On February 5, President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast and made clear his belief that events in Christianity’s past–particularly “the Crusades”–make criticism of other faiths, particularly Islamism, difficult if not impossible.
Approaching the matter in this way, he was able to disapprove of ISIS and other terrorists without uttering one negative word about the Islamism that forms the theocratic system under which they operate.
The White House posted the text of Obama’s remarks, and at one point he spoke of the world around us by saying:
We…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…to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see [ISIS], a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism–terrorizing religious minorities like the Yazidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
Obama did not mention the religion from which ISIS claims authority. Rather, he kept the generic “religion” in his description and suggested more specificity would not be right because Christianity’s past is riddled with moments when people who claimed the name of Christ committed “terrible deeds,” one of which was “the Crusades.”
There are two clear problems with what Obama said. The first one is that we must define our enemy–we must know who he is, what he believes, and what he does. And if his religion is a key component in his nature, his beliefs, and his actions, then we have to know that religion inside and out. But this is not possible in a world where any blemish in Christianity’s past can be drawn up and tossed on the table to end all discussion of current threats that may be tied to another religion.
That’s problem one.
Problem two is that “the Crusades” were a defensive action, not an offensive one. They were undertaken by Christians who sought to defend themselves from Muslim conquest. Thomas F. Madden, Director of Saint Louis University’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, explained this succinctly in a piece he wrote for Christianity Today in 2005.
[The Crusades] were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
Far from taking Obama’s approach to a hostile world, Christianity and the children of Western Civilization cannot afford to do any less than know those who’ve pledged to destroy us. That includes knowing their religion, but it also includes knowing ourselves and the history of Christianity to a degree sufficient to dispel attempts to shame us into silence via the mention of an action that was undertaken nearly 1,000 years ago to defend, not to conquer.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.