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Between keynote speaker Eric Metaxas’ jibes and having a counter-protest-breakfast around the corner, it seems appropriate that the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast ended on an unconventional note: With a Heisman Trophy winner announcing he had to use the restroom.
Gearing up to give the closing prayer, Robert Griffin III first invited President Obama to shoot a round of hoops (promising “I won’t dunk on you at all,” out of deference to the office), then said the breakfast had been “really long.” He joked he hadn’t gotten the memo about how to behave and imbibe on the dais, had been drinking liquids for hours and really had to use the restroom.
Then Griffin offered a short prayer of thanks to God and urged his fellow Christians to take Jesus’ values “and show the world not only with our words, but with our actions.”
The president, meanwhile, made no real news. Some White House staff had characterized the speech in the run-up as important, particularly in the context that some GOP presidential candidates and religious conservatives are challenging some Obama policies as limiting “religious freedom.” But at the end of the day, the breakfast is billed as a spiritual event, maybe not the time for a hard-hitting political message.
President Obama speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, said his policy arguments stem from his interpretation of his Christian faith. For the wealthy to give up tax breaks, he says, is simply following the scriptural mandate: “To whom much is given, much shall be required.”
Obama was preceded by writer Eric Metaxas, who prompted lots of awkward laughter—the kind of moments where you’re not sure if he’s kidding; you’re kind of outraged but kind of, um, inspired?
He launched his talk before thousands of mostly Christian conservatives by slamming the $175 ticket price tag as totally 1 percent, “price gouging” and “money-laundering.”
The biographer and “Veggie Tales” writer described finding God in a period of deep depression as a young man, and was introduced to the ideas by an Episcopalian: “They don’t believe this stuff anyway,” he joked. But this one did.
And about the ideas in his books, one of which was read by former President George W. Bush, “who is intellectually incurious, as we’ve all read,” he joked.
But his deepest message was that Christianity has been warped into a focus on doctrine and judgment. “Pious baloney isn’t faith. Imagine talking to Jesus that way. He’d almost laugh,” Metaxas said.
He cited slavery and the Holocaust and asked who in 2012 is considered expendable?
“You think you’re better than Germans? You’re not.” He called on those who, like him, believe abortion and same-sex relationships violate God’s will, to “love those who do not see that yet.” Applause at that line. “You must treat those on the other side with love.”
The holy mixing of football and faith, from my colleague, White House reporter David Nakamura:
He’s headed to the National Football League, but first Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III stopped by the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington to participate in the annual gathering. Griffin, who passed up his final year of eligibility at Baylor University to turn professional, reportedly was invited to Washington by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Griffin has been described as an outspoken Christian. In his Heisman acceptance speech, Griffin said: “To Baylor nation, I say this is a forever kind of moment, and may we be blessed to have many more like it in the future. God has a plan, and it’s our job to fulfill it, and in this moment we have.”
The faith of football players has been hotly debated after the breakout season of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, himself a former Heisman winner. Tebow is a devout Christian who has knelt in prayer on the field, a practice that became known as “Tebowing” and was widely immitated.
Griffin also has knelt on the field after big plays, as seen in this video (at the 1:01 mark).
Stream of political, military and even sports leaders on the podium at the National Prayer Breakfast. Among them so far: Nancy Pelosi, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and 11-year-old singer Jackie Evancho… keynote speaker is author Eric Metaxas…
Metaxas just provoked some nervous laughter by saying the $175 price of a ticket is evidence of “money-laundering” and price-gouging. “Even I, as a member of the 1 percent, cannot afford this ticket.”
Looks like we’re going to have a revved-up National Prayer Breakfast this year.
The event, which brings thousands of religious activists — Christian conservatives in particular — to the Washington Hilton to hear the U.S. president and other speakers, is officially a non-partisan, spiritual event.
But this year there’s the backdrop of a presidential election, so that means game time in Washington.
For months the Catholic bishops and other religious conservatives have been making the argument that the Obama White House is limiting religous freedom.Some GOP candidates have also flirted with that argument. The latest fodder is the Obama-crafted health care rule that requires most providers to offer birth control. Last night, the administration sent out a defense, saying it is committed to “respecting religious beliefs.” It also sent out a Catholic Web site’s blog about the controversy, noting the vast majority of American Catholics use birth control.
Obama is scheduled to address the breakfast this morning, a speech closely-watched each year since this president tends to keep his spiritual life private and close to the vest. The prayer breakfast is perhaps the longest single period each year he speaks about his Christian faith and his beliefs about the role of religion in public life.
Meanwhile, some folks down the street from the Occupy movement have organized an alternative prayer breakfast that is free (the official National Prayer Breakfast is $175 a seat) and meant to highlight issues of the poor. They’re calling it “The First Annual People’s Prayer Breakfast,” or “a tale of two breakfasts.”