By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
In his speech at yesterday's Fort Hood memorial service, President Obama raised the specter of divine judgment on the alleged shooter in last week's massacre, saying he "will be met with justice—in this world and the next." Sounds very George W. Bush, no?
Viewed in context, though, the line fits a pattern concerning Obama's public approach to Muslim issues, which his Fort Hood speech touched on insofar as he addressed the alleged Muslim gunman. In such situations, Obama's habit has been to extend a hand to Muslims while asserting his own Christian identity.
That's what the president did in a videotaped Ramadan message to the Muslim world in September. "Fasting is a concept shared by many faiths, including my own Christian faith," he said, "as a way to bring people closer to God, and to those among us who cannot take their next meal for granted."
In his May speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, Obama made a rare reference to Muslim members of his extended family but preceded it by reminding everyone of his own faith: "I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims."
Yesterday at Fort Hood, Obama never mentioned the word Muslim—or Christian. But he was nonetheless following the established pattern, extending a hand to Muslims ("no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts") while asserting his own Christian worldview: "The killer will be met with justice—in this world, and the next."
In this case, though there's a twist: Obama's assertion that the killer will be met with justice in the next world can also be read as a Muslim reaction to a Muslim killer. Partly by avoiding the words Christian and Muslim, the president suggests that members of both traditions believe the gunman will face divine justice. How's that for interfaith outreach?
Here's the relevant passage from Obama's speech yesterday:
It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know: no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice—in this world, and the next.