One Standard, Not Two, for Christianity and Islam – The American Interest

Obama’s refusal to call ISIS (or ISIL) a radical Islamic organization has sparked a debate over the relationship between religion and violence. The controversy escalated after he reminded Americans of Christianity’s violent past at the recent national prayer breakfast. Much of the outrage over his comments was motivated by the belief that Obama had fabricated the claims and insulted Christianity. At the same time many in this camp also believe that Islam is responsible for the violent behavior of ISIS. To them Christianity is the good religion and Islam is the bad one. This opinion is grounded in bias rather than evidence and we can safely dismiss it. That leaves us with the two contradictory views presented by Obama: 1) religion has no relationship to ISIS, or 2) religion, at least in part, is responsible for the violent behavior of Christians in medieval and early modern Europe as well as ISIS in the Middle East today. In the above cited essay, the historian Jeffrey Herf argues that both are culpable in the same way. Different traditions and selective use of sacred texts result in different behaviors and versions of the same religion. As Herf points out,

“Western governments have tied themselves in knots to the point of foolishness because they refuse to state what is obvious to many millions of people about the importance not of the religion of Islam per se but of interpretations of Islam in this era of terror. Just as it makes no historical sense to discuss slavery or the Holocaust without examining Christianity’s contributions, so it is ridiculous to assert that the Islamic State, the Hamas Covenant, the fanaticism of the Iranian mullahs, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood have nothing to do with Islam. It amounts to saying that its adherents either do not mean what they say or that they don’t know what they are doing. Both assumptions are condescending. To be sure, these varieties of Islamism differ from one another, but they all engage in the labors of selective tradition. They did not invent the texts that they quote but they have selected and emphasized some rather than other components of the tradition. They can all point to passages in the Koran and in the commentaries about it that in their view justify attacks on the Jews, on Muslims of whom they disapprove, on Christians and on other assorted ‘infidels.’”(“One Standard, Not Two, for Christianity and Islam”)

the crusades

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History News Network | President Obama, the National Prayer Breakfast, and Slavery

Obama’s recent remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast about the connection between Christianity and slavery may have been provocative given the setting (a setting that is of dubious constitutionality, I might add!), but they were not incorrect.  As the historian Joshua D. Rothman points out: “So vital was Christianity to the southern defense of slavery that some historians have estimated that ministers penned roughly half of all proslavery literature in the decades after 1830, though it was hardly only ministers like Baptist leader Richard Furman who one might have heard state that ‘the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures.’ Secular politicians drew upon such arguments as well. Jefferson Davis, for example, claimed that slavery ‘was established by decree of Almighty God’ and was ‘sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation,’ while his contemporary, South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond, blasted opponents of slavery by arguing that ‘the doom of Ham has been branded on the form and features of his African descendants’ and that ‘man cannot separate what God hath joined.'” Read the entire article here:

History News Network | President Obama, the National Prayer Breakfast, and Slavery.


Is Obama’s Pending Executive Order on Immigration Impeachable?

Two articles published today argue that Obama’s pending Executive Order on immigration is no different than what previous presidents have done:

“If Obama Faces Impeachment over Immigration, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy Should Have as Well” by John Dickson at the History News Network.

“Reagan, Bush Also Acted Without Congress To Shield Immigrants From Deportation,” by Andrew Taylor at the Huffington Post.