Good Life

Clergy Column: Reaction to Obama’s remarks more like an overreaction.

Wow. I mean, wow.

Last week, President Barack Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. From the comments I’ve read online — about how he attacked Christianity, how he defended radical Islam, how he made some of the most offensive comments of any president ever — I assumed he chanted “Death to America” or something similar.

And so I read the speech (you can read or watch it at Please read it or watch it for yourself. Personally, I found nothing offensive, and I really think most people won’t either — unless you find NASCAR offensive.

In the speech, he talked about humility, about the separation of church and state, and about treating others as they want to be treated — and, yes, NASCAR. The part that really seems to have gotten people excited was in his lead up, when he talked about the evils of radical Islam but noted extremism is a danger in all religions, including Christianity.

“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,” he said.

Now, I have a question of my Christian brothers and sisters: Which of you wants to stand up and say this isn’t true? To say that us Christians do not have a sinful tendency? To say that Christianity can never be and has never been distorted?

People are arguing over the specific examples Obama raised. Fine; for every one example of distorted Christianity you shoot down, give me a couple minutes on Google and I’ll give you two to replace it.

Christianity has dirty hands, and Christ would want us to remember it.

Overwhelmingly, I believe Christianity also has brought so much light, so much good, so much of the truly miraculous to the world, but Christ would still want us to remember, to be watchful, for extremism in those around us — and within our own hearts.

Simply put: Christ calls us to humility.

In the distant past, the recent past and today, there have been and are Christians who have done awful un-Christian things in the name of Christ. Just like in Islam and all other religions.

And none of us want our religions judged by the actions of radical extremists. The whole of Christianity — and Islam and others — is much more than them.

Soon after the Jerry Sandusky story broke, I was attending classes in Ohio. I was shocked by how many of my classmates who had never been to State College were positive that everyone at Penn State, and even everyone in State College, had known about and participated in a cover up.

All of us who live in this area know the absurdity of that statement. Which is just as absurd as saying radical Islam represents all of the 1.6 billion followers of Islam.

Most Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism — other than, as American journalist Nicholas Kristof noted, being the majority of the victims of terrorism. For example, on the day of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, a car bomb outside a police academy in Yemen killed 37 Muslims.

I think Kristof said it best when he wrote, “... the most courageous, peace-loving people in the Middle East who are standing up to Muslim fanatics are themselves often devout Muslims. Some read the Quran and blow up girls’ schools, but more read the Quran and build girls’ schools. The Taliban represents one brand of Islam; the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai the polar opposite.”

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