In his address to the National Prayer Breakfast last week, President Obama warned those assembled not to associate the terrible deeds being perpetrated in the name if Islam with the religion itself:
Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and 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. . . . So it is not unique to one group or one religion.
David Barton took issue with this. Who is he? According to Wikipedia, Barton is
an American evangelical Christian conservative political activist and author. He is the founder of WallBuilders, a Texas-based organization which promotes the view that it is a myth that the United States Constitution insists on separation of church and state. Barton is the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas. He has been described as a Christian nationalist and “one of the foremost Christian revisionist historians”; much of his work is devoted to advancing the idea, based upon research that many historians describe as flawed, that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.
In all my years as a Catholic, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an evangelical protestant come to the defense of the Crusades or the Inquisition. But President Obama is, if nothing else, a man who gives rise to the unexpected. And Barton made a remarkable rebuttal at that. After citing the analysis of several contemporary commentators on the president’s remarks, Barton went on to quote several reputable historical sources on the despotic influence Islam has over civil governance.
And then he went in for the statistical kill:
Significantly, if one tabulates the loss of lives occasioned by so-called Christian governments over the 2,000 year history of Christianity (such as the Inquisition, and even the Crusades – which were largely Christian attempts to repel militant Muslim jihadist invasions made into Judeo-Christian regions), a very generous count of the total deaths that may be laid at the doorstep of Christianity is about five million. But the number of lives lost at the hands of secular, non-, and anti-Christian leaders and governments in just the 20th century alone is well over 100 million.
That includes the 1.5 million Christian Armenians massacred by Muslim Turks on just one occasion beginning in 1915; the 62 million killed by the secular Soviet Communists; the 35 million by the secular Chinese Communists; the 1.7 million by the secular Vietnamese Communists; the 1 million in the Polish Ethnic Cleansing; the 1 million in Yugoslavia; the 1.7 million in North Korea, and other non- or anti-Christian regimes.
And the number of deaths perpetrated by such leaders is enormous, including the murder of 42.7 million by Joseph Stalin; Mao Tse-tung, 37.8 million; Adolf Hitler, 20.9 million; Vladimir Lenin, 4 million; Tojo Hideki, 4 million; Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge, 1 million; Yahya Khan, 1.5 million; and so forth. Thus the number of lives lost at the hands of anti-Christians in just the past century is more than 20 times greater than those lost at the hands of Christians in the entire previous twenty centuries.
And since the president mentioned the Inquisition, over its six century span, between 1,000 and 3,000 individuals were put to death, which averages from two to five deaths a year across that span. But last year alone (2014), Muslims executed 4,344 Christians thus killing more in one year than Christians did in six full centuries! Additionally, when including just the publicized incidents, Muslims have killed some 11,334 innocents in terrorist attacks since 1980, with thousands if not tens-of-thousands more dead as a result of the non-reported killings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries as groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and Islamic State have attempted to take control in recent years.
And regarding the president’s specific allusion to Christianity and slavery, Jewish writer and national news editor Ben Shapiro correctly noted:
Christians obliterated slavery. Christians obliterated Jim Crow. Modern slavery is largely perpetrated by Muslims. Modern Jim Crow is certainly perpetrated by Muslims under Sharia law.
By the way, if the president’s defenders wish to invoke the American witch trials of 1692-1693 (which the president did not mention, but which American academics often do), then you can include 27 lost lives at the hands of Christians over that two-year span (but you must also note that it was Christian ministers who took the lead in bringing those trials to a close). Yet 27 American lives lost over two years is hardly an equivalent comparison to the 3,000 American lives lost on just one day in September 2001 at the hands of Muslim terrorists.
Sorry, Mr. President, but there is absolutely no moral equivalency with your comparison. You have failed to recognize the reality of history and its consistent lesson that the application and practice of the Bible and its teachings elevates a society and civilizes its institutions. By comparing modern Muslim terrorists with medieval Christians you have, once again, totally missed the mark.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing Christianity maligned as a murderous religion – usually by secular atheists, whose ideology has proven to be the most bloodthirsty in history, but also by Muslim sympathizers, who seem to think Christianity and Islam are on par when it comes to putting the sword to our enemies.
There have certainly been those who have done evil in the name of our faith, but they do not represent us. There have been those who have fought just wars in the name of our faith, and insofar as they conducted themselves honorably, they do represent us. Christians may believe in “turning the other cheek,” but we are not inherently and exclusively pacifistic. Christ Himself said, “I came not to bring peace, but the sword.” But an understanding of divine justice, and the ways in which this concept is applied to war, is necessary to interpret the lawful actions taken in self-defense by Christians over the centuries.
G.K. Chesterton put it well:
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.
Spiritual corruption and cowardice is what we face from our leaders with increasing and aggravating frequency these days. With that in mind, I’d like to thank Mr. Barton for setting the record straight.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.