President Obama invoked Jesus’ main teaching during a post-Easter prayer breakfast earlier this week by citing “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Kudos to him for talking about the teachings of the man who was crucified and died for our sins.
So what’s up with turning what could have been a beautiful recognition of his Christian faith into a snark-filled jab at other Christians who disagree with him politically? And why are members of the media saying Christians are “wingnuts” for crying foul?
Here’s what he said:
On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day. [Laughter and applause]
Where there is injustice — I was about to veer off… [Laughter] I’m pulling it back. Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed. Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God.
Well, the president got part of that right by calling for Americans to treat each other with compassion and respect. But by invoking “injustice,” he presumably was talking about the recent battle over Indiana’s religious freedom law which was designed to allow businesses to decline their services based on religious beliefs. The law was rewritten to prohibit denying services.
But Democrats don’t have a monopoly on defending injustice. During the debate about the law, opponents bullied and attacked those who didn’t ascribe to their politics. Critics called them “narrow-minded” for their faith-based beliefs which dictate homosexuality, pornography, and adultery are wrong. Today’s news today that the President is seeking a ban on gay conversion therapy will bring out more hate.
There’s another teaching in the Bible that could be used to tame the rhetoric on both sides. “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
If we want to ignore that teaching and play the blame game, it’s pretty east to cite other times Dems have waged war on political foes using “less than loving expressions.”
Remember when MSNBC’s Ed Schultz was suspended for calling conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut”?
During the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., three pols invoked Nazis while talking about opponents. That included the chairman of the California Democratic Party who said, “They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie … Joseph Goebbels — the big lie, you keep repeating it.”
The examples are easy to find: George W. Bush was called a murderer who knew about 9/11, this administration thinks it’s okay to eavesdrop on journalists. And it does it’s best to maintain the “most secretive administration ever” moniker. And if Republicans want to get petty, the legendary tale of how Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff and newly re-elected Chicago Mayor, sent a dead fish to a pollster fits the bill.
When covering the prayer breakfast remarks, broadcast and print largely played down his comments saying Obama “teased” his critics, or took a “mild poke” at them. But bloggers cranked up the attack machine. Maddow’s blog painted the event as having “surprisingly” “riled up” conservatives into an “unhinged” response. Doktor Zoom at Wonkette added his own bit of snark with a headline that read: “Obama Stomps All Over Jesus at Easter Prayer Breakfast, Wingnuts Outraged.” A sampling:
Obama bashed Christians mercilessly, and in addition, praised the godless Communist Pope and suggested that Jesus was some kind of stinking liberal. Obama said he was looking forward to the upcoming visit of Pope Karl Marx, “who encourages us to seek peace, to serve the marginalized, and be good stewards of God’s creation.”
Now, unlike conservative blogs, I don’t think this speech shows Obama hates Christianity. But it does show that he wears ideological blinders.
By deriding Christians who stand up for their beliefs, President Obama and his followers do the very thing he criticizes.
And someone needs to fight back — lovingly, of course.
Watch the prayer breakfast remarks again below, via Fox:
>> Lauren Ashburn is an award-winning, Washington-based journalist and TV analyst covering media and politics. Follow her on Twitter here.
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