Not the Pastor-in-Chief

The Heretic Hunters of Liberal Christianity
Rod Dreher
The American Conservative
February 12, 2015

Rod Dreher neatly sums up the real problem with Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech.

I think Obama was historically ignorant and politically ill-advised to bring the Crusades into the discussion, for reasons we have discussed in this space (in short, because the historical phenomenon is far too complex to be shoehorned into a neat, politically useful narrative). Nevertheless, he was certainly right to say that no religion has a monopoly on virtue or vice, and to call for all of us to be more humble and loving. What’s most interesting about his speech, though, is how he assumes that his watery, secular-ish liberal take on religion (both Christian and otherwise) is the authentic religious stance.

How do we know who is “misusing His name,” and who is being true to their faith? How do we know that faith is being “perverted and distorted”? By whose standards? When we say that “no God condones terror,” what does that mean to the jihadist who believes in all sincerity that he is not engaged in terror, but is simply being obedient to his god?

The temptation to pontificate on faith is a powerful one for US leaders of all political stripes. What we must ask is how far we want our elected officials to go when addressing issues of faith. As a matter of principle, I don’t want to hear my rabbi discussing politics or my President (or elected representatives) taking on questions of theology. The only thing I want from my elected officials vis-a-vis religion is their ardent defense of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Islam is, and should not be, a matter of political debate in this country beyond the effort to ensure that Muslims in America enjoy the full rights of their residency and citizenship alongside Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Druids, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Islamism, to the extent that it is a destructive and deadly political force, is another story altogether, as should be any group of violent extremists that shroud their hate-filled politics in a mantle of faith.

And the Prayer Breakfast, an annual occasion that seems from the outside to have become more of an excuse for political sanctimony rather than humble reflection, may well have outlived its usefulness.

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