President Obama said something entirely accurate and factual during his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week, so naturally the right wing exploded in howls of outrage. Facts to them are like garlic to a vampire or taxes to a billionaire. This simple statement of fact:
“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.”
Cue the vastly overblown and melodramatic reaction:
Some Republicans were outraged. “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R). “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”
If offends believing Christians to point out the undeniable fact that some horribly egregious and barbaric actions were justified on the grounds of Christianity? Well then maybe they need to grow the fuck up. Ta-Nehisi Coates, as usual, is spot on:
And enslavement was not made possible through Robert’s Rules of Order, but through a 250-year reign of mass torture, industrialized murder, and normalized rape—tactics which ISIS would find familiar. Its moral justification was not “because I said so,” it was “Providence,” “the curse against Canaan,” “the Creator,” “and Christianization.” In just five years, 750,000 Americans died because of this peculiar mission of “Christianization.” Many more died before, and many more died after. In his “Segregation Now” speech, George Wallace invokes God 27 times and calls the federal government opposing him “a system that is the very opposite of Christ.”…
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-upmanship, in which the goal is to prove that Christianity is “the awesomest.”
I would suggest that their real goal is to bury the horrors done in the name of Christianity and pretend they don’t exist, just as they do with the barbarism found in the Bible itself. They have no way to justify those things, so they respond with absolute fury when they are brought up. Obama’s “sin” is in telling the truth — and in the words of Col. Jessup, they can’t handle the truth.