An "Amen" from a Priest for the President

So President Obama is evidently taking a ration of right-wing blow back for comments at today's National Prayer Breakfast comparing the heinous actions of ISIS to the heinous actions of the Crusades. "Critics Pounce" read one headline.  "Outrage" read another

Here's what's outrageous: Christians who don't know their own history. Like the story of the Cathars -- a Christian sect deemed heretical in the 13th century and savagely butchered by Christian Crusaders in France.

Never heard of them? Neither had I. Funny how they never came up in Sunday School. Or even seminary, that I remember. I actually learned about them when I traveled to the south of France in 2010 and visited Carcassonne and heard their story.

Here's just a quick summary:

The Pope ordered a crusade against the Cathars in southern France. He said any crusader who answered the call would be given the same rewards as a crusader who went to the Holy Land. This was an absolution of all sin.

In the Launguedoc, on the 22nd of July 1209, a force of about 30,000 Crusaders arrived at the walls of Beziers bearing the cross pattee to mislead and create ease among the Cathars, thinking they were friend, not foe, and demanded that about 200 Cathars be surrendered.

The people of the town who were mostly Catholic, said that rather than turn over their friends and family, "we would rather be flayed alive."

A mistake by the defenders of Beziers let thousands of attackers in and Arnauld Amaury made the famous quote "Kill them all, God knows his own" on being asked how to tell who were Cathars during the assault. Everyone in the town was killed, some while taking refuge in the church.

It is guessed that 20,000 were killed, many of whom were Catholics and not Cathars at all. The crusade became known as the Albigensian crusade after the town of Albi. Ordered by the Pope to continue until the whole South of France was controlled and all Cathars were dead, in 1210, they attacked the fortress at Minerv and built "the first great bonfire of heretics" -- beginning the practice of burning at the stake that would continue in the Inquisition of the Counter-Reformation.

I could go on, but that's probably enough to make the point.

Crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity -- whether there is a religion behind them or not. And Christians don't get a "pass" -- which was President Obama's point. One FoxNews blogger -- who obviously missed the point -- wrote: "While the Crusades were terrible, they were a response to hundreds of years of Muslim aggression."

No. No, they actually weren't. This is the "know your history part." The massacre of the Cathars had nothing to do with "Muslim aggression." Neither did killing the Huguenots. Or the Spanish Inquisition. Or -- in more recent history -- Protestants and Catholics killing each other in Northern Ireland.

Religion isn't the problem. Power crazy people hijacking religion and using it as a weapon of mass destruction is the problem. And ISIS is to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity -- a perversion of the religion of millions of faithful people turned into a scourge that should be an anathema to people of all faiths and people of no faith.

"As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion -- any religion -- for their own nihilistic ends.  And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom -- freedom of religion -- the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination."

Amen, Mr. President. Amen.