Obama: Let those with the most power be the most humble

There is always a lot of talk at the annual National Prayer Breakfast about coming together. It is hosted by … Continued

There is always a lot of talk at the annual National Prayer Breakfast about coming together. It is hosted by a Republican and a Democrat, this year by Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mark Pryor(D-Ark.). There was also a greeting from the U.S. House of Representatives Breakfast Group, which meets once a week for prayer and discussion.

“We work together and we pray together,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert from Texas. Rep. Janice Hahn from California got a laugh when she remarked that it was the one place Speaker Boehner could not remove them. “Only God can do that.” And, she added, “the prayer group gives us a bond that can’t be broken.”

But it was President Obama who got the biggest laugh. “I have to say this is now our fifth prayer breakfast and it is always just a wonderful event,” he said. “But I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we’ve been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten –on the same day of the prayer breakfast. I mean, you’d like to think that the shelf life wasn’t so short. But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable news networks and it’s like we didn’t pray.”

To that I say: Amen!

I’ve always felt that opponents in Washington sitting around a dinner table together, having a meal and drinking wine makes it much more difficult to personally assault each other over politics the next day. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. But sitting down for an hour or two once a week and actually praying with someone would seem to make it impossible to be hostile to your good friend from across the aisle the next day. Apparently not.

President Obama had it right and by saying what he did, he brought into question the whole purpose of the prayer breakfast in the first place.

The president gave a thoughtful speech about his faith and the faith of other Americans. He spoke of the importance of living in a “godly way.” He added a note “those in an opposing party” who he said were “groping their way, doing their best, going through the same struggles we’re going through.”

Could he have been thinking about the Chuck Hagel hearings last week for Secretary of Defense?

The president went on to quote scripture. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and to say, “See in those with whom you disagree most vehemently the face of God. For we are all his children. “

Was he was referring to the Brennan hearings for head of CIA? Or maybe those who oppose him on immigration or gun control? I’m thinking here of Wayne LaPierre.

The prayer breakfast has always been controversial. Its detractors say that no president should participate in an event so overtly Christian, even though they occasionally have people of different faiths speak. (Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is Jewish, also read from the Scriptures.) They point out that the breakfast is exactly the opposite of coming together because it divides the country into those who believe and those who do not.

Obama seems about as comfortable speaking of his faith, without seeming to pander, as just about anybody. “…I believe that we are united in the knowledge of a redeeming Savior whose grace is sufficient for the multitude of our sins, and whose love is never failing.”

The “Friendly Atheist,” Hemant Mehta, wrote for On Faith this week that the president is merely throwing the secularists a bone by giving them a perfunctory mention or two…”So many other Americans know the close embrace of faith – Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs. And all Americans – whether religious or secular – have a deep and abiding faith in this nation,” he said at one point. And later, “men and women of different faiths and, yes, those of no faith that they can name – are nevertheless, joined together in common purpose, believing in something that is bigger than ourselves…”

Mehta’s point is that from the president, this kind of talk could not be more divisive at a moment when he is calling for everyone to pray together.

I happen to think that this is a big breakthrough. The president, in almost all of his speeches when religion is mentioned, refers to those who are secular or non-believers. He is giving them a place at the table where, before Obama, they were the unmentionables. His mother raised him in a mostly secular household. He knows whereof he speaks. Just as he has evolved on gay issues, just as the country evolved on the issues of race and the equality of women, so too, is Obama bringing those without a religious faith into the mainstream.

On the other hand, there are plenty of believers who are not happy that Obama continues to mention non-believers in his speeches, including them as though they were equal Americans.

However, as the president pointed out, he is trying to live his life in a godly way, to love his neighbor as himself. To that end, he most important lesson with which he left his audience was this: ”Let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble.”

Let us pray.

About

Sally Quinn Sally Quinn is the founding editor of OnFaith.
  • Dixie Suzan Davis

    Quote—Obama: Let those with the most power be the most humble—- Aaaawww, how sweet.

    Maybe this is why Obama is so arrogant. He hasn’t gotten enough power yet. The humble smubble, gimme the scepter man.

  • DavidJ9

    The National Prayer Breakfast is a way for the self-righteous to show everyone else how self-righteous they are.

  • Old USCG RD2

    Funny how the democrats accuse others of being self-righteous — while lecturing the rest of us on that subject.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.