Bob Franken: Let us prey

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, February 10, 2015 8:40pm
  • Opinion

We all know what a “homer” is; that sportscaster or columnist who shamelessly boosts the home team, which is his or her bread and butter. In fact, usually the team approves the announcers to guarantee this lovefest.

It’s irritating but acceptable in the sports world, but it’s ridiculous when it comes to speaking about our nation or, dare I say it, religion. Unfortunately that’s rampant too, with pandering commentators and politicians ready to leap anytime anybody has the audacity to suggest that the home country or the home religion should get anything but adoring, one-sided analysis. And it’s hardly a lovefest.

Just ask President Barack Obama, who, at the National Prayer Breakfast, described the insanely violent hordes who are terrorizing Syria and Iraq as a “brutish, vicious death cult.” But then he had the audacity to also mildly add that many religions, including Christianity, need to remember their own histories of violence and oppression. He seemed to be making an obvious point when he said: “Lest 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.” He then went on, “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Well, the homers went bananas. “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” were the words of Virginia’s former Republican governor Jim Gilmore. “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States.” And of course Rush Limbaugh jumped in to say that the president had insulted the “whole gamut of Christians.” That’s a lot of Christians.

Maybe some of them were willing to consider the reality of millennia stained by the tragedy of religious faith-offs, with massacres and atrocities justified in the name of one or another tribal society warring for its specific God and form of worship. We don’t have to hearken as far back as the Crusades to remember the murderous battle between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. The slaughter in the Baltics had, and for that matter has, a strong religious element to it.

POTUS wasn’t just targeting Christianity, but all religions that are “twisted and misused in the name of evil.” His main focus was the most noxious present-day example — the madmen who are inflicting their evil on those who have the grievous misfortune of living on the land that ISIL, or whatever you want to call them, occupy with little resistance. They seem to take delight in showing off their extreme inhumanity. It’s not exactly accurate to describe them as Muslim fanatics, because they have simply used the religious excuse to justify their own depravity.

To think otherwise certainly is dangerous to the millions of those who are Islamic and practice in peaceful ways and lead law-abiding lives here and elsewhere. To tarnish them with the atrocities of the maniacs in Iraq and Syria is inviting prejudice and discrimination that goes against the American ideal of pluralism. As for those monsters in the Mideast who say they are rampaging to create a caliphate, it’s not a caliphate at all; it’s an asylum. And the inmates are running it.

President Obama has made it very clear he believes just that, and those who object to his context are either blinded by their own fervor, or very clear-eyed about their politics.

His loudest critics this time are the same Republicans who relentlessly preach that he has weakened the nation, largely because he just isn’t passionate about the country’s values. They incessantly suggest that he’s just not one of us. Hopefully, we’ll have the good sense to realize that the last thing we need is unthinking homers.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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