Friday, February 6, 2015

Last Call For A Wing And A Prayer Breakfast

So to recap, on Thursday President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that Washington DC uses to feel like America is a religiously tolerant country, and for the most part, it is.

Unless you talk about the historical fact that people did a lot of nasty things in the name of Christianity in the past.  Then, well...this happens.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” he told the group, speaking of the tension between the compassionate and murderous acts religion can inspire. “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.”

Now, this historical fact has caused Republicans to go completely nuts in the last 36 hours, as historical facts often do whenever President Obama points them out.  The Catholic League is demanding an apology and the spittle-flecked goons are screaming that this proves once and for all that Obama is a Muslim Sharia imam terrorist who hates America or something.

Ta-Nehisi Coates puts this idiocy to bed.

That this relatively mild, and correct, point cannot be made without the comments being dubbed, "the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” by a former Virginia governor gives you some sense of the limited tolerance for any honest conversation around racism in our politics. And it gives you something much more. My colleague Jim Fallows recently wrote about the need to, at once, infantilize and deify our military. Perhaps related to that is the need to infantilize and deify our history. Pointing out that Americans have done, on their own soil, in the name of their own God, something similar to what ISIS is doing now, does not make ISIS any less barbaric, or any more correct. That is unless you view the entire discussion as a kind of religious one-up-man-ship, in which the goal is to prove that Christianity is "the awesomest."

Obama seemed to be going for something more—faith leavened by “some doubt.” If you are truly appalled by the brutality of ISIS, then a wise and essential step is understanding the lure of brutality, and recalling how easily your own society can be, and how often it has been, pulled over the brink.

It's ugly history, and we teach it precisely so that A) we know what can become of religious demagoguery and B) so that we try not to repeat those mistakes.

Brutality in the name of religion did not magically start existing only after September 10, 2001, folks.

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