Since President Obama first seemed to link Evangelicals with those democrats don’t like in his interview with Tim Russert on November 11, 2007, or his often quoted comment about people bitterly clinging to guns, God and religion, it has been no surprise that he has been no fan of traditional Christianity. Yet his recent comments at the prayer breakfast comparing Christianity in a tit-for-tat basis to Isis, while based on factually correct information, is ultimately intellectually indefensible. It is factually true that some atrocities were committed during the crusades by at least nominally Christians, but the implications the president fails to address are the key distinctions between Christians and Isis.
The real question, as I’ve noted in the past is not whether someone does something in the name of Christianity or some other religion, but whether their actions are logically consistent with the beliefs they claim to espouse. As I reiterated several months ago, in the case of the crusades the atrocities of the crusaders makes them inconsistent monsters, but the Isis terrorists are, sadly consistent monsters, similar to Soviet communists and Robespierre’s great terrors during the French revolution. The atrocities of American slavery and Jim Crow, similarly are inconsistent with a Biblical worldview. While the Bible never condemns slavery, it clearly establishes that slaves had rights and regulated slavery to prevent inhumane treatment. This is why the Christian community was so central in taking action to end slavery – Wilber Wilberforce and other Christian leaders realized that the institution of slavery cannot exist without the implied inhumanity being allowed to thrive. Similarly, Christian acceptance of Jim Crow was largely based on compromise with Darwinism and Social Darwinism, and highlights the dangers of Christian compromise on principles of truth.
It takes very little time to find references to the Quran or in the Hadith (authoritative commentaries on the Koran and Islam similar to the Talmud in Judaism) such as the Quran’s “Kill them wherever you find them,” (2:191). I will not address the debates on the underlying source material as I am not an expert; though I believe the comments in the Hadith would indicate that the interpretation of Isis and those who have “hijacked” Islam (per several recent presidents’ comments) appears to be more consistent with Islamic source documents; ISIS is made up of true Islamicists. Unlike the Old Testament (in which God used Israel judicially in a specific discussion of specific groups), Islamic discussions of conquest are open-ended.
Yet, the Crusades were not really comparable to ISIS in one major, crucial sense; the Crusades, however wrong they may have gone, began with altruistic purposes. The Crusaders were not pulling out the Bible and looking for a reason to conquer the Holy Land. Rather, the Holy Land was taken over by Seljuq Turks – the ISIS of their time, from a more moderate muslim faction, and Christians were being murdered and raped. The Eastern Church requested aid from the West because they were being threatened by the Seljuq Turks, and the Turks were likely planning to continue their conquest into Europe.
Thus the Crusades began as a defensive action, but they went off track, largely because of mercantile and political interests. The Spanish inquisition was almost a wholly political action (the purpose being to secure the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella) that used religion for propagandistic purposes; the same is true of Hitler’s references to Christianity (as we known he was not a practicing Catholic). Jim Crow was ultimately a means of maintaining a democratic power base in the South (and the Klan who used Christians symbols were basically the Democratic parties military arm, similar to the relationship between the SA and the Nazi party).
As a Baptist, I find this last point interesting; Baptists have long argued that politicians influence on the Church is almost universally negative, and argued on this basis for a formal separation between the Church and State (this differs from American liberals who insist on a formal and informal separation). It appears then, that it is not Christians who should be apologetic, but self-aggrandizing politicians pushing sweeping regime changes, President Obama, as a member of said group, should perhaps be apologizing for his own house, instead of criticizing Christianity. Perhaps it is politicians not Christians we should be fearing.