Obama The Theologian

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It’s interesting that during a Ramadan dinner at the White House President Obama mentioned that Islam is a great religion.

Since when is he qualified to make such theological statements when questions of this magnitude are above his pay grade?

Did President Obama mean how the followers of Islam subjugated the Christian lands of the Middle East, North Africa, Anatolia, the Balkans, and Spain?

Enslaved millions of black Africans in the slave trade to Europeans?

Not to mention defiling the Hagia Sophia, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and many, many more Christian shrines and churches.

President Obama you have no idea what you’re talking about.

_._

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12 Responses to Obama The Theologian

  • by Pope John Paul II in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”

    A very different discussion, obviously, is the one that leads us to the synagogues and mosques, where those who worship the One God assemble. Yes, certainly it is a different case when we come to these great monotheistic religions, beginning with Islam. In the Declaration Nostra Aetate we read: “The Church also has a high regard for the Muslims, who worship one God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent, the Creator of heaven and earth” (Nostra Aetate 3). As a result of their monotheism, believers in Allah are particularly close to us.

    I remember an event from my youth. In the convent of the Church of Saint Mark in Florence, we were looking at the frescoes by Fra Angelico. At a certain point a man joined us who, after sharing his admiration for the work of this great religious artist, immediately added: “But nothing can compare to our magnificent Muslim monotheism.” His statement did not prevent us from continuing the visit and the conversation in a friendly tone. It was on that occasion that I got a kind of first taste of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, which we have tried to develop systematically in the post-conciliar period.

    Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside.

    Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.

    Nevertheless, the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers in Allah who, without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not at all.

    The Council has also called for the Church to have a dialogue with followers of the “Prophet,” and the Church has proceeded to do so. We read in Nostra Aetate: “Even if over the course of centuries Christians and Muslims have had more than a few dissensions and quarrels, this sacred Council now urges all to forget the past and to work toward mutual understanding as well as toward the preservation and promotion of social justice, moral welfare, peace, and freedom for the benefit of all mankind” (Nostra Aetate 3).

    From this point of view, as I have already mentioned, the meetings for prayer held at Assisi (especially that for peace in Bosnia, in 1993), certainly played a significant role. Also worthwhile were my meetings with the followers of Islam during my numerous apostolic trips to Africa and Asia, where sometimes, in a given country, the majority of the citizens were Muslims. Despite this, the Pope was welcomed with great hospitality and was listened to with similar graciousness.

    The trip I made to Morocco at the invitation of King Hassan II can certainly be defined as a historic event. It was not simply a courtesy visit, but an event of a truly pastoral nature. The encounter with the young people at Casablanca Stadium (1985) was unforgettable. The openness of the young people to the Pope’s words was striking when he spoke of faith in the one God. It was certainly an unprecedented event.

    Nevertheless, concrete difficulties are not lacking. In countries where fundamentalist movements come to power, human rights and the principle of religious freedom are unfortunately interpreted in a very one-sided way-religious freedom comes to mean freedom to impose on all citizens the “true religion.” In these countries the situation of Christians is sometimes terribly disturbing. Fundamentalist attitudes of this nature make reciprocal contacts very difficult. All the same, the Church remains always open to dialogue and cooperation.

  • Now, Tito, just as it is not right to say Catholicism did X, Y, and Z because of what some of its followers did, it is not right to say X, Y, and Z are from “Islam” unless you can show how it is universal Islamic teaching.

    The Fall of Constantinople is very interesting to bring up. First, we all know Catholics before Muslims sacked the city and indeed, destroyed religious relics and holy sites (though it was not Catholicism which did this). The sacking of Constantinople was a great defiling and it was Western Christians that did it. By this fact, Constantinople was weakened enough to be taken centuries later. Second, in the taking of the city, many Christians were in the army of the Turk (indeed, a great number) — we are talking about empires, not religions.

    Now saying this, it is true to say a lot of followers of Islam have done evil things, just like followers of Christ have done evil things. But let’s not use that to define Islam, just as we don’t use the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition to define Catholicism.

  • John Henry says:

    Did President Obama mean how the followers of Islam subjugated the Christian lands of the Middle East, North Africa, Anatolia, the Balkans, and Spain? Enslaved millions of black Africans in the slave trade to Europeans? Not to mention defiling the Hagia Sophia, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and many, many more Christian shrines and churches.

    I think this is an unnecessarily uncharitable reading of the President’s remarks. If President Obama had said that Christianity was a great religion, I certainly would not have understood him to be praising the Spanish Inquisition. As with Christianity, so with Islam.

