President Obama Pisses Off Witch Doctors at the National Prayer Breakfast
Congratulations to President Barack Obama for finally standing up and challenging the fables of historical Christian righteousness in a bold speech he delivered yesterday in Washington.
Predictably, the speech pissed off lots of witch doctors in the audience and has since frenzied the political right into a pack of rabid wolves who are now foaming at the mouth after what they heard the President say.
His controversial remarks about religious extremism and Christianity’s long and loathsome tradition of violence (READ MORE HERE) were offered at an annual gathering of Christian leaders called the National Prayer Breakfast. Organized by a super-secret organization known as The Fellowship Foundation, the group purports to “provide a fellowship forum for decision makers to share in Bible studies, prayer meetings, worship experiences, and to experience spiritual affirmation and support.” The meeting has taken place every year since 1953. [Footnote 1]
Don’t bother searching for information about The Fellowship Foundation or its membership. You won’t find much. Moreover, forget about inspecting the group’s budget or learning what they’re up to. Those are hidden secrets too, even though this is purportedly a non-profit religious organization with all the perks of power and access to the powerful. Although it hosts just one official event per year, The Fellowship Foundation wields an intimidating level of influence behind the scenes. It has become to Christianity and politics what membership in exclusive country club is to concocting chummy business deals. Evangelical Christian leaders have described the organization as one of the most politically well-connected ministries in the world, with its tentacles extending to influence over foreign governments, as well.
So much for the separation of church and state, huh?
President Obama is commonly looked upon with suspicion by many evangelicals, and has been derided among its more radical ranks as a Muslim sympathizer and a traitor. So, it’s puzzling why the President of the United States would even bother wasting time by parading before all these mullahs and shaman who grip what amounts to a handful of rotten tomatoes, prepared to sling criticism no matter what he says.
Nevertheless, the President went along with the charade and did the brave thing yesterday, agreeing to show up at the circus and jump through the flaming circle at this fundamentalist pony show, demonstrating, I suppose, some measure of reverence for a group of people who don’t really deserve the leader of the free world’s attention. Let them pray to Sky Daddy all they want. Allow them time and space to murmur fairy tales. But I don’t want them wasting any of the President’s precious time. At least if he chose to play golf instead, something constructive might come of that. Who knows, he might birdie a hole or two.
So, what did the President say that has so many Christian leaders barking and growling? Let’s examine the most controversial passages of the speech, shall we? About a minute into the speech, concerns are voiced about the current state of affairs in some parts of the world. He said….
“But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions. We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.”
So far, so good. Anyone have a problem with this part of the speech? I don’t. And I suspect, neither do most people. Continuing….
“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 Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”
The part about Christianity and the so-called Crusades inflamed some fundamentalist passions. Why so? I suppose because it’s true. It’s uncomfortable for some to look into the mirror. They may not like what they see. Continuing….
“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.”
Other than the President acknowledging the existence of god, which is disturbing enough to those of us sharing no such belief, this statement seems entirely accurate and reasonable, doesn’t it? Continuing….
“So humility I think is needed. And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments. Between church and between state. The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most Western developed countries. And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state. Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all….That’s not the case in theocracies that restrict people’s choice of faith. It’s not the case in authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above the people, or in some cases, above the concept of God Himself. So the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States.”
Read the entire speech courtesy of the official White House website here. [Footnote 2]
Those were pretty much the high points. In his 20-minute speech, the President gave an accurate historical account of Christianity, spoke out against all forms of religious extremism and anti-Semitism, asked for humility, advanced the Constitutional separation of church and state, and even vowed to protect freedom of religion. So, what’s the big deal? What’s the fuss all about?
Fact is, the witch doctors don’t like or trust the man occupying the White House right now. They never have. They never will. And the sooner this President — with no more elections to run or votes to sway — begins distancing himself from the partisan practices of religious mythology and superstition, the better off the country and society will be.
President Obama’s biggest mistake wasn’t necessarily in remarks he made at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday. It was bothering to show up and coddle a secretive society of witch doctors in the first place.
Footnote 1 — Read more about The Fellowship Foundation. SOURCE HERE
Footnote 2 — Read a transcript of the entire speech. SOURCE HERE