Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 National Prayer Breakfast: Right-Wing Voices Criticize Obama's Speech

(To read about Eric Metaxas' speech at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast, click here.)

On February 2nd, the 60th Annual National Prayer Breakfast took place in the Hilton Washington in Washington D.C. Hosted by Fellowship Foundation (a.k.a. The Family), a Washington D.C.-based Christian group, the National Prayer Breakfast has been attended by national and world leaders since it was first established in 1953. President Barack Obama spoke at the event, offering his insights into faith and leadership.

At the 1:10:59 mark, President Obama stressed the importance of values in leadership while acknowledging that personal faith alone cannot define policy in a pluralistic society.
"We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can't dictate our response to every challenge we face, but in my moments of prayer, I'm reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others. We can't leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union."
At the 1:13:42 mark, he cited the Golden Rule as a principle behind fair policies, noting that the Golden Rule appears in other world religions.
"When I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren't discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren't taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it'll make the economy stronger for everybody, but I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God's command to love thy neighbor as thyself. I know that a version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs, from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato."
One would think that President Obama's openness about his Christian faith and the importance of values would be warmly received by religious conservatives. Predictably, some voices on the right were critical.

- CBS Atlanta reports that Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) walked out during President Obama's speech. In a statement at his website, Rep. Gingrey was offended by Obama's supposed use of the event for "partisan politics and class warfare," and discouraged President Obama from allegedly using "campaign rhetoric" at future prayer breakfasts. (See gingrey[dot]house[dot]gov/news/email/show.aspx?ID=IZ43KGNOCADEBSLB3AAWYO6O5A)

- Raw Story reports that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) complained that the president allegedly used a non-partisan prayer breakfast to "promote his political agenda." Sen. Hatch was annoyed that the president supposedly claimed that Jesus would have endorsed "his latest tax-the-rich schemes."

- In a February 3rd column at the Washington Times, Carla Garrison claimed that President Obama "misrepresented" Luke 12:48 ("unto whom much is given, much shall be required."). Garrison argued that Jesus taught separation between the responsibilities of government, church, and family, insisting that services Obama wants to fund with taxes are outside the realm of government. The president, she wrote, seemed to reveal a "pagan philosophy" for government, rather than one undergirded by Judeo-Christian ideas. (See communities[dot]washingtontimes[dot]com/neighborhood/truth-be-told/2012/feb/3/president-obama-misrepresents-teachings-jesus-nati/)

- In a February 4th commentary at Renew America, Michael Bresciani claimed that the "subtle infusion of Obama's politics" filled the room during his speech. Many of the religious leaders President Obama referred to in his speech were "apostate" and "liberal," Bresciani wrote, inclined to abandon Biblical mandates. (See www[dot]renewamerica[dot]com/columns/bresciani/120204)

You just can't win with some people. For years, members of the Religious Right have cited scripture and appealed to God to justify their positions, but the president's references to God and scripture are condemned. The irony is stunning.

To read additional news, visit the following links.

Voice of America: Obama: Religious Faith Helps Guide His Decisions

NPR: Obama Draws on Faith at Prayer Breakfast

CNN: Obama reflects on faith in prayer breakfast speech


  1. The hypocrisy here is laughable...condemning the President for talking politics and religion when the Religious Right does this constantly. The problem for them, of course, is that his statements were mild, intelligent, and inclusive.

    Side note--thanks for the film recommendation. I watched the Marjoe documentary this weekend and enjoyed it very much. You know, in the way one can enjoy disturbing/unbelievable things. :)

  2. Michelle -- Laughable it is. I'm pleased that you enjoyed MARJOE. It was a real eye-opener when I watched it, and some of his tactics are still used today.

  3. This rightly shows that both sides are using religion as Rhetoric. Both think that they are doing no such thing. But the, religion IS rhetoric. I want them BOTH to stop using it, no matter how much it supports what I value.

  4. Sabio -- While I respect people's freedom of speech to use religious rhetoric, politics might be cleaner without such rhetoric.

  5. Right Ahab. Obama just can't win with the Religious Right. I hope he's coming to realize that.

  6. Wow. So Obama advocates the Golden Rule and is condemned for it. He sounds more Christian than they do. These people would clamor for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Their lack of insight (dishonesty?) is absolutely stunning.

    I do agree that religion and religious rhetoric do not belong in politics or government. I don't like the National Prayer Breakfast for all of the reasons we've already talked about. On the other hand, I think the Golden Rule is a wonderful principle that promotes the best interests of a secular human society. Amen to what Obama said. Too bad it's such a hard principle for the RR to swallow, let alone apply.

  7. Donna -- It couldn't be clearer, so I hope he sees it.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- It's such a simple moral rule, and yet I rarely see the Religious Right practice it.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.