The President gave talk radio a field day at yesterday’s prayer breakfast. Punditry had a go too, consider, Paul, John and Scott at Powerline. Everybody had good point – everybody. But it seems like everybody missed what I would call the “metapoint.” Most of the radio commentary focused on this passage from the speech:
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 Gandhiji, 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.
The historical ignorance, moral equivalence and “hipness” (“Gandhji,” really?!) are abysmal. But consider the theme of the remarks. He makes his thesis statement in the paragraph just following those much discussed remarks:
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.
That is an astonishing statement! Think about the utter lack of humility involved in telling religions – all religions – to be humble. He is in this paragraph telling every religion that they hold only some portion or some version of truth. Not only is that insulting to any religion listening, one of the purposes of religion being to act as keeper of truth, but it requires a nearly god-like self regard to presume to utter such a statement.
Again and again his remarks turn to the word “humility” and each time Obama demonstrates an utter lack of the characteristic in himself. Why would anyone want to be humble in the face of such immense and thoughtless hubris? This is the kind of talk that comes from the mouths of cult leaders, not genuine religious leaders.
But then a lack of humility has been the single greatest hallmark of the Obama administration. We could go on for hours. Even more stunning in a call to religious humility is his moral equivalence about religion itself – and specifically about the clash between religions that he so pietistically (well at least with regards to his own self- anointed wisdom) tries to address. Christianity, almost entirely, and Judaism to a large extent are religions that call people to humility. Judaism does not really call upon its adherents to proselytize. Jesus tells his followers, when he sends to to proselytize, that f a place does not hear what they have to offer, to wipe the dust from their feet and move on. Humble approaches, both. Islam on the other hand encourages proselytization at the point of a sword.
Mohammed was a conqueror – Jesus sacrificed his very life. When it comes to humility there is a marked difference in these religions. Obama cites historical flaws in Christian practice. Indeed, but aside from the fact that they are historical – they were self-correcting. It was Christians opposed to these errant Christian practices that brought them to an end. The humility that Christianity seeks to foster, meant that such in-humble practice had a limited lifetime within Christianity. Where is such self-correction is Islam? To draw a moral equivalence between the religions of the West and the Islam of the near-East is to be utterly ignorant of all religions involved.
And in this speech not only utterly ignorant, but proudly so.
Much has been made in the punditry of the complete vacuousness and posing of these remarks. Those things are true, but only because this may be the most powerless “4th quarter” president in American history. Everything he says is vacuous because in the real world, nothing he says actually matters. But had this man any actual power, these remarks would be dangerous. As a Christian I am insulted by his ignorance of my faith and irritated, perhaps even angered, by his proud preening and posing. If I were Islamic I would take both his ignorance and his stance as a challenge – a call not to less conflict but to more conflict. In his ignorance of all the faiths in question Obama incites conflict, not tamps it down.
The big question in my mind is does ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the rest understand how really powerless Obama is? If they do not, then they will in fact be incited. This is not a good thing.