Our President-Theologian

Whatever else may be said about the terrorists who are slaughtering Christians, fellow Muslims, and people of other religions, it strikes me as extremely arrogant that the President of the United States should take it upon himself to declare who is and who is not a true Muslim, or who is and who is not a Muslim religious leader. In his address to a White House gathering last week, the president stated with something like ex cathedra certitude that the leaders of ISIS are not religious leaders but simply terrorists who have falsely interpreted the Muslim religion: “They are not religious leaders” he said, and “. .we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

That assertion may be true, or it may not be true, but it depends upon how someone interprets the religious writings of Islam. For instance, what weight does one give to the earlier writings versus the later writings? So, for a non-Muslim, who is certainly not a religious scholar and who does not read the sacred books in their original language (very important for Muslim scholars) to set himself up as the judge of who is and who is not a true Muslim reveals both “extreme” arrogance and ignorance. What the precise interpretation of these ancient texts is – which will greatly determine who is a faithful Muslim – is surely a question that ultimately can only be resolved from within this ancient religion.

If I were a Muslim, of whatever school, and there are many such sects depending upon particular readings of the sacred texts etc., I would be gravely offended that an infidel would take it upon himself to determine whether I or any other Muslim was a true religious believer or a true religious leader. Indeed, there is no final authority in Islam that can determine who is or who is not a valid Imam or religious leader. How then does an infidel take it upon himself to make such judgments? If that is not threat to Islam coming from the infidel world, what is?

What is going on in the president’s mind and/or the minds of his speechwriters is deeply disturbing. These kinds of declarations are not to be accounted for by his rare departures from the written text. They are too consistent and too often repeated. His persistent apologia for Islam in the face of these terrorist acts by men who identify themselves as faithful Muslims is quite strange. It is out of sync with his other near obsessions regarding things like “gender identity.” There his administration clearly holds that people are to be taken absolutely at their word when they declare that their gender is opposite to their biological makeup.

Just last December, for instance, the Department of Education published a memo, which established the administration’s decision that Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments is to be interpreted as protecting students’ identification of their gender and bring all aspects of educational planning, implementation into line with that self-identification.

George Orwell (Eric Blair) and his adopted son, Richard Blair, in 1949 [Art Resource, NY]
George Orwell (Eric Blair) and his adopted son, Richard Blair, in 1949 [Art Resource, NY]
So the youngest children in schools who are biologically identifiable as one sex are to be respected and accommodated if they choose to declare that they belong to the opposite sex, regardless of the biological facts. But adults who identify themselves as Muslims or Muslim leaders are not to be believed, respected and accommodated if they do not meet the criteria of the president and his advisors on religious matters. There is something so bizarre about this that it suggests we are in the presence of a much deeper problem.

We seem to have arrived at the world portrayed in the Huxley and Orwell novels dealing with totalitarian leaders who have abandoned the truth for the power of propaganda, newspeak, manipulation, and doublethink. Words no longer have any direct reference to reality. They are pure instruments of political manipulation. Both those authors understood well the power language has to manipulate, but it was Orwell who spelled out the methodology in explaining the work of the Ministry of Truth, so ironically named.

One task of the ministry is to develop and promote the new language or newspeak, which his novel describes as,

a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as DOUBLETHINK.

History, the past, has to be totally altered to accommodate the big lie, for instance, and it results in just the way our political leaders can speak so glibly of the Crusades or the Inquisition without any real understanding of either.

Tell the lie often enough and people will begin to believe it. The totalitarians of the last century understood that well. Orwell’s description is still true:

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.

All this is happening in the newspeak world of politics today despite the greater availability of information than ever before. One can make absurd judgments about other people’s religious standing because truth is whatever serves the political agenda. Objective historical truth? Forget it. What is Truth? That cynicism was voiced by a political figure also, and it led to the death of Truth Himself. Today it is leading to social chaos.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

  • JaneSeymour

    Great article. This trend is absolutely demonic. Devil is the father of lies and as we witness in our time, politicians are serving him wholeheartedly. It is sickening.
    These ignorant and stupid statements from President Obama only gives legitimacy to radical Muslims. When Christian scholars wisely stay silent from judgemental declaration about Islam and its leaders, a person who most likely is an atheist, gives himself right to come up with such populist claims.

    • Florian

      I don’t know if Obama is an atheist because in an interview with George S. some years ago, in answer to a question, Obama replied clearly: “…my Muslim faith.”

      • Patti Day

        Florian, It would be great if you could provide a source to be shared.

