I love it when Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, writes me. He’s usually incensed about something and expects me to be so, as well. And, of course, he then hits me up for money.
What has raised his ire this week? President Obama’s appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, which I wrote about last week. Right in the subject line, Reince says, “Demand Obama apologize for his insulting remarks.”
I don’t want to repeat myself, that’s why I’m including the link to what I said before, but I’m a bit baffled by what, specifically, was insulting and demands an apology. Can you enlighten me, Reince?
Rather than lift people up and bring them together at the National Prayer Breakfast last week, President Obama has managed to insult, hurt and offend.
While speaking about how we should grapple with the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, Obama said:
“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.”
Now is not the time to divide Americans and attack Christians. The crusades are over — and have been for some 1,000 years now.
Now is the time to stand strong and united against those who threaten our country, our families and our freedom.
Obama needs to stop lecturing the American people and insulting Christians. And he needs to start focusing on the very real, very current and very dangerous threat at hand by Islamic extremists.
Add your name to demand Obama apologize for his insulting remarks.
Reince, really. Don’t take me for an idiot. You’re taking one sentence out of a larger speech and using it to completely the miss the point.
Here, from the Washington Post, is the full context of that single sentence.
How do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. 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. Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.
So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try. And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.
And, first, we should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.
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. And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process. And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty. No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.
And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends. And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.
In context, Reince, the sentence that raised your ire is an example of how the practice of a religion was perverted into something against its professed beliefs. The point of the anecdote comes at the end of this extract: “we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends.” By taking one sentence and holding it up as example of the president slamming Christianity, Reince, you missed that he was offering that sentence so he could criticize and condemn the very ethos that allowed such actions to happen.
Reince, you’re attacking the president for the exact words he uttered but not the exact meaning behind them. And, in so doing, you look like a putz.