President Obama spoke at the annual congressional prayer breakfast, where legislators, officials and clergy gathered to offer thanks to God for the blessings bestowed on the United States.
Obama touched on the claims made by his political opponents that he is blind to a fascist ideology within Islam. Instead, he says that those who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are hijacking an otherwise peaceful religion, which has happened throughout human history to many different faiths, including our own. After all, "during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. And "in our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We see faith driving us to do right, but we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge, or worse, sometimes as a weapon.
From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris we have seen acts of terror and violence perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith; their faith. Professing to stand up for Islam but, in fact, are betraying it.
We see ISIS, a brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism. Terrorizing religious minorities, like the Yazidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
We see sectarian war in Syria. The murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Religious war in the Central African Republic. A rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe. So often perpetrated in the name of religion.
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 ends.
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history, and unless 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. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow, all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
Michelle and I returned from India, an incredible, beautiful country, full of this magnificent diversity, but a place where in past years religious faiths of all types have on occasion been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and believes. Acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.
So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful 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 cyber space, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance, but God compels us to try. And in this mission I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe. And first we should start with some basic humility.
I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt. Not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and -- and that God speaks only to us, and doesn't speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn't care about others. That somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.
Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth. Our job it to be true to him, his word and his commandments, and we should assume humbly that---
...we're confused and don't always know what we're doing, and we're staggering and stumbling towards him. And have some humility in that process.
And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse his name to justify oppression or violence or hatred with that fierce certainty. No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number. And so as people of faith we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion-- Any religion for their own nihilistic ends, and here at home and around the world we'll constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom. Freedom of religion. The right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose to practice no faith at all, if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.
There's wisdom in our founders, writing in those documents that helped found this nation, the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility. They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion, for to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.