President Obama took time out from his Martha’s Vineyard vacation on Wednesday to give a press conference on the beheading of U.S. photojournalist James Foley. In his remarks on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant he made a curious statement: “No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.” It sounds nice, but there is absolutely no reason to believe he is correct.

Here is an excerpt from the speech:

“Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.

They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt.” — (President Obama, August 8, 2014).

Mr. Obama forgets one crucial point: God gave humans free will. C.S. Lewis puts it well in “The Problem of Pain.”

I have tried to show in a previous chapter that the possibility of pain is inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet. When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.” — (C.S. Lewis, ‘The Problem of Pain’).

A God who values free will would be very just indeed to let humans stew in the evil juices of their own making.

In short, we have a president who doesn’t have a clear understanding of the threat posed by ISIL, as even Shadi Hamid of the liberal Brookings Institution points out: “Underestimating ISIS is dangerous, as Obama did when he referred to it as the ‘JV team’ of terrorism. Let’s not do that again.”

Obama JV Team ISISAnd we have a president whose understanding of a just God is constrained to his point of view. Mr. Obama does little to dispel charges of narcissism when he even tries to lock God into an ideological box of his own liking.

What is more likely: That Mr. Obama knows what actions a just God would permit on earth — or that God’s purpose in eternity would in fact leave room for evil, so that free agents could reject such a scourge and willingly come to Him?

The onus is not on God to stop ISIL — the onus is on humanity. Mr. Obama may have inadvertently tried to slip off the hard (and painful) responsibility for humans to stand up to evil, but intellectually honest individuals know that it can not be done. While God may be gracious enough to answer certain prayers, He is under no responsibility to save us from the countless sordid affairs we create for ourselves on a regular basis.

C.S. Lewis also said: “Until the evil man finds evil unmistakably present in his existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion.” We have been enclosed in illusion for a long time. It is time to wake up.

Related: Islamic State beheads James Foley, then keeps the lights on in town; U.S. citizens left in the dark

Editor’s Note for regular readers: The book I am writing is heavily influenced by the idea put forth by C.S. Lewis that “pain is inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet.” If that message resonates with you, then stay tuned.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

8 comments

  1. I am looking forward to that book!
    With that said it is nice to finally see our president taking this situation more seriously (I hope he is anyway). Since he took so long to respond one must ask, what is the cost of waiting? How many lives were lost due the lack of leadership in this situation?

    1. I am looking forward to that book!

      Part of my problem (if you want to call it a “problem”), is that I’m trying to balance this blog with my job, research for the book, and actually writing it. The past two days there is a scene I wanted to finish and another I wanted to start, but the blog was there…always calling my name. 🙂

      My wife is starting the night shift at work for all of September, so I’m going to have plenty of time by myself. I anticipate getting a lot of writing done at that time.

      Since he took so long to respond one must ask, what is the cost of waiting?

      President Obama has always stressed that instability arises when the U.S. projects its power around the globe. That’s a argument that we can have, but he never seemed to talk about the instability that occurs in the absence of American leadership. When you don’t act it can be just as dangerous as when you do. The key is prudence. I believe that Mitt Romney would have demonstrated much more prudence in office than Mr. Obama. He wasn’t a perfect candidate (Who is?), but he would have been a lot better than the current Commander-in-Chief.

  2. “the instability that occurs in the absence of American leadership”

    Part of the problem here is that many view doing that as projecting our views on others and to them I ask, how else can we protect ourselves from them?

    Just like you stated if we do not act it can be just as dangerous. Ignoring the facts to hide in a world of make-believe is not helping. We need to be proactive in some cases (not to an extent of a police state). This is a fine line and a tough challenge. I do think Romney would have been more effective even though he also would not have been my first choice. The “we all need to be equal” mentality sounds nice but in reality it is a fallacy. We are all born equal but it is what we do with it that makes us exceptional…or not.

    1. I just find it interesting that when the United States sits on the sidelines, everyone screams that we’re not doing enough, but when we do act…they often want us to act in accordance with their principles. Often times “country x” has a value system that is in conflict with American values.

      Note: I’m talking about the principles enshrined in our founding documents, as opposed to the principles espoused by most modern-day politicians.

    2. “I just find it interesting that when the United States sits on the sidelines, everyone screams that we’re not doing enough, but when we do act…they often want us to act in accordance with their principles. Often times “country x” has a value system that is in conflict with American values.”

      It’s like Larry Correia once said, in regards to the Boko Haram thugs kidnapping Nigerian schoolgirls, but I think it applies here as well: people will scream about the need to do something, and when we actually do something about it, they’ll freak out and call it “racism” and “colonialism.”

  3. “No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.”

    This comment really upsets me. There’s so much vagueness, insecurity, and faithlessness tied up into a single phrase, that it honestly makes me question President Obama’s Christianity.

    Is he saying that God is not just? And, if so, is he implying that we should all look to him or the human powers that be instead?

    Or, is he saying that there are multiple Gods, and that none of the just ones would stand for ISIS’s actions?

    OR, is Obama saying that there is one God, but that he’s isn’t just every single day? He kind of slips up every once in a while. So, it’s up to us to clean up the messes he leaves behind…

    In any case, those words make the President look really bad. I don’t care that a speech writer wrote it for him. He read it. And, in doing so, it makes him look like someone who doesn’t honestly live by the faith he proclaims to follow.

    1. Ken, there are many directions I wanted to go with this piece. When I said the comment was “curious” I was hoping that someone like you would take part in the conversation. Indeed, the vast majority of people who I have ever heard say things like that are atheists. I’m not saying Mr. Obama is an atheist, but the comment is indicative of a man who is very confused about his faith.

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