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This post has been updated 2-2-12
The football Super Bowl is Sunday, but for those who live at the intersection of Christianity and government, the real Super Bowl center’s around this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton.
As they do every year, thousands of people who work in faith-based-anything descend at the Hilton for the National Prayer Breakfast and the dozens of side meetings it inspires. Religious lawmakers, employees of the White House faith offices, religious aid groups, religious advocates on subjects from housing to abortion to torture to urban farming. The works.
The breakfast, which has been going on for 60 years, features the U.S. president and some kept-secret big name who both address a crowd of about 3,000 people about their faith and how it sustains them. The event’s purpose, said longtime attendee and columnist Cal Thomas, is to “take the principles of Jesus of Nazareth to relationships” and to inspire meetings of even bitterly divided politicians and tribal leaders.
The breakfast itself has a pretty non-partisan feel, and recent speakers have ranged from Tony Blair to rocker-activist Bono. That said there’s a lot of attention to how the American president addresses the subject of his faith, how overtly, using what language. Obama-watchers, hungry for anything from this private president, always dissect what he says.
But the breakfast, which began as an outgrowth of Congressional prayer groups, is just the news peg, as we reporters call it. Through Friday, the Hilton lobby and other spots around the city are jammed with people in town for the breakfast, shmoozing, doing business, sharing ideas spiritual, political, financial.
No GOP candidates, wiped from Tuesday’s Florida primary, are expected to come, but with thousands of influential GOP voters in attendance the breakfast seems hard to completely skip. But in a tough economy, the $175-per-person pricetag for the breakfast is notable.