayer Breakfast.
Were the Crusades and the Inquisition “Christian” or were they “done in the name of Christ” while perverting the Way of Christ?
Are ISIS and Boko-Haram “Muslim” or are they doing what they are doing “in the name of Allah” while perverting the way of Islam?
Serious debate surrounds the answer to that question but you can see the parallel that the President was seeking to draw. Maybe he could have said it better, but let us not say that he said something he didn’t say. Remember, words matter.
Now, to read an excellent assessment of why the President should not have said what he chose to say, read this from Kevin McCullough.
Great analysis, Carmen. The President is trying to separate extremists from the mainstream, and naming bad things done in the name of any religion. It has the potential to build needed bridges, but some people prefer to maintain a big divide. Maybe Russell Moore of the SBC would also do well to remember the history of his denomination from its founding well into the 20th century.
Carmen, thank you for these comments. I was at this years National Prayer Breakfast. I have read several strong critiques of the President’s speech by Christians but these critiques seem so out of line with the spirit on the NPB. It is OK to disagree but some comments have a sharp edge. Your comments are the best I have read – thank you. The NPB is actually a week of events. During the week my wife an I became friends with a Muslim man from Lebanon. As new friends we can share with him the Jesus we know and love. This is the spirit of the NPB.
I appreciate the effort to give President Obama some benefit of the doubt and look for a silver lining, but there is no excusing his ignorance of history and hardly disguised attempt at serving up a helping of baseless moral equivalency. I wish I could conclude otherwise, but given Mr. Obama’s track record on religious matters and foreign policy, I cannot.