During the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, U.S. President Obama tried to shield Islam from criticism by depicting Christianity as equally violent and intolerant (via comments about crusades, inquisitions, and “high horses”). Much lesser known is that he also tried to shield Islam by invoking Christian virtues.
In many ways, his comments on “humility” might be the strangest of his entire speech—to the point that Obama himself got visibly confused, and admitted it, by his own lack of coherency.
The transcript of the portion in question follows, interspersed with my comments and observations.
So this [Islamic State type violence] 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 in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.
Two important points here to establish context for what follows: 1) Obama is referring to the atrocities being committed by the Islamic State—the beheadings, crucifixions, rape slavery, immolations—which he claims are common to all religions; 2) By invoking “God” and offering principles to “those of us who profess to believe”—a phrase he stressed in the video—Obama is clearly addressing American Christians in particular.
And, first, we should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt—not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.
These are surely some strange remarks in the context of this speech. Obama calls on Americans in general and Christians in particular to exercise some “humility” and “doubt”—and he treats the two as interchangeable in meaning, which they most certainly are not.
Humility, of course, is a well-recognized Christian virtue. It is the exact opposite of pride; a modest if not humble opinion of oneself, one’s shortcomings. But what does that—exercising humility—have to do with our understanding of Islamic violence and terrorism, which is, after all, the topic under discussion? Are we not to judge and condemn it—since we’re apparently no better, a reiteration of the president’s “high horse” comment earlier?
Furthermore, while Christian humility encourages self-doubt, it does not encourage doubt concerning right and wrong, good and evil. The same Christ advocated humility repeatedly condemned evil behavior and called on people to repent of their sins.
Finally, what exactly are we supposed to “doubt”—that the Islamic State is evil? That they too “are in possession of the truth”?
Due to the incoherency of this speech, Obama himself eventually crashed on his own words and was left dumbfounded for a few seconds—six long and awkward seconds to be precise:
Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth—our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments. And we should assume humbly that [six-second pause] … we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing …
Be sure to watch the video (around the 11-minute mark) where it is clear that Obama’s own contradictory comments cause him to pause for an inordinate amount of time before he concludes that “we’re confused”—apparently a subconscious reference to his administration.
If Obama truly believed that “our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments”—assuming of course “He” is God of the Bible, not Allah of the Koran—then he would be speaking truth, calling a spade a spade, and coming to the aid of those countless innocents being slaughtered, raped, and enslaved by the Islamic State and in the name of Islam—just as the Crusaders did one-thousand years ago (only to be demonized today, including by Obama).
In short, just as the American president misrepresented episodes from Christian history to exonerate Islamic terror during the National Prayer Breakfast, so too did he misrepresent Christian virtues like humility to create doubt and moral confusion concerning Islamic terror.
And in the end, it was he—the president of the United States—who was left confused by his own nonjudgmental relativism, or nonsense.
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