by Ta-Nehisi Coates
People who wonder why the president does not talk more about race would do well to examine the recent blow-up over his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Inveighing against the barbarism of ISIS, the president pointed out that it would be foolish to blame Islam, at large, for its atrocities. To make this point he noted that using religion to brutalize other people is neither a Muslim invention nor, in America, a foreign one:
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.
The “all too often” could just as well be “almost always.” There were a fair number of pretexts given for slavery and Jim Crow, but Christianity provided the moral justification. On the cusp of plunging his country into a war that would cost some 750,000 lives, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens paused to offer some explanation.
The White House on Friday defended President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast after he was widely lambasted by conservatives for bringing up acts done in Christianity’s name amid a discussion of modern-day terrorist threats.
Americans should hold themselves “up to our own values and our own standards,” deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said aboard the president’s flight to Indianapolis, where Obama is speaking at a community college, according to the pool report.
Obama believes that “when we fall short of that, we need to be honest with ourselves,” Schultz said, noting Obama’s “belief in American exceptionalism.”