President Obama’s Speech Calls for Religious Tolerance

(Originally posted on February 10th, 2015, in the Independent Florida Alligator opinions section)

Each U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event started in 1953. President Barack Obama is no different in this instance, and he gave a speech at the breakfast last week. This speech marked Obama’s seventh attendance at the breakfast, and while the speech was uplifting in its hopeful message, it also raised a few eyebrows and has resulted in a lot of backlash from conservative politicians and organizations.

Nothing new here. The reason conservative groups have been seen spluttering with indignation is simple. Obama simply publicly said what most people know but often seem to want to keep under wraps: Christianity has faults. Throughout history, believers in Christianity have committed horrendous human rights violations in the name of their religion.

This speech, and its more blunt moments, come at an interesting time for the United States. Terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State have frightened and horrified many people. Although this terrorism should not be accepted, many people have condemned the entirety of Islam because of the actions of a few.

This has generated misplaced self-righteousness and an often vicious prejudice against followers of Islam. Obama pointed out that Islam as a whole cannot be held responsible for actions of extremist organizations.

Take that, Rupert Murdoch. You’ve been owned by the president of our country. Murdoch’s shameful tweet holding all followers of Islam responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris was angrily responded to by many individuals — including J.K. Rowling. While Murdoch later apologized, the implication of his tweet is one many people seem to share, and I think the president is right to address this issue.

In all seriousness, if individuals choose to condemn an entire religion based on the acts of these groups, then believers of Christianity should also condemn themselves.

Through the Crusades using the Bible as moral justification for slavery, and Christian extremist groups murdering and abusing people of color, members of the LGBT community and other groups with identities supposedly at odds with Christian ideals throughout history, Christianity has its own bloodshed to answer for if we want to start holding religions responsible for anything. Which, honestly, sounds like a long and painful process for everybody involved…

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