Having begun his presidency with an apology tour Barack Obama is closing it by trying to offend as many Americans as possible.
Of course, the two bookends of the presidency are well aligned. A president who felt that America was at fault for the problems within Islam has now declared that we should not hold Muslims accountable for the violence committed in the name of Mohammed because Christians committed heinous acts in the name of Christ.
Were it not for the fact that Obama is a radical zealot who actually believes what he is saying one would suspect that he is a Republican plant, working to discredit and ultimately destroy the Democratic Party.
At the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, Obama said this:
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.
Among the most cogent responses is that of Jonah Goldberg, who is, one presumes, not a Christian.
As I have been at pains to point out, Obama seems above all else to want to defend the good name of Islam. Unfortunately, the good name of Islam has for now been destroyed by those who perform horrifying actions in the name of the prophet Mohammed.
Unless he is willing to lead a group of Muslims apologizing for the acts committed in the name of Mohammed and is willing to lead a coalition to destroy those who have committed such acts, Obama’s effort is a fool’s errand.
Goldberg responds to Obama’s effort to disparage, demean and disgrace the name of Christ:
Terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity. I have yet to meet a Christian who denies this.
But, as odd as it may sound for a guy named Goldberg to point it out, the Inquisition and the Crusades aren’t the indictments Obama thinks they are. For starters, the Crusades — despite their terrible organized cruelties — were a defensive war.
“The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living English-language historian of Islam.
As for the Inquisition, it needs to be clarified that there was no single “Inquisition,” but many. And most were not particularly nefarious. For centuries, whenever the Catholic Church launched an inquiry or investigation, it mounted an “inquisition,” which means pretty much the same thing.
Historian Thomas Madden, director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, writes that the “Inquisition was not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.”
In medieval Europe, heresy was a crime against the state, Madden explains. Local nobles, often greedy, illiterate, and eager to placate the mob, gleefully agreed to execute people accused of witchcraft or some other forms of heresy. By the 1100s, such accusations were causing grave injustices (in much the same way that apparatchiks in Communist countries would level charges of disloyalty in order to have rivals “disappeared”).
“The Catholic Church’s response to this problem was the Inquisition,” Madden explains, “first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184.”
Aside from the silly cliché, Obama has indulged in the ultimate in cheap shot: saying that an ill that has been committed in one culture excuses an evil committed in another.
We are all descended from cavemen who broke the skulls of their enemies with rocks for fun or profit. But that hardly mitigates the crimes of a man who does the same thing today. I see no problem judging the behavior of the Islamic State and its apologists from the vantage point of the West’s high horse, because we’ve earned the right to sit in that saddle.
A more judicious approach would balance the good and the bad in different cultures.
Christians have certainly done bad things—who hasn’t?—but, Goldberg continues, Christianity has been a source of much good:
Christianity, even in its most terrible days, even under the most corrupt popes, even during the most unjustifiable wars, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.
Christianity ended greater barbarisms under pagan Rome. The church often fell short of its ideals — which all human things do — but its ideals were indisputably a great advance for humanity. Similarly, while some rationalized slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. by invoking Christianity, it was ultimately the ideals of Christianity itself that dealt the fatal blow to those institutions. Just read any biography of Martin Luther King Jr. if you don’t believe me.
Lest we forget, Christian civilization has also contributed mightily to human prosperity and human freedom. One cannot say the same about Islam.
Another non-Christian, Roger Simon offers what appears to be the simplest and most accurate explanation for Obama’s efforts to defend the good name of the prophet Mohammed while debasing the good name of Christ:
Obama is not a religious person. He rarely appears in church, except for political purposes. He is titularly a Christian, but identifies emotionally, from his youth in Indonesian madrassas and from his ideological predisposition, with Third World Muslims. But now he is confronted with those same Muslims behaving like barbarians across Africa and the Middle East and sometimes into Europe and America.
William of Ockham would approve, so we are inclined to accept Simon’s assertion.
Next, Simon believes that Obama personally feels ashamed of the behavior of his putative co-religionists.
If Obama identifies as Muslim, if not by practice, at least by temperament, he must share the shame that the ISIS terrorists and all other Islamist terrorists have produced. As I mentioned yesterday, the point of Islamist terrorism is to stigmatize the Muslim religion, thus making it far more difficult for Muslims to assimilate into the Western world.
And yet, if Obama felt the shame he would do the right thing and apologize for Islamist terrorism. His failure to pronounce the name of Islamist terrorism might well suggest that he identifies as Muslim. It also suggests that he does not accept responsibility for what has been done in the name of the prophet Mohammed.
If, however, Obama identifies as a Christian he should lead the charge against Islamist terrorism as an offense against human decency, human dignity and human civilization. If so doing he would be asserting his own dignity, the value of his own civilization and his own pride. He would, in short be demonstrating his sense of shame.
Next, Simon introduces the notion of “shame culture,” and declares, with more than a few scholars, that it describes Islam culture.
As many have noted, Islam is a shame culture (the kind of society that will go berserk over cartoons) and, like it or not, our president is part of it culturally. That does not mean he is stoning adulterers or cutting off the hands of thieves or treating women like chattel, but it does mean he is genuinely and quite deeply ashamed of the religion he, in part, came from. He cannot adjust to or accept the calamities it is causing. Unlike the president of Egypt, he cannot name it.
Many people do believe that Islam is a shame culture. I suspect that they have not read Ruth Benedict, or, for that matter, your humble blogger on this topic. Nor have they read the leading psychoanalytic author on shame and guilt, Helen Block Lewis. If they had a better understanding of shame and guilt cultures they would recognized that Islam is not a shame culture. It’s a guilt culture.
Japan is a shame culture. Great Britain is a shame culture. Their most salient cultural characteristic is that they believe in decorum, propriety, good manners, keeping up appearances and civility. They eschew all forms of public drama in order to foster a good reputation. They do whatever they can to avoid giving offense.
When people in a shame culture do wrong, they offer public apologies, accept responsibility, withdraw for a time and to move on.
Shame cultures are designed to manage shame, beginning with practices that allow people to avoid it. It offers people a means to correct an error while maintaining decorum-- without going completely insane, without rioting in the street, without inflicting grotesque punishments on those who one is blaming for one’s ills.
When you say that someone has a sense of shame you are saying that he is dignified and decorous. Even when he has done something wrong or even when he feels that he is being insulted, he does not strike out in anger. A shame culture promotes civility.
If someone in your family does something that tarnishes the family name you should accept the fact, apologize and work to atone for the error. Only in a guilt culture do you murder the offending family member.
If someone in your family has embarrassed you, you do not pretend that nothing has happened. You do not assert that you have nothing to do with the misdeed.
You know that your reputation has been compromised by the action of another. You do not cop out by saying that you personally are not guilty. Such is the behavior of someone who does not understand shame.
Obviously, many Muslims have a sense of shame. One recalls that the uncle of the Boston marathon bombers, the Tzarnaev brothers, apologized for what his nephews did. He knew that their actions had compromised his good name. His was the opposite of the Obama approach to radical Islam.
To be perfectly clear, the primary sanction in a shame culture is ostracism. When one apologizes one withdraws, to some degree, from social commerce. In a guilt culture, however, the primary sanctions are corporeal punishments, whether imprisonment, beheadings, amputations or mutilation.
A culture that murders its children in the name of honor has no sense of honor.
A president who began with an apology tour, explicitly taking responsibility for the sins of past presidents will close with a failure to call out radical Islam for the horrors it has been inflicting on the civilized world.