At the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Obama did something truly unforgivable: He demonstrated a basic knowledge of world history.
Condemning the recent extremism of groups like the Islamic State, he drew connections to past campaigns of violence carried out in the name of Christianity, including the Crusades, the Inquisition, and slavery. Like today’s jihadists, he said, the proponents of these movements were “twisting and distorting” the tenets of their religion to rationalize barbaric acts.
Obama himself surely knew better than anyone that he was igniting an online firestorm with these comments—he did mention hate groups with Twitter accounts and how bigotry can fester in cyberspace, after all—and sure enough, conservatives were more than willing to prove for the umpteenth time that they lack any sense of semantic nuance.
ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades. http://t.co/ifTnJGw2wJ
Christians had nothing to do with a man being burned alive in a cage we saw on Wednesday that we saw took place last month. Nothing to do it! Yet he named them, invoked the name of Christ—our savior!—three times and talked about Christians but couldn’t call radical Islam for what it was, couldn’t name the person behind the match.
And her Fox & Friends co-host, Steve Doocy:
You know what, Mr. President? Slavery ended here in 1865. It is still going on in the Muslim world. Essentially what he’s saying is this, who started the Crusades? Well, the Catholic Church did. So he’s saying the Catholic Church was the ISIS of its time. So try telling that to the pope who is going to visit Washington, D.C.
Anyways, folks always talk about how bad the Crusaders were and how terrible Christianity was. I wonder if people would realize how different our world would look today had the Crusades not been put together by, you know, the first one was by I believe Pope Clement. If Islam, if militant Islam had spread across Europe, had the Crusades not happened, how much different this world would look today?
As for the Inquisition, it needs to be clarified that there was no single “Inquisition,” but many. And most were not particularly nefarious. For centuries, whenever the Catholic Church launched an inquiry or investigation, it mounted an “inquisition,” which means pretty much the same thing. … I cannot defend everything done under the various Inquisitions—especially in Spain—because some of it was indefensible. But there’s a very important point to make here that transcends the scoring of easy, albeit deserved, points against Obama’s approach to Islamic extremism (which he will not call Islamic): Christianity, even in its most terrible days, even under the most corrupt popes, even during the most unjustifiable wars, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.
The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. 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.
I was stunned that the president could say something so—at once—both banal and offensive. Here we are not two days of way from an act of sort of shocking barbarism: the burning alive of a prisoner of war. And Obama’s message is that we should remember the Crusades and the Inquisition. …. Everyone knows that. What’s important is what’s happening now.
This man is a nihilist and an narcissist and an extremist … Lincoln would say, following Obama’s argument, ‘Don’t get on your high horse. this is not an existential threat.’ Lincoln might say, ‘Why in the world would I send hundreds of thousands of men to their death to end slavery?’ What Obama is saying and doing is the lowest of the low.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'