Faith and Perspective: Thoughts on Obama’s Easter Prayer Breakfast
“This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this ‘Amazing Grace,’ calls me to reflect,” remarked the President during the White House’s Easter Prayer Breakfast last week. This presidential meditation occurs annually around this time and seems to be innocuous only to that extent. Obama shies not away from the word “we” when describing the effects of the resurrection:
We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work . . . 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.
(One might well ask who this “we” is meant to include, but then, it isn’t so unclear). Now, this kind of rhetoric is certainly not surprising. Those of us who are aware that this country elected a Christian president must expect this kind of talk during Holy Week. However, that we can anticipate this superstitious nonsense does not mean we should be any less distressed by it.
When the President held an Iftar last year to celebrate Ramadan, the tone of his speech was quite different. When the President used “we” in that speech, it was only to delineate American citizens from those “we” are fighting against. It should surprise no one that September 11th, an event, we must recall, that happened nine years prior, was the focus of the monologue. He certainly spoke nothing of “god’s children” then.
I cannot derive comfort from the knowledge that our president is a Christian. With cataclysmic violence making daily headlines, it consoles me not to know that, if it comes to it, the leader of the free world harbors the belief that the end of humanity will bring about rapture and eternal paradise. It is likewise discouraging that the President takes as a model of humility a figure who demands unconditional servitude and worship on threat of infinite, unimaginable torture.
The President began last week’s speech with a rather frightening assertion:
As busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there is something about the resurrection . . . of Our Savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective.
What a wretched thing to say. The Middle East is in chaos; the death toll in Libya alone has reached nearly 30,000; horrific storms have devastated America’s south; the effects of last year’s massive oil leak are still tormenting the Gulf Coast; and the budget debate threatens to withhold funding from many of this country’s most vital organizations while major American corporations legally sidestep taxation—but the plagiarized legends of an old Iron Age tribe put all of this in perspective? Such a belief is insulting, wicked, and dangerous.
I assume that when the President speaks I am meant to take him at his word. If not, he should stop muttering such insolent, ridiculous drivel. Let us cease electing presidents who would put faith before policy in this way. It should not be unclear to the President of the United States that his is the most important job on earth. Perhaps the President meant to say that, upon reflection, the catastrophic troubles that plague our injured planet seem rightly vast compared to the mythic sufferings of one immortal tyrant, but I expect that is not the case.