Here’s something I posted on my FB page today in reaction to the knee-jerk, reactionary responses from Fox News and others who lifted a few words from President Obama’s very good, theologically sound speech at The National Prayer Breakfast:
The National Prayer Breakfast and National Day of Prayer aren’t about prayer; they’re about partisan, political grandstanding in Washington D.C., the most sinful city outside of Las Vegas and New Orleans.
Look, I’m by no means an apologist for Barack Obama, but come on–where is George W. Bush, the great friend of Islam, when you need him?
I mean, I’m sorry, but I can’t see that the President, as Eric Bolling of Fox News put it, practically “blamed Christians for the religious fanatics who are burning men alive. Burying children alive and crucifying young boys.”
Hearing or reading the remarks in context, Obama was underscoring his main point, that “there is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”
That’s the point that Bolling and other critics of Obama’s remarks conveniently omit in their rush to blast away and diss the President that they seemingly hate so much in their self-proclaimed Christian hearts.
I happen to share the president’s belief that “sinful tendencies” can pervert and distort faith and faith traditions and God knows and history shows that sinful tendencies have found Christianity and every faith tradition falling tragically short of God’s will for peace and justice. We should never forget the hard lessons of history and especially Christian history in the world and in America.
How can any Christian like Eric Bolling argue with that–again, if the remarks are read in context rather than distorted to make political points?
And, again, if you read the remarks in full context, he was making the same point that George W. Bush–who consorted a lot more with Muslim leaders in the White House and even in mosques than any President probably ever will, and was mostly given a pass for it by conservatives, made repeatedly: that America is not at war with Islam. It is fighting individuals who use distorted versions of faith as a weapon.
Is it too much to ask that we pray for grace and peace among Christians, especially in Washington? Would God hear such a prayer as that?
Here’s the fuller context of “controversial” remark lifted from the lengthy speech to hammer the President with, which the critics ought to read in its entirety for all the good stuff it contains:
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 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 what about some of the other parts that the critics ignore?
“And certainly for me, this is always a chance to reflect on my own faith journey. Many times as President, I’ve been reminded of a line of prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt was fond of. She said, “Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.” Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength. I’ve wondered at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little too literally. But no matter the challenge, He has been there for all of us. He’s certainly strengthened me “with the power through his Spirit,” as I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.”
* * * *
Why do the critics ignore this solid condemnation of ISIS and other terrorist groups:
“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.”
Maybe it’s too much to ask for political and faith leaders to come together in Sin City, D.C. without zeroing in for a political kill.