POTUS and that Cairo Speech
No doubt Obama’s speech in Cairo left many right-wing and most certainly christian pundits rankled. The POTUS paying obeisance to Islam? Hey, we are the good guys! They, the axis of evil. The concept of good and evil cuts through the bone of social relationships. And along with the concepts of peace, order and justice these explain why laws have been formed and reformulated through the ages. There was a lot of good in Obama’s speech. He showed respect for Islam which was right. Afterall how else can you live peaceably with another community? Only with either respect or domination. The US tried the latter and it didn’t work. The time has come for the former. The problem for those steeped in the discredited rhetoric of condescension is how to adjust to the new paradigm. And like listeners of Fox News have found that’s not something they are willing to do without a fight.
Was all true then in Obama’s speech? What about the sentence that all faiths reject the killing of innocents? We know from recorded history that religion has through the eons provoked and encouraged the indiscriminate killing of innocent people from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans. All were guilty and fell short of the glory of God. They called upon their gods to bring them victory as they went about pillaging and raping all who wouldn’t bow before them. They then returned home with their spoils and erected temples and made sacrifices to the glory of Athena or Mars or Nut.
The Old Testament is full of God’s wrath towards idolatrous communities and the Israelites were pressed into wiping these infidels off the face of the earth on their (Israelites) way to possessing the land of milk and honey. The Book of Exodus recounts the Passover when God’s angel of death passed over the children of Israel as he swept over the land of Egypt killing the innocent first-born of all Egyptians. At least some of these first-born would have been young children who could not have had anything to do with the serfdom of the Israelites. And we know that the Islamic crusades slaughtered communities whole as they carried their message across the Arabian desert and North Africa. There was no other way these people would have given up their ancient or previously christian beliefs.
Where does this leave us about religion and Obama? He is an intelligent thinking christian in a christian-majority country. His actions before and after his election suggest he grasps that religion is a useful construct for gaining power and influencing people. He may believe in God or intelligent design (which is so much bunk) and as long as billions of people around the world want to and perhaps need to believe in such nonsense then it makes much machiavellian sense to invoke and exploit religion while altruistically running the affairs of the masses. In that respect Obama’s speech struck the right tone.