The Church in America seems to be in a state of denial. We have a shameful history that we are unwilling to fully come to grips with, or even to acknowledge. And President Obama recently dredged it up.
In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Obama spoke of the atrocities committed in the name of Jesus during the Crusades, as well as the horrors of America's history of slavery, as a warning to Christians who want to bring the hammer down on Muslim extremists. He reminded Western Christianity that we have our own skeletons in the closet when it comes to religious extremism and supposed God-ordained racism, and the violence that too often arises from it.
I don't often find myself on the same page with the President. I don't agree with his ideology, his interpretation of his Christian faith, or most of his political policies. But on this issue, I find myself uncomfortably in line with his statements.
This week I have been attending a powerful meeting in Loveland, Colorado called "The Israel Summit." It is a gathering of Christian and Messianic Jewish leaders from around the world for the purpose of discussing the difficult issues facing the Church as it relates to Israel, the Jewish people, and the Palestinian conflict. Some very recognizable names have addressed the conference, including Pastor Jack Hayford, Rabbi Jonathan Bernis, Pastor Wayne Hilsden, and Dr. Michael Brown.
Coincidentally, Dr. Brown delivered the keynote address Thursday evening, and he spoke about the very issue that President Obama discussed: the Crusades and the effect it has had on the Jewish population for hundreds of years.
Dr. Brown shared with the attendees hard truth. He reminded, and in many cases, educated the Christians present about the horrors committed in the name of Christ during the period when Christians, under the banner of the cross, rode through Europe and terrorized the Muslim and Jewish population. He pointed out that even today, the Jewish people associate the word "Christian" with the Crusades.
The impact was supernatural. Hundreds flooded the altar of Resurrection Fellowship in Loveland, Colorado for twenty minutes, crying out to God for forgiveness on behalf of the Church, and for wisdom as to how to best repair this long ignored damage.
Which is why I was so surprised to wake up this morning and find social media buzzing about Obama's remarks. Christians and conservatives were condemning the President's comments as petty and off point. It was as if denying the truth of Obama's statements or his use of these facts as a warning regarding the dangers of religious extremism would make everything just go away.
Denying the truth, or pretending it doesn't matter, will never change the past. The Church is guilty of terrible acts in the Name of Christ, and we must own up to this. We can't act as if it's a bad dream that we can forget.
Pointing our fingers at the one sharing truth doesn't change the truth.
There is wisdom in owning up to our actions. Criticizing President Obama's statements only adds more fire to them. If Christians worldwide joined together and said, "You're right. The Church has done terrible things in the name of religion, and we were wrong. We ask forgiveness. And we know what damage is done by religious extremism. That is why we stand against it," The world would take notice. There's a level of intellectual honesty that seems to be missing from this debate.
I encourage you to study this issue; dig into the history of the Church. And acknowledge the truth in the closet. There's power in getting it in the open.