On political/religious humility and apologizing for other people’s sins

The Islamic State is crucifying people right now. Romans crucified people over 2,000 years ago. Does this mean that Italians can’t criticize them? How is it that the sins of Christianity are eternal but the sins of Muslim fanatics right now aren’t even Muslim? The Islamic State is enslaving people right now. America had slaves 150 years ago. And, speaking of non-sequiturs, vests have no sleeves.

I’ve got my faults, all reasonable people can agree, but I don’t feel compelled to list them before I denounce rapists and murderers; “Hey man, I know, I drink too much scotch and I’m sometimes needlessly sarcastic, but you really shouldn’t abuse little girls or set people on fire.”

That would be only half as crazy as what Obama is claiming here. Because in the above analogy, they’re my faults. Meanwhile, Obama is checking-off crimes from nearly 1,000 years ago to make it clear he’s not on a high horse. The more apposite analogy would be “Hey man, I know, my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a real prick, so I’m not being preachy. But you really shouldn’t crucify people.”

Forget the Inquisition and the Crusades for a moment. Take slavery. It was an evil institution. It will always remain a stain on America’s honor.

But here’s the thing. America put an end to it at an enormous price. Moreover, slavery was a constant on every continent for thousands of years. Looking at America in the context of the great tide of human events, the remarkable thing isn’t that we had slaves, it’s that we ended slavery. We ended slavery because deep in the founding principles of this country were deeply Christian — or, if you prefer, Judeo-Christian — principles that eventually couldn’t be reconciled with it.

Obviously, the better example is Britain. The British had slaves, as did countless other societies and civilizations stretching off to the dawn of man. What is remarkable is that, thanks to a Christian renaissance, they decided to not only abolish slavery in their own lands, but to impose their values on others. The British got on a very high horse, thank God, and they had the courage to act on their sense of moral superiority.

As should we.

— Jonah Goldberg

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