By: Erick Erickson
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on the 25th of September, the President of the United States declared that the future does not belong to practicing Christians. Already, the media and the left are in full denial, probably based on their general lack of understanding of theology. This would have been a gaffe had Mitt Romney said it. But with Barack Obama, he’s just speaking bold truths. His bold truth declares that the future does not belong to practicing Christians.
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.
Now, that’s the full paragraph so no one can claim I took him out of context.
But consider this.
It is an orthodox Christian belief that Mohammed is not a prophet. Actual Christians, as opposed to many of the supposed Christians put up by the mainstream media, believe that Christ is the only way to salvation. Believing that is slandering Mohammed. That’s just a fact. If you don’t believe me, you go into the MIddle East and proclaim Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and see what happens to your life.
Then Barack Obama went on to say “Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.” Note he says we cannot “slander the prophet of Islam” but it’s only the image of Christ in the next sentence — not actually Christ himself desecrated. If this is so, why does Barack Obama’s government continue funding the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded Christ in piss, the Virgin Mary painted in dung, etc.?
Now, in point of fact, this is a major difference between Islam and Christianity. Christ came to this world as an enemy of the world and expected to be impugned. He also tells his followers that they should expect to be impugned. There is joy in being persecuted for following the Risen Lord. In Islam, if you impugn Mohammed, you get a fatwa on your butt.
And then there is the first amendment. The President of the United States tried to have it both ways in his speech.
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with.
We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.
Just words, Mr. President? You say “there is no speech that justifies mindless violence,” but all last week you condemned a ridiculous video trailer for a movie that does not exist. Your government ran advertisements in Pakistan denouncing the video. What of free speech, Mr. President? Last week you were saying the violence was understandable given the offensive film and this week you are trying to claim it was mindless.
Oh wait, you did it again in the same speech where you said “there is no speech that justifies mindless violence”:
At times, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of faith, race or tribe; and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world. In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.
That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.
Time and again the President of the United States tries to have it both ways.
But are they just words?
The fact is, many religions do not recognize Mohammed as a prophet. In the widest swath of Islam, that denial is, in and of itself, slander. So what exactly are you saying Mr. President?
As an exit point, with all of President Obama’s statements on tolerance in his speech, we should remember that tolerance is really not a Christian virtue. As Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia noted, “We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty — these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end itself.” The Archbishop also noted that evil preaches tolerance until it is dominate and then it seeks to silence good. That’s not a statement that the President is evil in any way, shape, or form, but we should be mindful when the secular world demands tolerance for all, tolerance for all means we cannot have standards of faith to live by, because those standards obviously require we be intolerant of sins this world has embraced.