Obama, ISIS, and killer Christians

Facebook and other social media have been awash today with accusations that President Obama did something unseemly at the National Prayer Breakfast: he equated every kind of religious extremism as wrong. A partial transcript at PJ Media includes,

He reflected on “realities” around the world from ISIS — “a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism” — to “religious war” in the Central African Republic.


“Humanity’s been grappling with these questions throughout human history, and 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,” Obama said.


“…So it is not unique to one group or one religion; there is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. And God compels us to try.”

The invocation of the Christianity has struck the most vibrant chord. AOL News (yeah, it still exists) provided several reactions:

Conservative firebrand Michelle Malkin led the charge.


“ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades,” she wrote on Twitter.


Another conservative pundit, Dereck Hale, also vented his outrage on Twitter.


“I am shocked, shocked that the guy who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years would defend Islamic violence by attacking Christianity,” tweeted Hale.


“So Obama’s not interested in fighting radical Islam today because of stuff Christians did in the 11th Century,” conservative media watchdog Matt Philbin tweeted.

It’s noteworthy, and somewhat sad, so many laser focused their commentary on the 11th century without acknowledging the 19th and 20th centuries, both homes to slavery, Jim Crow and lynching.

Omaha Courthouse Lynching

The charred corpse of Will Brown, Omaha, NE, after being killed, mutilated and burned. (Wikipedia Commons)

I’ve recently been reading two free books on the subject of lynching, Southern Horrors Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and The Red Record of Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. Conservative estimates of the number of African Americans lynched, mostly in the southern United States, are between 4 – 5,000.

Lynching was the people’s “justice.” Often it happened before a trial, only as a result of an accusation or charge. Sheriffs and judges looked the other way, or participated. Lynching was a family affair. Men, women and children foamed with bloodlust as another Negro was tortured, abused and finally raised by the neck until dead. Sometimes all three things happened at the same time. It was not uncommon for body parts to be collected as souvenirs.

Chauncy Devega has a very graphic, and very troubling piece yesterday at his blog. Entitled “Yes, ISIS Burned a Man Alive: White Americans Did the Same Thing to Black People by the Many Thousands,”  Devega includes two maddening stories of “spectacular lynching” which featured burning the victims alive.

The white-owned newspapers of the South had long gorged themselves with exaggerated or fabricated accounts of such violence. In the papers’ version, the fight between Sam Hose and his boss became transformed into the most enraging crime of all: the rape of the white man’s wife. White Georgians tracked Hose down and prepared for his lynching. Two thousand people gathered for the killing, some taking a special excursion train from Atlanta for the purpose. The leaders of the lynching stripped Hose, chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him, and soaked everything in kerosene. The mob cut off Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals; they peeled the skin from his face. They watched, a newspaper reported, ”with unfeigning satisfaction” as the man’s veins ruptured from the heat and his blood hissed in the flames. ”Oh, my God! Oh, Jesus,” were the only words Hose could manage. When he finally died, the crowd cut his heart and liver from his body, sharing the pieces among themselves, selling fragments of bone and tissue to those unable to attend. No one wore a disguise, no one was punished.

Writing of the lynching of 17-year old illiterate, alleged murderer Jessie Washington in Waco, TX, Devega reminds us,

“Great masses of humanity flew as swiftly as possible through the streets of the city in order to be present at the bridge when the hanging took place, but when it was learned that the Negro was being taken to the City Hall law, crowds of men, women and children turned and hastened to the lawn.”


“On the way to the scene of the burning people on every hand took a hand in showing their feelings in the matter by striking the Negro with anything obtainable, some struck him with shovels, bricks, clubs, and others stabbed him and cut him until when he was strung up his body was a solid color of red, the blood of the many wounds inflicted covered him from head to foot.”


“Dry goods boxes and all kinds of inflammable material were gathered, and it required but an instant to convert this into seething flames. When the Negro was first hoisted into the air his tongue protruded from his mouth and his face was besmeared with blood.”
“Life was not extinct within the Negro’s body, although nearly so, when another chain was placed around his neck and thrown over the limb of a tree on the lawn, everybody trying to get to the Negro and have some part in his death. The infuriated mob then leaned the Negro, who was half alive and half dead, against the tree, he having just strength enough within his limbs to support him.


