Reader's view: Obama condemns brutality
The president's prayer breakfast Feb. 5 was mild enough. U.S. News reported: "In a pretty run-of-the-mill speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Barack Obama reminded Americans that Christians have killed and justified ter...
The president’s prayer breakfast Feb. 5 was mild enough. U.S. News reported: “In a pretty run-of-the-mill speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Barack Obama reminded Americans that Christians have killed and justified terrible acts using their religion for centuries, too. His message was one of tolerance between faiths.”
This didn’t stop conservative commentators from getting really upset. Conservatives attacked Obama for comparing Islamic extremism to the Crusades. Rush Limbaugh weighed in: “The problem today is not Christianity. The problem today is that people are being killed, captured, conquered to advance and impose Sharia law. The Christians are doing no such thing, and haven’t I don’t know if ever, on this scale.”
At the prayer breakfast, the president deplored violence inspired by religious zealotry regardless of the religion involved. As a national leader, President Obama must differentiate between the billion Muslims who are not extremists and the few who are; the president did this quite effectively. The president appropriately condemned the brutality, not the religion, as intolerable.
It was not surprising that Limbaugh misunderstood - or intentionally distorted - the president’s message. In stating a truth about the history of Christianity, Obama committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of conservatives like Limbaugh. He failed to embrace the myth of American, and Christian, exceptionalism.
Limbaugh was not alone in the right-wing feeding frenzy. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore told the Washington Post that the president “offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.” Apparently, ex-Gov. Gilmore believes honesty, candor and diplomacy are offensive to Christians.
President Obama was appealing to religious moderates worldwide. Unfortunately, he did not reach many in the Republican Party.