    Additionally, ‘great’ has multiple meanings, for instance ‘most significant’, ‘influential’, ‘extensive in time or distance,’ which strike me as at least as plausible in this context. It seems unlikely (to me) that President Obama was praising Muslim theology, per se. Moreover, even if he was praising Muslim theology in general terms, there are certainly enough points of agreement between Islam and Christianity that this should not necessarily offend Christians; it’s not like President Obama was praising Sharia law or commenting on the divinity of Christ.

    great (gr?t)
    adj. great·er, great·est

    1. Very large in size.
    2. Larger in size than others of the same kind.
    3. Large in quantity or number: A great throng awaited us. See Synonyms at large.
    4. Extensive in time or distance: a great delay.
    5. Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent: a great crisis.
    6. Of outstanding significance or importance: a great work of art.
    7. Chief or principal: the great house on the estate.
    8. Superior in quality or character; noble: “For he was great, ere fortune made him so” (John Dryden).
    9. Powerful; influential: one of the great nations of the West.
    10. Eminent; distinguished: a great leader.
    11. Grand; aristocratic.
    12. Informal Enthusiastic: a great lover of music.
    13. Informal Very skillful: great at algebra.
    14. Informal Very good; first-rate: We had a great time at the dance.
    15. Being one generation removed from the relative specified. Often used in combination: a great-granddaughter.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Henry K. & John H.,

    Excellent points all the way around.

    Without getting into any nitpicking which I want to avoid, President Obama would never have said anything about Islam the way Pope John Paul II has so eloquently stated.

    His was more of a political statement to the appeasement of his liberal sensibilities that all religions are the basically the same.

    Which isn’t true at all.

    His comparison of Islam to Wicca, Buddhism, and Christianity shows his lack of depth on the subject of religion.

    This coming from a man who didn’t know that Jeremiah Wright was a racist while attending his ‘church’ for 20 years.

    …I like the quotes pulled from Pope JP2. He is one of the major reasons why I am a Catholic today.

  • “His was more of a political statement to the appeasement of his liberal sensibilities that all religions are the basically the same.”

    Actually that is also not what he said, and that is the problem. As the Church has consistently pointed out, we do not reject that which is true in other religions; to say that (which is what his quote from Ali is about) is not to say they are all equal.

    I thank God St Thomas Aquinas found much truth through Muslims!

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I have to say, I think this particular broadcast went a bit too far.

    Obama’s use of the word “great” did not need to be subjected to such hair-splitting analysis.

    I certainly believe we have a right and a duty to criticize the president when he says or does something morally objectionable, but I have little respect for people who are simply looking for any reason they can find to lay into him.

  • c matt says:

    Of course, to say what a specific Muslim does is not “Islam” is a fair statement. But then you can look to the founder and founding texts. In those texts, there is a much closer relationship between Islam and violence than between the Inquisition and Catholicism.

    But, all in all, I doubt the O was making any great theological statement on Islam – he was just being cordial. No point in antagonizing where there is no need to.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    c matt,

    Of course, to say what a specific Muslim does is not “Islam” is a fair statement. But then you can look to the founder and founding texts. In those texts, there is a much closer relationship between Islam and violence than between the Inquisition and Catholicism.

    nailed it.

    But, all in all, I doubt the O was making any great theological statement on Islam – he was just being cordial. No point in antagonizing where there is no need to.

    No, he wasn’t making a grand theological statement, since he’s an avowed secularist, and likely an atheist at his core, how could he? He was making a value judgment, suggesting that all religions are equally good and can be used to further his agenda. WHich is why he refused to participate in the national day of prayer, but hosts a Ramadan feast in the White House. Appeasing the Islamo-fascists is in his agenda, appeasing true Christians is not.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Henry K.,

    We only accept what is true in other religions.

    Joe Hargrave,

    He is the president of the United States, we should expect only the best from our president. This man accomplished so much that by the age of 35 he wrote TWO memoirs!

    Tito

  • e. says:

    I certainly believe we have a right and a duty to criticize the president when he says or does something morally objectionable, but I have little respect for people who are simply looking for any reason they can find to lay into him.

    During the previous Republican administrations, where exactly was this seemingly virtuous stand that so bravely confronts the underhanded pettiness on the part of the president’s cruel critics?

    Or is it the case that the president need be a democrat, or better yet, a Pro-abort democrat, for that matter, or simply Obama, in order to deserve this kind of just treatment and defense?

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