        • Florian

          Feb. 27th…I had the link…but I believe that if you google George Stephanopoulis interview with Obama…it should come up. Others have done this…I think what Obama had been responding to was a question where his reply was something like: “…John McCain at least doesn’t question my Muslim faith…” it does not matter if one is a Muslim – what matters is lying about it…if that is true. I don’t know but it seems that Obama is often more concerned about offending Muslims than defending Christians…

  • Manfred

    Dear Fr. Pilon: At the bottom of your essay you ask the question of the Ages: What is Truth?
    Let me presume to answer in part. Islam is a Judaeo-Catholic heresy (Abrham, Jesus and Mary are mentioned in the Quran) which, in its various forms, Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the “desert religions”. The truth is that satan has been given much free rein in both the Church and the world. Read again PASCENDI and LAMENTABILI and see that St. Pius X refers to chaos and confusion as the marks of Modernism, the synthesis of all heresies. Obama serves in the same way as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot et al. The Church hierarchy serves to sew confusion and drive the faithful from God as well. Recall the Israelites being punished by having to live forty years in the desert. We have lived for fifty years in a wasteland called the Spirit of Vatican II.
    Thank you for your essay.

  • Marie Cotter

    “There is something so bizarre about this that it suggests we are in the presence of a much deeper problem.”
    So, the “much deeper problem” is that the president is using propaganda. To what end? What is his motivation?

    • RainingAgain

      To undermine and ultimately destroy what remains of Christian-derived Western Civilisation, as far as I can read it.

  • Beth

    And so very disturbing that so many people believe what he says as well as the great number of people who just don’t care or think it matters what he says….

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    In Scotland, the courts have held a legacy to “Christian charities” void for uncertainty; not so “Catholic charities” for a Catholic is simply someone in communion with the see of Rome

  • Michael Dowd

    Perhaps some of President Obama’s actions would make sense if he was a member of the Muslim religion despite saying he was a Christian. It should be noted that Islam allows lying under certain circumstances such as to save one’s life; or, to effect a peace or reconciliation.

    But never mind what President Obama does I am more concerned about the confusion and doublespeak coming out of the Vatican these days where the smoke of Satan is billowing.

  • Rich in MN

    I suspect that a “situational approach” (a.k.a. “pastoral approach” in clergy parlance) can very easily devolve into “situational ethics” if one is largely focused on the endgame. Or, to paraphrase a line from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” there are no rules in a knife fight. To expect a coherent set of rules is to mistake the actual course of action — which will undoubtedly leave one in the “Lurch.” (Boy, there’s an obscure pun….)

  • The President did not have time to give a Theologinistic type speech. He was giving a President update on what’s going on in American. His goal was to explain to Americans that we are not to lump all followers of Islam in one basket just like we don’t lump all Black people as the same. The audience was America. If he was speaking to a Muslim based community only, then he would have been more detailed and contrite.

  • Grn724

    Outstanding column Mark. You put into words what I know in my mind, but cannot seem to put those thoughts in a cohesive manner as you did. I want to mention one thing that has worked well in these troubled times, Apathy. I sense that the clear apathy that exist in America by people who would greatly insulted by such a term describing themselves, has allow this all to happen. The media certainly has played a great role in protecting the lie, by dissemination without any critical thinking, much less, any rebuttal. So many are completely in the dark about all of this, otherwise, we would see outcry from the people on the bottom (spiritually). This is exactly the conditions are present for lies, doublespeak and contortions on language in general that we see today. It is meant to confuse, and in that sense, it has worked. One last thing about apathy, if there was not such a grotesque level of apathy among the significant majority, the man would not been elected president. What a horrific price our nation has paid as the result.

    • JaneSeymour

      When the choice was between a crazy warmonger and a populist, Americans decided to elect the least evil one.

      • Travis Blaine

        I may have missed that election. When was it?

        • JaneSeymour

          The election in Nov. 2008.

          • maineman

            I think, Jane, that Travis was tongue in cheek, your allegation about McCain being so bizarre.

      • RainingAgain

        The Middle East and North Africa are ablaze, Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and the potential for mutually-assured-destruction has revived. The world is so lucky to have Obama.

      • Florian

        The ‘least evil’…Obama’s actions are evil, his agenda is evil…he is the only Senator who voted against the ‘born alive infant act’ which mandated that any baby who survived attempts to kill him by abortion would be given care and comfort – Obama is the Commander in Chief who left our Ambassador and other Americans to die just so he could get on to Vegas and campaign and then, along with Hillary Clinton, lied about it…and more…he advocates the unlimited slaughter of millions and millions of human babies in the wombs of their mothers…at all stages of gestation, right up until the ninth month…it just does not get any more evil than that…as Mother Theresa said: “If we would kill the innocent baby in the womb of the mother, what would we not do?” and so we see evil continually spreading…beginning with the grotesque evil of tearing apart the innocent baby in the womb of the mother…

    • SnowCherryBlossoms

      Outstanding comment! So very true.

