Christianity,  Politics

Russell Moore remarks on Pres. Obama’s comparison of ISIS to the Crusades

Over the weekend, Russell Moore weighed-in on President Obama’s remarks comparing ISIS to the Crusades. Moore’s words were spot-on and hilarious. In the video above, his part begins at 2:00.


  • Scott Lencke

    I think Christopher Hale had a more balanced response. We do need to find ways to remember this isn’t ultimately about Muslims in general. And if we think it is, then we can remember our Christian history which we don’t like to be associated with.

    • Christiane Smith

      Scott, I tend to agree with you.
      In order for people to see Muslims as the same as terrorists, we would have to look at people like the king and queen of Jordan as monsters . . . they’re not. They are decent people with a beautiful family. The king has said, following the horrendous death of the Jordanian pilot, that the perpetrators did NOT represent the religion of Islam. He should know, he is the ruler of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan and he is a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed.

      I agree the President’s words were difficult to hear, and that they were seemingly trying to deflect anger from our own Islamic American citizens, but there was some truth in what he said . . . we seem to need our ‘villains’ as a contrast in order to heighten our own self-righteousness;
      but history, when examined, uncovers that which we would like to forget.

      I’m for the annihilation of ISIS. So I’m as partial as the next one.
      But I don’t think the Muslim people of my acquaintance are terrorists, no . . . not even close.

  • James Stanton

    The point that Obama was making, which many Christian conservatives seem to have intentionally missed, is that religious violence is not exclusive to any one religion and that it is counterproductive to blame the religion of 1.6 billion Muslims for the actions of ISIS.

    This hysteria over Obama’s comments is driven in some part by Obama’s refusal to call acts of terrorism by radicalized Muslims as “Islamic terrorism”. The fundamental misunderstanding in the West is that Muslims think of anything Islamic as being a good thing. To call terrorism Islamic is to say that is is right and proper and in accordance with the religion.

    There’s a reason President Bush was often conciliatory and never singled out Muslims during his Presidency. However, I doubt the next Republican candidate will be as measured in public comments. This kind of ignorance comes from people who think we need to take a rhetorical stand against “Islamic terrorism”. To illustrate the ignorance… contrast the pressure on Obama to describe the war on terror as a war against Islam to the refusal of the right to consider closing the prison camp on Guantanamo Bay. This is all about symbolism.

  • Curt Day

    I don’t think Moore has anything of value to say here. If we are honest about ourselves, those of us who are offended feel that way because we want to look down on Muslims. Some of us want to see ourselves as being superior because that is one way we try to prove that the Gospel is right and others are wrong. And it isn’t that our faith in the Gospel is wrong, our need to see ourselves as being superior is.

    And because some of us want to see ourselves as being superior to Muslims, we have no problem with associating ISIS with Islam, but we don’t believe turnabout is fair play. Those of us who think we are better than them want the world to see that those who committed atrocities in the name of Christ do not represent Christianity.

    Finally, before we are so ready to cry foul by criticizing moral equivalency, we need to realize that to reject moral equivalency is to embrace moral relativity.

    We have ask ourselves this question: Are we getting our significance from Christ and what He has done for us, or are we trying feel significant by attempting to prove that we are better than others?

  • Tim Brown

    I have no problem with any Muslim willing to let me live as I wish, and I will return the favor. However I do have problems with people who kill innocent people to further their radical views. Our president and those affiliated with his party have called Republicans and their allied domestic terrorists because they have disagreed with his policies. They have killed no one. Radical Islamists behead burn and blow up people. Instead of labeling these people what they are, they say don’t blame Muslims for this, Christians are just as bad.
    At this time in the world only one group associated with Christianity is doing anything similar to this and it is mixed with African mysticism.
    Why can’t he just say, that what these people are doing is totally wrong and we as a world community need to come together to stop it, all religions all faiths. Instead we get you are just as bad. When these types of people are about the only ones going killing in the name of religion.

    • Curt Day

      I fully agree with your first two sentences. But to be consistent, if you oppose ISIS, a group that uses religion as a camouflage for hatred and cruelty, then you would have the same problems if you were an indigenous person living in Palestine during the Crusades. Likewise, if you were Black, you would have the same problems with the KKK, who committed murder and terrorism in the name of Christ, and with Christians who adamantly defended Jim Crow. That is the point Obama made as he was pointing out our history.

      And there were other instances as well. The Puritans persecuted and even martyred Quakers as well as participated in the ethnic cleansing of America’s indigenous people from the land.