As rapidly as possible the Negro was then jerked into the air at which a shout from thousands of throats went up on the morning air and dry goods boxes, excelsior, wood and every other article that would burn was then in evidence, appearing as if by magic. A huge dry goods box was then produced and filled to the top with all of the material that had been secured.


The Negro’s body was swaying in the air, and all of the time a noise as of thousands was heard and the Negro’s body was lowered into the box.” “No sooner had his body touched the box than people pressed forward, each eager to be the first to light the fire, matches were touched to the inflammable material and as smoke rapidly rose in the air, such a demonstration as of people gone mad was never heard before. Everybody pressed closer to get souvenirs of the affair. When they had finished with the Negro his body was mutilated.”


“Fingers, ears, pieces of clothing, toes and other parts of the Negro’s body were cut off by members of the mob that had crowded to the scene as if by magic when the word that the Negro had been taken in charge by the mob was heralded over the city. As the smoke rose to the heavens, the mass of people, numbering in the neighborhood of 10,000 crowding the City Hall law and overflowing the square, hanging from the windows of buildings, viewing the scene from the tops of buildings and trees, set up a shout that was heard blocks away.”

These scenes were repeated over and over and over throughout the South. In fact, the victims need not be guilty or even suspected. After lynching three African Americans in New Orleans in 1893, a mob sought more information from

a young man who was in no way related to Julian, who perhaps did not even know the man and who was entirely innocent of any offense in connection therewith, was murdered by the same mob. The same paper says: During the search for Julian on Saturday one of the branch of the posse visited the house of a Negro family in the neighborhood of Camp Parapet, and failing to find the object of their search, tried to induce John Willis, a young Negro, to disclose the whereabouts of Julian. He refused to do so, or cold not do so, and was kicked to death by the gang (from The Red Record Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States).

The only way we can miss the connection being made by the president is to be ignorant of history, or dismissive of it.

Because, as you will remember, the Antebellum and Jim Crow South was not dotted with mosques. There were no calls to prayer.  It was covered in churches and people claiming to be Christians. In Waco the year Jesse Washington was lynched the churches were: Baptist, 14; Methodist, 9; Christian, 4; Presbyterian, 3; Jewish, 2; Episcopal, 2; Evangelistic, 1; Lutheran, 1; Catholic, 1; Christian Science, 1; Salvation Army, 1. Most were White, a few were Black.

The southern United States was a demonic hybrid of racism and cultural Christianity. The Klan claimed to be Christian and people rarely argued the point. Those calling themselves Christians fed racist flames (sometimes literally) during the week, then met in church on Sunday to “worship.”

How, exactly, does one become angry at the president over this fact of history? If Obama was wrong in comparing ISIS to the crusades, it was in this way: He did not need to go back that far in time. The notorious lynching of Black Americans is in every way equal to the notorious murders being broadcast by ISIS.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

One Pingback/Trackback

  • Daniel

    The fact is that if a “Christian” goes and murders or hates someone in the name of Christ they aren’t being Christlike. It shows they don’t have an understanding of the gospel message. Jesus said that we should love our neighbors and our enemies and do good to those who hate us, Matthew 5:43-48. These men hated and persecuted their neighbors and were serving satan instead of Christ.

    • NF

      I agree. Similarly, my Muslim friends say, “if a ‘Muslim’ goes and murders or hates someone in the name of Islam, they aren’t being righteous. It shows they don’t have an understanding of the message of Islam. The Qur’an says whoever kills an innocent person is guilty of killing all humanity. ‘Islamic’ terrorists serve the satan instead of God.”

      • Greg

        The difference is the degree. You see Islam at the forefront in numerous places committing horrible atrocities. There is no other equal with any belief system.

        • J. Michael Matkin

          That’s simply not true. European civilization and Christian faith have been inseparable historically.

