The president of the United States seems to have hit a raw nerve when he reached far into history to find Christian misbehaviour that rises to the level of recent Islamists terror attacks and gruesome executions.
Barack Obama, speaking at a recent National Prayer Breakfast, admonished attendees to not “get on a high horse” over atrocities committed in the name of Islam. There were “terrible deeds” committed in the name of Christ, he said, and reminded those present of the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow.
For goodness sake—and for the sake of accuracy and perhaps sanity—the Crusades occurred in the Middle Ages starting in 1095. And the Inquisition, which was another Medieval institution, is no more relevant.
Has the president not noticed the world has changed somewhat in the past thousand years? We now have motor cars, airplanes and a man has landed on the moon, not to mention electricity and motion pictures. Along with these technological marvels we have “discovered” evolution and split the atom. Moreover, few in the Western democracies still believe the universe was created in six days or that the world is flat.
In short, Western democracies have evolved into modern civilized societies with little or no resemblance to the societies of our Medieval forefathers. Moreover, many millions of us do not any longer define ourselves by any religion, and, for an increasing number of us—those who are only nominally Christians—we do little or nothing “in the name of Christ.”
The institutions and practices of a thousand years ago—or even a hundred years ago—are mainly irrelevant in virtually any comparison to modern times and especially with regards to large numbers of us doing things in the name of religion.
Even if Medieval Christians did awful things, so what? What does that have to do with our present-day practices?
Since the middle 1960s, Islamist terrorists have been screaming Allāhu Akbar—God is great—before committing some atrocity. And following their vile actions, mobs have crowded the streets of Muslim capitals around the world to cheer them and praise those who committed suicide as martyrs.
In that time, how many terrorist acts have been committed in the name of Christ?
Many who have tried to make Obama’s point—i.e., that Christians are no better than Muslims—point to Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City bombing attack on a U.S. federal building and Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 attacks in Norway.
I can find no credible evidence to support a claim that these acts of terror were done in the name of the Christian religion or even a fundamentalist fringe sect claiming to be Christian.
McVeigh might have been nominally a Christian, but his was strictly a political act. He hated the government and decided to take militant action against it. Did he, at any point, raise the issue of religion when justifying his actions? As far as I can tell he did not. His terrorist act was clearly nonreligious.
Breivik published enough on the internet to make it clear that his ideology had little or nothing to do with Christianity. Rather, he loathed Muslims and those he considered Marxists. He apparently believes that Islam threatens Europe through “demographic Jihad”—apparently, a combination of uncontrolled immigration and uncontrolled breeding.
That Breivik was anti-Muslim seems clear. His bigotry did not seem motivated by him being Christian, however. According to the U.K.’s BBC, Breivik answered as follows when he was questioned about his religious beliefs by a lawyer for his victims:
Well, I am a militant Christian; to prevent the de-Christianisation of Europe is very important. But this does not mean we want to introduce a Christian theocracy. We are not Christian fundamentalists. I believe in God and I believe in a life after death.”
It seems clear to me that Breivik wanted to maintain Christian culture in Norway, but not necessarily the religion per se. His was a culture war, not a religious one.
On the other hand, modern-day extremists who seek to terrorize the western world in the name of Islam, make it quite clear they intend—assuming they ever get the chance—to impose Sharia law, Islamic law, on us all as the legal framework within which all public and most private aspects of life would be regulated based on the holy books of Islam. Theirs is a religious war first and a cultural war second, though, it’s hard to separate the two when considering life under Islam.
Clearly President Obama owes all Christians an apology for his slanderous comparison.