Obama reminds Christians to love thy neighbor

By Arts & Culture Editor

In theory, every American has the right to speak his mind. That is, unless you are Barack Obama—a man whose identification as a Christian has been the subject of debate by the same folks who believed him to be a socialist, doubted his birth on American soil and now claim he is defending the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The president landed himself in hot water with many in the GOP and conservative pundits regarding his speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Feb 5.

Obama began the speech in his usual fashion, associating himself with a notable or well-respected figure—this time it was the Dalai Lama—followed by a couple witty remarks and quips, but when he finally said what he had come there to say, the room fell silent. Amid the numerous atrocities committed by ISIS, Obama had the gall to ask that our primarily Christian nation not be rash by jumping to conclusions and labeling all Muslims radicals, extremists or terrorists.

The president spoke of how religion has been responsible for many great deeds and works, but how some people warp their ideologies into justifications for carrying out acts of evil. 

“We see faith driving us to do right,” he said. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” 

Obama went on to list a few of the horrific acts carried out by ISIS, even referring to them as “unspeakable acts of barbarism.” However, he did not simply condemn this group for the acts of evil carried out in the name of religion. He importantly reminded Christians—a religion to which he subscribes—that their history is not blemish free. 

“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place,” Obama said. “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, too, was all justified in the name of Christ.” 

The president is right. The lowest estimate for the death toll of the Crusades is 1 million and the death toll of the Spanish Inquisition is estimated at 3,000, according to historian García Cárcel. More importantly, the president reminds us that acts of intolerance and inhumane practices by Christians are not limited to events that occurred hundreds of years ago. Americans know the horrors of slavery all too well, but it is important to note that remnants of Jim Crow were alive and well up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The president did forget to mention that the Ku Klux Klan, America’s oldest terrorist group, is a Protestant-based organization, though.

Many of Obama’s right-wing adversaries immediately jumped on him after the breakfast with claims that he was defending ISIS, that he should finally admit to his alleged atheism and that he cares more about the Muslims of the world than he does about the Christians in America. 

Let us remember that the loudest voices attacking the president are well-documented haters of Obama, such as conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh. He argued the relevancy as Jim Crow laws no longer exist while ISIS is all too real. Limbaugh also revealed how out of touch he is with anyone who does not fit into his predominately right-wing, middle-class camp by going on to say, “Jim Crow’s not around today. A thousand years ago, yeah, but not today.”

Limbaugh needs to get himself a history book because Jim Crow was with us well into the 20th Century. A thousand years ago, his fellow Christians were carrying out the Crusades.

Others, like Republican 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, have confused Obama’s supposed inaction against ISIS with his defending its actions, which seems like a runoff of all the speculation surrounding Obama’s religious beliefs in his early presidential days. 

On Fox’s “Fox and Friends,” Huckabee said, “Everything [Obama] does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.”

It is as if these proud Christians have forgotten the most important tenants of their own religion when vilifying the president for expressing the tolerance he demonstrated throughout his term of office.

Mark 12:31 in the Bible reads, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these,” and Matthew 5:39 reads, “I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” 

By disregarding these principles, the “Christians” who spoke out against the humanity and solidarity the president was trying to preach went against their own religious teachings.