          Spanish conquistadors ravaged the Americas with the sword and disease, conquering for Christ. Good Christian Englishmen colonized India, while good Christian Dutch folk created apartheid in South Africa. Images of ISIS filling trenches with dead Iraqis look indistinguishable from photographs of the mass grave at Wounded Knee, part of an American trust in an evolving sense of Manifest Destiny, fueled by a sense of Christian superiority over our little brown brothers, that led us to dominate and terrorize populations as far west as the Philippines.

          The list goes on and on. None of these things justifies what ISIS does, but American Christians are almost compulsive in their unwillingness to acknowledge the massive amount of blood that is on our hands. These guys may be bad, but they’ve got nothing on us.

        • Greg

          The Spanish conquistadors ravaged for gold. There is nothing in the New Testament that justified their actions. You equate British Imperialism in India with the acts that established Islam around India? How does the book of Philemon support apartheid? Or any other New Testament passage.

          In all these instances that you distort, the Quran gives support for what we see. The Bible does not. Nor do we see any Christians, let alone American Christians giving support. By your standards, Westboro Baptist equate to what we see happening in Islam right now. Outrageously bigoted.

  • Wayne Bray

    Not arguing your point of hatred in the name of Christ, but I do want to mention an interesting observation. Your post mainly mentions the south and southern states (rightfully so perhaps), but the only picture exemplifying such hatred (and quite a horrific one at that) was taken in Nebraska, which is NOT exactly Birmingham. To your point, hatred is hatred no matter where or to whom it is shown. While I think the President is extremely defensive of Islam and consistently offensive to me as a Christian, I don’t think these particular statements are that extreme. Many people manipulate religion for evil purposes, even Christianity.

    • martyduren

      You’ve made a fair point on the photo, though some might argue the cultural Christianity aspect was stronger in the South. There are plenty of stories from the southern states. Too many.

      For anyone who wants to see the breadth, just image search on Google for lynching. But, be prepared.

      • Wayne Bray

        I think your response to the issue is well thought out and appropriate, but I am convinced that Obama’s point (while true) was out of place. The past mistakes of other religions does NOT in any way minimize the horror of this present faction of Islam. It troubles me that he seems unwilling to be honest about the present problem. Have there been historical events that wrongly exemplify the faith of the Christian people? YES! But that fact should not have been his message at this Prayer Breakfast in my opinion. It was a slap in the face instead of a warm embrace. And I understand Franklin Grahams point of feeling the real comparison is between Jesus and Mohammed. Still, this is consistent with the President’s policy thus far, and I’m always surprised when people are surprised by his sympathetic bias towards the Islamic community.

        • Nate Woodward

          I’m not sure how “and God compels us to try” is somehow about minimizing the present problem or a bias toward the Islamic community. Comparing ISIS with Jim Crow does not paint Islam in a favorable light or imply it’s not that big of a problem.

        • I think what the President is trying to do is no justify that the horrible things ISIS does are good, but rather to draw the connect that often the radical expression of faith is horrific. While ISIS is horrific in it’s act so have many Christians been in their acts. We don’t throw out all Christians because some are bigots/racist/homophobic/etc. Similarly we shouldn’t condemn all Muslims as though they are supports of ISIS.

        • Grammar Time

          I don’t think he’s trying to minimize the barbarity of what ISIS has done in the name of Islam. I think he is trying to illustrate that this type of barbarity is not limited only to followers of Islam. He is trying to reduce the chance that Islamic Americans face discrimination, violence, or retaliation from others, and I think that is a fair thing to do.

          During WW2, when Japan bombed pearl harbor, just look at the hatred and discrimination that Japanese Americans faced because of the actions of the Japanese. I think it’s important for the president to do what he can to make sure people are able to distinguish the difference between a religious zealot/fanatic vs an everyday adherent.

        • Wayne Bray

          Nate: This one event alone would not justify my statement of “bias.” But of course you know this is not an isolated event. The President has been extremely consistent. As stated above, my point is not to defend any past crimes committed by any other religious group. I simply believe this was not the time to offer a history lesson on other religious violence. The fact is, Christians are not lynching people today, but ISIS is currently performing all kinds of terroristic evil. I am not denying any terrible actions perfumed by any other religion in history, but I think the President’s statement at the Prayer Breakfast was a psychological redirect.

