Moral Equivalency & High Horses

Speaking before the National Prayer Breakfast this week, President Obama used the opportunity to deliver a professorial warning. Referring to ISIL/ISIS/Daesh and describing them as “a brutal, vicious death cult …,” the President condemned their “unspeakable acts of barbarism” in the name of religion. Then, he continued:  “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.national-prayer-breakfast-2015The National Prayer Breakfast (and its associated events) is an annual event that dates back to 1953. This year’s breakfast drew dignitaries from far-off places around the globe as well as many high profile Washingtonians. Overall, the event draws some 3,500 people of various religious affiliations – as well as non-religious individuals – to a ballroom at the DC-based Washington Hilton Hotel for prayer, a shared meal and the usual speechifying.

Ordinarily, I would not comment on this event … nor on the President’s remarks from the occasion. I find it’s more prudent just to ignore what goes on in DC. Articles covering the event abound on the worldwide web; these are a few (but not all) I’ve read … here, here, here.

The moral equivalency the President offered (between people acting in the name of Jesus Christ and those acting in the name of Islam) invited a response, and social media provided its predictable variety of remarks and criticism. There’s no point in regurgitating all (or even a part) of what has already been said. The chart below was repeatedly cited to compare the differences between the Crusades and Islamic aggression that has gone on for centuries.CRUSADES (1)

Almost everyone over the last couple days has viewed the horrific video or pictures of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive by his Islamic captors. (I didn’t watch the video myself; the still pictures were graphic enough.)

Nevertheless, I think it’s important to understand the evil that flourishes in our world today. As further documentation, terrifying stories (the few that emerge) continue to indicate violence against women (stoning, rape, another stoning) remains a common tool of intimidation for this barbaric group.

Thinking about the President’s comments and the stories of savage behavior that bombard us almost every day, what came to my mind was an incident in the life of Jesus Himself. It seems to me this story gives the lie to the President’s contention that Islam’s violence is somehow equivalent to the actions observed in Christianity.Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery_Bruegel

In John, chapter 8, the narrative tells us Jesus was teaching in the temple when Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day) brought to him a woman. While the woman stood mute before Jesus, the Pharisees said:  “This woman was caught in the act of adultery.” I-n – T-h-e – A-c-t! They weren’t just speculating as she walked out of someone’s tent; nope, they caught her in the act.

These religious leaders were, of course, hoping they’d find a way to trap Jesus into contradicting the Law of Moses they professed to follow. So they reminded Jesus the penalty for such an offense (according to their interpretation of the Law) was she should be stoned to death, i.e. executed. What do you say we should do, Jesus? Hmmm?

But Jesus Christ, Son of God, the merciful Deliverer, doesn’t immediately pick up a stone. Instead, He began writing on the ground with His finger. (No, we don’t know, can’t say, what He might have written, but I’m guessing the Pharisees saw and understood what He’d written. It was a very private conversation and they chose to ignore what He’d written.)

The story goes on that when the Jewish leaders pressed their case, insisting on an answer from Him, He stood up and told them:  “Anyone here who has never sinned should throw the first stone at her.” After that, one by one, the religious leaders disappeared, until only the woman stood before Jesus. In one of the most beautiful demonstrations of forgiveness, Jesus asks her, “Did no one judge you guilty?” She answers Him, “No one, Lord.” And He tells her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave behind your life of sin.cast-first-stone

Interesting, the statement Jesus made:  “Anyone here who has never sinned should throw the first stone at her.” He was the only one in the temple that day who could claim He had never sinned … but He didn’t use his holiness as an excuse to bring down judgment upon the woman.

The Bible provides a wondrous picture of Jesus respecting women and elevating them to a place of honor that was unique, certainly an unconventional – revolutionary! – approach for that time. No other faith has offered women the liberty we can enjoy in Christ.

Whether it’s the President of the United States or anyone else in the world who suggests that there’s a moral equivalence between Christianity (with its high view of women) and Islam (which for the most part views women as not fully human), I consider this to be a despicable suggestion … and worthy of refutation … yes, even if one must mount one’s “high horse” to do so!

Renée