President Barack Obama raised hackles on the Christian right this week during his address to the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast.
In the wake of the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris by Islamic extremists and the atrocities committed on video by ISIS, Obama urged Christians not to get too complacent in their view of Islam as a violent religion and Christianity as a peaceful one.
“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” said the president. “Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
Conservatives greeted this assertion with their usual unflappable calm and equanimity, which is to say, of course, that they pretty much all started screaming and soiling themselves at once.
But because we’re so nice here at the Raw Story Historic Corrections Desk, we thought we’d share some examples of Christian extremist violence for the edification of our right-leaning friends who seem to believe that it’s nothing but Christmas trees and Easter lilies on their side of the church as opposed to IEDs and lynching ropes.
Let’s begin, shall we?
The Fourth Crusade
When Obama cited the Crusades, it was to conjure the image of Christians doing their own brand of Jihad in centuries past. But what kind of Holy War was the Fourth Crusade? As always, the goal was to take Jerusalem back for Christianity, but the long slog to the Holy Land in the early 13th century was dangerous and slow. The mostly French holy soldiers of the Fourth Crusade sought a quicker passage, by boat to Egypt, and the independent state of Venice offered to lend 200 boats to make it happen. But Venice had a condition — help us retake the city of Zara from Hungarian invaders. So before they could leave for Egypt, the crusaders attacked Zara — a Christian city — to conquer it for Venice. With that dirty work out of the way, they set sail for Constantinople and did the unthinkable, sacking the largest, most sophisticated city in Christendom on the promise of cash offered by a pretender to the city’s throne. Sated with blood and gold, the crusaders headed home after defeating Constantinople, and never even got to the Holy Land. Praise the Lord!
Jews were persecuted and ghettoized for centuries in Europe. During World War II, a staunchly Christian Adolf Hitler proposed the notorious “Final Solution” as his armies rounded up and exterminated some 6 million Jews over the course of the Nazi Party’s rise and precipitous fall.
Many conservatives have attempted to obscure the Nazi Party’s ties to extreme Christianism by asserting the Nazi officers dabbled in the occult or to risibly accuse the German National Socialist Party of being a left-wing, atheist organization. In fact the Nazis were staunchly Christian and relied heavily on the anti-Semitic theories and writings of Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant church.
“We are at fault in not avenging all this innocent blood of our Lord and the blood of the children [Jews] have shed since then (which still shines forth from their eyes and their skin),” wrote Luther. “We are at fault in not slaying them.”
The Ku Klux Klan
America’s earliest home-grown white nationalist militia rooted their pro-segregation philosophy and anti-black and anti-Jew violence in the belief that they were enforcing God’s law on behalf of the chosen people, the white race.
To this day, Klansmen and women will cheerfully assure you that they are good, law-abiding Christians who are acting out of defense of what they see as a beleaguered white population.
“We don’t hate people because of their race, I mean, we’re a Christian organization,” said the Klan’s Frank Ancona in 2014. “We want to stay white. It’s not a hateful thing to want to maintain white supremacy.”
The Otherside Lounge Bombing
In 1997, Christian terrorist Eric Robert Rudolf planted and detonated a homemade bomb at the Atlanta LGBT bar the Otherside Lounge. Four people were injured. A second bomb failed to detonate.
Rudolph bombed abortion clinics in Birmingham and Atlanta, killing three people in all and injuring 111 others. He was apprehended by police in 2003 and remains in federal custody.
Because these individuals believe that God is acting through them to save the lives of unborn children, they are willing to commit acts of extreme violence to deny women access to reproductive health care.
So-called “pro-life” organizations have become some of the most dangerous and violent religious zealots in the U.S. today. It is hard to isolate any single incident because over the last two decades, groups like Operation Rescue have set fire to women’s health centers, murdered doctors like Kansas’ Dr. George Tiller in cold blood, and gunned down clinic workers, nurses and bystanders.
And those are just a few examples, kids. So, the next time someone tries to tell you that Islam produces the only violent religious extremists of the world, ask them how Dr. Tiller’s widow probably feels about that, or the survivors of Eric Rudolph’s murderous rampages. Praise Jesus and pass the ammunition!