President Obama is being slammed, and deservedly so, for his deep dive into moral relativism at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he invoked the Crusades as a reason not to get on our “high horse” about Islamic violence. Conservative Michael Auslin writes:
No one said, “Wait, this is just stupid.” Or, “Isn’t this irrelevant to today’s threat?” Or, “Man, we’re going to offend about a billion people with this line.” Or at least, no one powerful enough said it. It’s not just the president, it’s that all those arrogant, bright young things around him, from the nameless wordsmith to 46-year-old chief of staff Denis McDonough, thought it was fine to scold us with centuries-old history by equating 21st-century Islamist barbarians with 11th-century medieval Christians. And when they let that speech go through, they showed the rest of us what, not just the president but everyone working around him, really thinks about Western civilization. … Barack Obama’s speech last week showed that, after six years, he has not grown at all. Most likely, he can’t grow, and won’t in his last two years in office. He has a no more subtle or informed understanding of the world, of history, of the beauty and power of our imperfect Western civilization after leading its greatest country for more than half a decade.”
Andrea Mitchell was just as harsh.
One strain of argument on this goes seriously off track, however. In defense of the president, some liberals have cited “Christian humility” as justification for the remarks. David Brooks remarks:
What sorts of people need a little gospel of humility? People in Washington, pundits, religious believers: I happen to be all three of those things. And so we’re told to, we’re told to walk humbly in the path of the Lord, the Lord’s ways are mysterious, and so you’re saying we’re prone to zealotry as Jon [Meacham] said we’re fallen. And so to underline that that’s useful in Washington today that’s useful always.
On the other side of the religious debate, Mike Huckabee opined: “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.” Yikes. Not helpful and only designed to provoke Christians and Jews.
Listen, there is plenty of criticism to go around, but attacking — or defending — the president on his statements as a matter of theology is wrong. Indeed, liberals should be the first to keep religion out of this. The president speaks as a secular leader, the leader of the Free World, and his comments need to stand or fall on their wisdom and utility in secular matters. He’s not the preacher-in-chief, and clueless comments that set back unity and purpose in the war against violent Islamic terrorism should be repudiated, whatever their religious merit. And as for critics, they would do better to stick to eschew provocative hyperbole. We don’t have to call him a bad Christian or pro-radical Islam to recognize he is a rotten wartime leader.
Frankly, it is for this very reason I am not thrilled about a president speaking at a prayer breakfast in the first place. But if he is going to do so, he might — I know, impossible for this president — leave the partisanship and accusatory language at the door.