  • Jim L

    “Objective historical truth? Forget it. What is Truth? That cynicism was voiced by a political figure also, and it led to the death of Truth Himself. Today it is leading to social chaos.”
    Shifting from the political arena to the Vatican arena, and specifically mindful of the recent Synod on the family, I am struck by how much religious chaos was created by the movement away from doctrinal truth. Why is truth so hard to articulate? Why are words used to suggest, intimate, and cajole us that the truth needs to bend a little bit to get with the times. This seems to follow a pattern. The church teaches what God has revealed, through His creation, and such truth does not vary with the winds; it is a function of God’s creation and until He scraps the current plan and begins anew, we humble servants should pay more attention to this revealed truth–be it ever so unfashionable and out of step. We are in a battle of doublespeak, and we better get clear about how to articulate these conflicts.

  • toddyo1935

    The Minister of Industry of Pakistan in 2009 saw Obama as the first “Supreme Caliph of all Islam.” (it Googles) The only ones who don’t get it are the MSM and our elected leaders.

    Something else – ” to be interpreted as protecting students’ identification of their gender and bring all aspects of educational planning, implementation into line with that self-identification.” This nonsense comes from years of political correctness and divisive diversity. For a person to identify himself by his/her sexual urges instead of the wonderful offsetting myriad gifts and talents – true diversity – is the great sin of our times.

  • Tamsin

    That the president denies self-identified religion, yet affirms self-identified gender, might reflect a consistently material view of man. Wherein the only certain truth is what turns you on, which depends on how your genes are expressing in your environment, from moment to moment to moment. And so the only real religious liberty must be freedom of worship of the ever-so-personal god of sexual satisfaction.

    I think Islam is strangely attractive to western elites precisely because it accommodates male sexual desires, indulging every form as best it can, and it has done so from the beginning.

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    Thank you. Truest and most sane article I’ve read concerning this. I actually sighed with relief when I found it.

  • raymarshall

    I nominate Fr. Pilon to be our next Pope. We need someone who reads and speaks the secular truth. Orwell]s “1984” and Huxley’s “Brave New World” should be required reading in all 12 grades of elementary and secondary schools, public and private.

  • kathleen

    I don’t get it. Mohammed claims to have received the Koran from the Archangel Gabriel. ? Didn’t St. Paul say that even if an angel of light should come proclaiming a gospel other than that of Jesus Christ that it would be false. So, Islam must be a false religion. Why is it revered and accepted by Jews and Christians? What am I missing? Fr. Pilon, please help me understand.

  • Arden Abeille

    “All this is happening in the newspeak world of politics today despite the greater availability of information than ever before.” The greater availability of information is not working in favor of greater clarity or accuracy, but against it. “Information” is just bits of data; it may be true or untrue, useful or not, etc. A veritable blizzard of random information is not helpful, but harmful, to people seeking the truth. (See Neil Postman–_Amusing Ourselves to Death_, _Technopoly_, etc., for eloquent treatment of how this supposedly “wonderful” glut of information is actually a detriment, if not an all-out danger, to society and individuals.)

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    The author states: “That assertion may be true, or it may not be true, but it depends upon how someone interprets the religious writings of Islam”. He seems to be buying into one of the arguments presented by muslim apologists that the Qu´ran cannot be understood unless it is read in the original Arabic of the 7th century, which not surpisingly is not very understandable even for moderns who know Arabic. According to Islamic doctrine, the Qu´ran is the eternal book which is in the presence of Allah in heaven and was dictated literally by the Angel Gabriel to Mahommad and is his final revelation destined to be imposed on all of humanity. Do they mean that whilst the Qu´ran is supposed to be the basis of a political, social and religious system, while at the same time it cannot be understood by any reasonably intelligent person? As for jihad and the Qu´ran there is no need to be a specialist in Islamic texts to realize that it is an essential part of Islam no matter how you look at it or interpret it. Muslims are clearly and consistently told to KILL kafur (non muslims) and that is commanded by Allah. Besides, they are also told that Mahommad is the perfect model of human conduct. Did Mahommad massacre, rob, pillate, five free reign to his lust, engage in pedophilia? Yes, he did that is clearly stated not only in the Qu´ran but also in the Sunna, or Life of Mahommad and the Hadiths, which are traditions of Mahomad. The fact that Islam justifies and orders its followers to engage in jihad is not open to any doubt nor is it dependent on some interpretation of other of islamic sources. Besides, what have they done and how have they established themselves in any country where they now are? BY MEANS OF JIHAD, AND NEVER BY PREACHING. If fact, Mahommad was a total fiasco as regards preaching Islam. He was able to convince only between 80 and 120 in Mecca in 10 years of preaching, whilst in Medina as a warlord, he was able to conquer, pillage, kill and generally create havoc and thus subdue the whole of Arabia in the following 10 years of his life in Medina. The very existence of Islam is due excelsively to WAR, pillage and a long list of other atrocities.