Nothing to be Alarmed About
“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.” Barak Obama
No sooner did the president utter these words at the National Prayer Breakfast than he began to take heat for the flawed comparison. Interestingly, much of the criticism has focused on the flaws in the analogy between the Crusades and ISIS’s jihad, while much less has been said about the comparison to the Inquisition.
Let’s put aside for the moment that Obama picked a really weird opportunity to spring this one on the public. And if we can, let’s distance ourselves from the personal passion about our Christian identity. Was the president way off base? Before you decide, I invite you to read (or re-read) Foxes Book of Martyrs.
It so happened that I picked that gem to listen to on audio on a recent trip to Texas. (Yes, I could use your prayers.) So on Friday morning, completely ignorant of the president’s controversial remarks of Thursday morning, I began Foxes Book of Martyrs. Guess how many chapters it took for the idea to independently occur to me that the Inquisition had a number of things in common with the “holy war” happening now? Just one, the first chapter on the Inquisition.
I know, you’re busy and don’t have time to consult a history book to cross check the opinion you hold about what the president said. So, how about just Chapter Six: An Account of the Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont, in the Seventeenth Century. C’mon. One chapter to see if maybe there is some truth in the analogy. If for the integrity of your own opinion, you can’t spare time for one chapter, here’s a characteristic excerpt from that chapter, if you can spare the next 30 seconds.
“This armed multitude being encouraged by the Roman Catholic bishops and monks fell upon the Protestants in a most furious manner. Nothing now was to be seen but the face of horror and despair, blood stained the floors of the houses, dead bodies bestrewed the streets, groans and cries were heard from all parts. Some armed themselves, and skirmished with the troops; and many, with their families, fled to the mountains. In one village they cruelly tormented one hundred and fifty women and children after the men were fled, beheading the women, and dashing out the brains of the children. In the towns of Vilario and Bobbio, most of those who refused to go to Mass, who were upwards of fifteen years of age, they crucified with their heads downwards; and the greatest number of those who were under that age were strangled.”
And there's a whole lot more where that came from. Yeah, Christianity got some skeletons in its closet. But what does this mean for how we deal with ISIS?
Who knows what Obama was thinking… If he was in some way defending or normalizing ISIS’s behavior, I agree he was way off base. But if he was urging us to keep it in perspective that by virtue of our fallen humanity, we are all capable of such atrocities—even in the name of our Lord and Savior, then yes, yes, I agree. Let’s bear that in mind. Selah, Obama.