Presidential Faith

I can’t think of a single political issue upon which President Obama and I agree.  If I still put political rants on this blog I could put up some mighty rants against his administration and his policies.

But he and I have one very important thing in common.  We are both followers of Jesus Christ. 

Yet over half of the evangelicals in America believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim.  I get forwarded emails and see facebook posts from friends of mine who are believers, claiming that the President is a Muslim, that he is going to cancel the National Day of Prayer, that the is hostile to Christianity, etc. 

That is a sad fact for many reasons.  In truth, Barack Obama is one of the most overtly Christian presidents in my lifetime. 

During the campaign the St. Pete Times kept track of candidates’ “God talk” with something they called the Godometer.  The idea was to keep tabs on the religiosity of the candidates.  At the end of the election, Barack Obama was second in their final rankings, finishing slightly below Mike Huckabee.

And since his election the President has never shied away from proclaiming his Christian faith.  Consider these comments from this year’s national prayer breakfast:

“And it was through that experience working with pastors and laypeople trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace Him as my lord and savior.”

“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.”

“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.”

Of course if a President of the other party had said such things the liberal media would be howling about theocracies and separation of church and state.  But they stayed silent, probably embarrassed that their favorite son is a unashamed Christian.  And of course the right-wing media also says nothing about it, because they want to perpetuate the false belief that the President is a Muslim.

Then consider the fact that President Obama initiated an Easter prayer breakfast.  Something no other President had done.

And these are some of his comments from this year’s event:

“To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual — I’m going to make it annual, why not?  (Laughter and applause.)  Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast.  The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established.  (Laughter.)  The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends.  And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work.  And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways.  And I admit that my plate has been full as well.  (Laughter.)  The inbox keeps on accumulating.  (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week.  The triumph of Palm Sunday.  The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah:  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect.  And it calls me to pray.  It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.  It calls me to praise God for the gift of  his Son and our Savior.

And that’s why we have this breakfast.  Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective.  Children help do that.  (Laughter.)  A strong spouse helps do that.  But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.

So I’m honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans.  And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer.  (Applause.)”

I can only imagine how he must feel when he reads that so many of us believe he is lying about his faith.  The reward he gets for boldly proclaiming his belief in Christ, is to be called a liar.

I didn’t vote for Mr. Obama and I have no intention of ever doing so.  But bravo to him for having the courage and the character to declare his faith.

I’ll end with this statement from the President at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast:

“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.””

Well said Mr. President.

Love Wins