After hearing U.S. President Barak Obama’s speech at this week’s National Prayer Breakfast, I can say this without contradiction: The problem is not that the president is ambigious about his faith, the problem is that most North Americans are not as clear and unequivocal about what they believe.
CNN News has very kindly provided its online readers not only with a short video providing a visual snapshot of that morning, but the full text of Obama’s speech that day.
…[L]et me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith. The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray. Abe Lincoln said, as many of you know, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”
As well, he states categorically that faith matters transcend political differences:
It’s also comforting to know that people are praying for you who don’t always agree with you. Tom Coburn, for example, is here. He is not only a dear friend but also a brother in Christ. We came into the Senate at the same time. Even though we are on opposite sides of a whole bunch of issues, part of what has bound us together is a shared faith, a recognition that we pray to and serve the same God…
My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years. All the more so, when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
He even provides a glimpse into his personal prayer life.
We see an aging parent wither under a long illness, or we lose a daughter or a husband in Afghanistan, we watch a gunman open fire in a supermarket – and we remember how fleeting life can be. And we ask ourselves how have we treated others, whether we’ve told our family and friends how much we love them. And it’s in these moments, when we feel most intensely our mortality and our own flaws and the sins of the world, that we most desperately seek to touch the face of God…
…When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people. And when I go to bed at night I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to forgive me my sins, and look after my family and the American people, and make me an instrument of His will.
I say these prayers hoping they will be answered, and I say these prayers knowing that I must work and must sacrifice and must serve to see them answered. But I also say these prayers knowing that the act of prayer itself is a source of strength. It’s a reminder that our time on Earth is not just about us; that when we open ourselves to the possibility that God might have a larger purpose for our lives, there’s a chance that somehow, in ways that we may never fully know, God will use us well.
Here are a couple of footnotes to Thursday’s speech that you’ll find as you peruse other parts of CNN Belief:
- The annual prayer breakfast is hosted by The Family aka The Fellowship Foundation. While thousands gathered inside, a group of about thirty protested outside, claiming the foundation is involved with supporting anti-gay legislation in Uganda.
- A day later, on Friday, Obama released the names of twelve more Americans appointed to the White House’s multi-faith advisory council, including Nancy Wilson head of the Metropolitan Community Church, a large denomination mostly serving those who identify as LGBT, and Lynne Hybels, wife of Willow Creek Community Church pastor Bill Hybels. Click for a complete list and biography of all twelve appointees.
- Spin is everything. The executive director of the American Humanist Association, Roy Speckhardt is quoted at Secular News Daily: “President Obama’s remarks acknowledge that children can be raised with a strong moral and ethical foundation, free from the presence of dogmatic religion. He’s living proof that one can lead a successful, moral, and dedicated life of service without the drumbeat of religion in one’s upbringing. The humanist community has fought for the validation of this fact, and to hear the President of the United States echo the sentiment is gratifying.”
- While political observers filled the blogosphere with reports on the event, my fellow Alltop Church and Alltop Christianity bloggers seemed to steer clear of it; surprising since most are U.S.-based. The one who did comment, was actually there, but Eugene Cho commented only briefly, and the provided the text of last year’s speech by the President.
- Other events at the prayer breakfast, including an appearance by space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Gabby Gifford, are covered at this report at The Underground.