Last week, just days after “Islamic State” militants burned a hostage in a cage, Obama told Christians not to get on their “high horse” when looking at acts of terror.
“[R]emember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” he told the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
Ouch. When historians 100 years from now read that statement two things will stand out: first, how wrong Obama is about the Crusades and the Inquisition, and second how blind he is to the evil of his own administration.
For Obama to mention the Crusades is to remind many people that the cruelty of Islamic armies has been much more systematic, cruel and widespread in history. As Cambridge professor Jonathan Riley Smith points out, the Crusades were defensive wars. Were there abuses in the Crusades? Yes. The sacking of Constantinople has left a permanent stain on Christendom. But were those terrible deeds done “in the name of Christ”? Certainly not; no Church teaching condones them.
And to mention the Inquisition simply makes Obama look uninformed and anti-Catholic.
The Spanish Inquisition is the mother of all anti-Catholic myths, the urban legend that refuses to die. When the BBC decided in 1994 to document the terrible record of abuses by vicious Churchmen in the Inquisition, they found there was no such thing; most of it was made up. But, sadly, historical inquiry has not yet corrected the false picture painted by centuries of anti-Catholic literature.
The president should be ashamed (and embarrassed) to have fed a disgraced misinformation campaign meant to malign Catholics, and at a Prayer Breakfast no less.
All the same, the grain of truth in the Crusade and Inquisition myths continues to scandalize the world. When Christians do bad things, people notice, and they don’t forget, and Christian apologists have to explain or answer for their behavior for generations.
Which brings us to the self-professed Christian Obama’s own terrible deeds.
His own war record is no better than the Crusades. Obama stepped up the war in Afghanistan, and our kill team made international headlines (though not many national ones). Obama’s violent, inadequate intervention in Libya created chaos for the people there that cost lives and livelihoods – much as our precipitous departure from Iraq created an opening for ISIS and its abuses. And Obama’s administration shamefully redefined “civilian” to justify his own drone policy.
Were these terrible deeds “done in the name of Christ”? Certainly not. But a Christian did them, and that will be enough for critics.
But the hardest thing future Christian apologists will have to deal with will be the culture of death. As I’ve said before, you can mark it down and let history double check it: Within 100 years, Christians will be blamed for abortion.
Think about it: Church teaching condemned chattel slavery and the movement against it was Christian, but since it was tolerated or even promoted by some Christians, we are often blamed for it. The rise of the Nazis was condemned by the Church and the movement against it was Christian, but because some Christians tolerated or even promoted it, we are blamed for that, too.
In exactly the same way, abortion has been thoroughly condemned and opposed by the Church, but it has been tolerated and promoted by many Christian voters and politicians. We will be blamed for abortion, too.
Future critics of Christianity may quote what Obama said at the Prayer Breakfast: “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.”