      And how many Christians supported the Persian Gulf Wars and the sanctions. The combination of the infrastructure damage caused by the first Persian Gulf War plus the sanctions caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. And in order to garner support for the sanctions, we would blame everything on Saddam and his lack of cooperation. But the directors of the oil for food programs, one of them being an American, quit their positions in protest of the how the program itself was causing the deaths of the people there.

      I don’t think Obama disagrees with your first sentence of your last paragraph. What he wanted to guard against was American Christian self-righteousness. He didn’t want us to embrace the role of the pharisee from the parable of the two men praying. To do so would also impair joint efforts to combat radical groups like ISIS.

      Who opposes ISIS? A large number of Islamic groups, including Hamas, have condemned ISIS and some have joined the fight against them.

    • James Stanton

      I don’t think the President has ever called a political opponent a domestic terrorist. There are probably fringe leftists who say such things just as fringe right-wingers demonize their political opposition. This is an imagined slight from people who already dislike the President.

      What you want to do here is to poke a stick in the eye of all Muslims, whether they support terror or not. This does not make fighting terrorists easier in alienating Muslims but perhaps it will make you feel better.

      It is quite unfair to claim that Obama doesn’t say that what these people are doing is totally wrong. What he refuses to do is to throw American Muslims, the vast majority of whom are assimilated, prosperous, and peaceful compared to European Muslims, under the bus to satisfy those lashing out.

      The backlash from prominent Christian conservatives is little more than the nursing of grievances because Obama dared to say people have justified evil under the cloak of Christianity both long ago and in the recent past.

      • Curt Day

        Maybe a President hasn’t but I think it is the Pentagon that refers to protesters as low-level terrorists. And that was directed at leftist protesters.

        Can you provide the link where I can read or hear President Obama call a political opponent a ‘domestic terrorist’?

        Finally, why do you want to poke a stick in the eye of all Muslims?

  • Roy Fuller

    Moore – spot on? Hardly, he actually seems to have missed the point the President was making, which was NOT about moral equivalency. Rather, as others have stated, the point was that all religions have been used to further violence. Period. Thus, the call was for humility for all people of faith, even as we grapple with the current round of violent extremists who are using Islam. Moore’s example of “we surprised the British at Yorktown” reveals that he either did not understand what the President was saying, or as so many have done, chose to intentionally misrepresent his remarks. In either case, to elevate Moore’s response as “spot on and hilarious” makes me question Denny purpose in offering them here.

    • Ian Shaw

      Roy,-but in saying what he (President Obama) said, he almost came across as “hold your horses before ya’ll get your pitchforks and torches against this here group called ISIS”

      Kevin DeYoung puts the crusades into a proper context in a piece he did on TGC today. While many people have written about the crusades and their atrocities… “But that’s not the whole story. The Crusades is also the story of thousands of godly men, women, and children who sacrificed time, money, and health to reclaim holy lands in distant countries overrun by Muslims. The Christians of the East had suffered mightily at the hands of the Turks and Arabs. It was only right, it seemed to medieval Christians, to go and help their fellow Christians and reclaim their land and property.”

      “We are right to deplore the cruelty meted out by crusading Christians, but should not ignore their plight. Christians lands had been captured. Surely, they thought, this could not stand………It would be unthinkable, cowardly even, for no one to storm the city, liberate its captives, and return our nation’s capital to its rightful owners. We should never excuse the atrocities that occurred under the banner of the cross during the Crusades, but we should, at least, take pause to understand why they set out on what seems to us to be a fool’s errand.”

      “The point of this article is not to make us fans of the Crusades, but to make us more careful in our denunciation of them. We fight for nation-states and democracy. They fought for religion and holy lands. Their reasons for war seem wrong to us, but no more than our reasons (political and social ideologies) would seem wrong to them.”

      It did come across as a false moral equivalency, because the way the President mentioned it, it made it seem like his only knowledge of the crusades is the “popularized version that only depicts barbaric, ignorant, cruel and superstitious crusaders attacking peaceful, sophisticated Muslims”. President Obama just threw it out there flippantly.

      Helping re-take a land that was taken from someone is the equivalent to the U.S. assisting Kuwait when Iraq invaded in 1990. Beheading and burning human beings alive for no reason other than lack of allegiance to a ideologically false view of Islam cannot be compared apples to apples here.

