During Friday's edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe program, co-host Joe Scarborough fired back at President Barack Obama's comment that Christians and members of other faiths should not get on their “high horses” regarding Islamic violence given their own religions’ misdeeds in the past, including the Crusades and the Inquisition.
“It's unbelievable,” he noted, that the president had to “go back 700, 800, 900 years” to find an example of Christian extremism. “You see this when you have people” who want to say: “Yes, radical Islam is bad, but look at what Christianity does.”
During Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast, Obama declared that we “see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge or worse, sometimes as a weapon. We see ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.”
So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities? The profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths operating alongside those who seek to hijack religions for their own murderous acts.
Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember 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.
Fellow co-host Mika Brzezinski said that Obama had generated “a little bit of controversy in Washington" while speaking out about extremism. "The president challenged Christians to reflect on their own religious history.”
Scarborough called Obama's comments “baffling to me” before stating: “Really, you have to go back 800 years to a crusade -- which, by the way, most historians say Christians launched in response to years and years of Muslims taking over their former land.”
Brzezinski then noted that several people have slammed what they called a “false moral comparison, among them former Republican governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia, who accused the president of offending all Christians” in what he framed as “the most offensive remark I've ever heard a president make.”
“I think the timing's bad,” the female co-host asserted. “I think that the bigger conversation on whether or not it's okay to have -- .”
Her co-host cut her off and asked: “Why does he feel the need to go back 800 years?” He then answered his own question by blaming “this stupid, left-wing moral equivalency.”
“Sometimes, you can just say: 'Hey, you know what? There are some really, really bad Muslim extremists, and you don't have to go to the other side, going 'Oh, and Christians are bad, too,'” Scarborough stated.
Stating he saw a documentary on the Cable News Network at least five years ago that dealt with (he said in a deep voice) Extremism in the Name of God, he noted that “they were so desperate to find Jewish examples of extremism, and then – this was right after 9/11 – and then, their example for Christian examples of extremism was: 'Some schools, some Christian schools in America actually make women wear skirts below their knees.'”
“How ghastly,” he said sarcastically. “Let's see: wear skirts below your knees on this side at fundamentalist schools or blow up the Trade Center” on the other side.
“No, it's not okay. It's not okay for this president” to compare something that happened centuries ago with current acts of barbarism, Scarborough continued. “You almost have to ask the question: Where did he go to church? Where would he get such ideas from?”
The co-host then turned to one of his guests, Sam Stein of the Huffington Post website.
“What's so funny, Sam, is when liberals, pseudo-intellectuals, make these arguments, they actually don't realize they make themselves look foolish.”
“I think he was reverting to his post-presidency academic mode where he wanted to draw these historical moral equivalencies,” Stein replied.
“The broader point that religion can be perverted is pretty well established at this point, but you don't need to do that in this context with ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) all around you,” he continued.
“I will say this,” Stein said. “I need to find my outrage dial” since he felt that Gilmore's comment was “ridiculous.”
He also stated that Obama's remarks were “stupid, dumb and ill-timed.”
“I'm not outraged by this,” Scarborough responded. “I just agree with Sam. This is just stupid and dumb.”
Stein then gave Barack Obama some advice: “If you want to talk about the perversion of religion, don't do it while you're president, do it in your post-presidential life.”
The co-host then added that “if you want to talk about the perversion of religion, don't pervert the facts.”