          Instead of being the voice of strength and justice against the PRESENT evil of terrorism, he attempted to educate us on how Muslims aren’t any worse than the rest of us HISTORICALLY. This is why there is such a public backlash. It might not have been so inappropriate for a university professor to say the same things to his class, but it was (in my opinion) insensitive for the President of the United States to choose to say them at this time. I hope you guys understand where I’m coming from.

        • tshf

          I wonder if you have read or listened to the whole speech? If so, I don’t think you can say the 3 sentences quoted above makes the whole speech a “psychological redirect.” The above is a fraction of 2 paragraphs out of 35 or more. A few sentences out of a 23 minute speech, in which, he also says “We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion,
          carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious
          minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of
          war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.” If that is redirection, he’s not very good at it.

        • Wayne Bray

          I understand your point, and it’s a good one. I admit that I am evaluating every word he says, but his response to these type situations (in my opinion) warrants that type evaluation.

          If a man’s 16 year old son had a wreck, and he went to the scene as a parent to check on him…he would first confirm the emotional and physical condition of his son before attempting to correct the possible mistakes that led to this accident. There would be time for correction (if necessary) later.

          This is a flawed example for many obvious reasons. The crimes of past religions were no accident, and the harm we are suffering today at the hands of ISIS has nothing to do with a violence we as present day American Christians have shown to ISIS.

          But I think the point is valid. There is a time that is appropriate to correct and instruct, and there is a time to be an unquestioned advocate as the #1 face of authority. 2-3 sentences were 2-3 too many for me. That’s all I’m saying. I totally understand your point. I just think mine is still valid.

    • Nate Woodward

      Comparing ISIS to Jim Crow is “defensive of Islam?”

    • FLeFlore

      Who are you to say Obama is “out of place” (as noted in your response below)?

      Obama’s comparisons are on target. If he offends you as a Christian, then you may not quite be the Christian you claim to be. Truth should never offend a person with a conscience and reason. And your eagerness to misinterpret Obama — by saying he is “extremely defensive” — makes your bias very clear. Christian, Islamist and any other person who engages in violence in the name of religion should be viewed from the same lens.

  • Conway

    AND…. they were all registered Democrats!

    • Jay

      Who switched over to what is now the GOP. Jesse Helms was a democrat at one time.

  • tshf

    Marty, I think the president’s speech was fine and suited the occasion well. However, there is ONE difference in the events he points out and those of ISIS/ISIL….. ISIS is doing them NOW and WE are witnesses. What are WE doing/going to do about it? We as in everyone, every faith, every moral person. That is the question. Do we stand up, speak out, support actions against them, or do we just watch like the spectators in the crowds in your examples?

    • Hypocracymuch?

      tshf, If WE want to do something about it then why don’t we start from our home first and stop unarmed black Americans being murdered in our street by the law enforcement while we also try to tackle the menace of ISIS overseas? Can’t we walk and chew gum anymore?

  • Pingback: Islamic ISIS Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive - Page 8 - Christian Forums()

  • apieceofthat

    The difference though is that these things are happening NOW. Whites in the United States are not lynching, torturing and burning blacks today. Yes, it was hideous when it happened in our country but it doesn’t happen in 2015 USA.
    These atrocities by Muslims are taking place today. You can’t compare the two. We also used leeches to deal with “blood diseases”, gave kids heroin to calm them down, rubbed mercury on open wounds. But we’ve learned. If people were still doing those things today, we’d stop them. We’d call them crackpots, nut jobs, idiots. We absolutely wouldn’t tolerate it. Our response wouldn’t be bringing up the past and saying “Yeah, but Americans did it 100 years ago so let’s not point fingers.” That’s ludicrous.

  • MC

    People say lynching was done by “Christians”, I don’t see the evidence of those people following the Gospel of Christ, what did atheists who partook in lynchings base it on? People say slavery was based on the Bible by “Christians”, well, what did atheist slave owners base it on?