      • Roy Fuller

        Ian, the thread here and others I have been on with regard to the President’s remarks have convinced me more than ever that the President has become a Rorschach test for many – persons on all sides of the political spectrum see and hear in his words and actions what they want, or have already decided they know. Perhaps this is always the case. From my perspective, the President’s remarks were not a unwelcome lecture (though it has been perceived by some); it was not false moral equivalency, though it has been perceived by some; it was not an atheistic attack on Christianity, though it has been perceived by some; nor was it an attempt to ignore the current threat posed by today’s extremists, though it has been perceived by some. What I heard was a simple point, that all human religious have been used to promote violence. Period. This is a point I make all the time in my classes on religious studies, using a wide range of historic and contemporary examples.

        While your comments regarding the complexity of the Crusades are on target, the principle of reclaiming lands once held is also being articulated by Islamists extremists, in that they want to control all the lands once held by Muslim empires.

        • Ian Shaw

          While it might have been used to mention that religions have all been used to promote violence, those wars that have are significantly dwarfed, by the exponentially larger in number and death/destruction from non-religious wars/conflict in human history. Contrary to popular belief, religion is not nor has it been the leading cause of war in the world.

          Did he need to reference religious conflict at all or can he just call evil “evil”?

      • James Stanton

        I think that your justification of the Crusades means that Muslims would be correct to unite and invade Israel and restore lands and territory taken from oppressed Palestinians. Now take your doubts about the Palestinian cause and apply them to the plight of Christians under Muslim rule before the Crusades. A recent example could be the situation in Ukraine. Putin justifies supporting the rebels in Ukraine because the Ukrainians are alleged to be oppressing the ethnic Russians. What is real here?

        The truth is that today’s society renders a different judgement on events like the Crusades or even barbaric crimes like beheadings and burnings. ISISs methods are seen as barbaric today yet were likely common in the medieval era.

        Lastly, there is the inherent contradiction between what you think Obama almost seemed to be saying about ISIS and the fact that he is leading the actual war effort to destroy ISIS.

        • Ian Shaw

          I didn’t say there was “justification” or “just war” criteria for the crusades, I was merely pointing out what it had truly started over, to give the proper context.

          Leaders are on the front lines. The President (all of them while they are elected) is a desk jockey. Is he pulling the trigger from the cockpit FA-18’s or AC-130’s that are dropping ordinance on ISIS compounds/strongholds? Our military men and women are “leading” that battle.

  • James Stanton

    Ian, I understood what you were saying but I dispute, without certainty, whether you interpretation of the rationale for the Crusades is correct. I think, being Christians, we are biased towards thinking Crusaders were bleeding heart types acting out of concern for oppressed ME Christians rather than control of the Holy Land.

    I’ve served so I know perfectly well who implements and carries out the orders of the Commander in Chief. There is a chain of command and he is at the top of it. Walk into any military establishment and you will see a portrait of the President, whoever that may be, on the wall. If the President did not want soldiers fighting ISIS they would not be doing so.

  • Tim Elliott

    So is President Obama making an effort to chide religious leaders at the Prayer Breakfast in order to defend the actions of ISIS? Is it really a time to point the finger at his own countrymen and if so, what good does that really do? What on earth could possibly be beneficial about doing that–and at that specific venue? Why not direct it to the entire nation?

    Thank you, Russell Moore–very well put!

  • Christiane Smith

    the ‘goal’ of the Crusades was to ‘reclaim’ the Holy Land from the ‘infidels’ . . . and much blood was shed over the many campaigns, yes . . . but certain sites within the Holy Land were placed in the ‘custos’ or custodial care of the Franciscan order without bloodshed, and that is a contrast to the other way the Church tried to salvage those sites . . . that story involves Francis of Assisi, an Egyptian caliphate, and a strange but true story that begins with a weaponless monk approaching Muslim warriors on foot to talk with them and their leader for a time . . . it ends . . . well it doesn’t end, exactly, because even today, the custodial care of certain sites in the Holy Land remain in Franciscan hands . . .

    I still want to see ISIS annihilated. Even though I am aware that the Crusades for the most part failed with all the bloodshed and all the loss of life. Then I remember the story of the Franciscans and I think there must still be other ‘weapons’ in our Christian arsenal far more powerful than we realize. One wonders what was said between Sultan al-Kamil and Francis when they met. And how it was that Francis’ order was allowed custodial care of those sacred sites. Whatever Francis brought with him to that encounter, we could use that now.

  • brian darby

    I listened to part of President Obama’s speech. I am now reading what those who are upset about it are saying. I have not read all of the responses so I will just thank Dr. Burk for posting this and for the responses to this post, it is helpful to get both sides or the many sides of an issue. I hope you all have a nice day.

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