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President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast February 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama reportedly spoke about groups like ISIS distorting religion and calling the Islamic terror group a 'death cult.' (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast February 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama reportedly spoke about groups like ISIS distorting religion and calling the Islamic terror group a ‘death cult.’ (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)

Free from fear of political backlash from the Republican Party, President Barack Obama appears to be opening up more and more on what were once considered to be political taboo for him. On Thursday during a wide-ranging talk at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., he pointed out how the U.S. justified slavery and Jim Crow in the name of Christ.

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The remark came during a talk about religious freedom juxtaposed against the backdrop of violence in cities around the globe, including attacks by Muslim extremist group ISIS in Paris and the murder of Muslims and Christians by Boko Haram in the religious war in the  Central African Republic, according to a White House statement:

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities— the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious (sic) for their own murderous ends? 

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India—an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity—but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs—acts of intolerance that would have shocked [Mahatma Gandhi], the person who helped to liberate that nation. 

So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.  And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe. 

He also seized the moment to praise the Dalai Lama for his work as a spiritual healer, the statement says:

“I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama—who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings. I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today.

It’s exciting to hear the president expressing himself so openly on issues of race and religion without fear of retribution from the right on the political field. For years, some political pundits criticized Obama for focusing more on conciliation and not speaking out about issues of race and injustice. Now, nearly halfway through his second term, he’s becoming more vocal, including, most recently, comments aimed at the Republican Party at his State of the Union address.

Nielsen notes that nearly 44,000 tweets went out after the president said during the address that he had no more campaigns to run, meaning he is free to speak as openly about events as he wants.

Why do we get the feeling that the president is just getting started?

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