At the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning, President Obama got theological in front of 3,000 attendees. Obama pulled passages from the Bible to encourage governmental policies to help the poor and provide more opportunities for the disadvantaged. Drawing from Jesus’ words, the president encourage higher taxes on wealthier Americans.
Drawing upon faith tenants from almost every world religion, Obama said,
“For me, as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required… 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 the 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.”
Last year, the president used the opportunity to proclaim his personal relationship with Jesus Christ at a time when 1 in 4 believed he was a Muslim. This year he shared how he begins every morning with prayer and a scripture devotional. In addition, he shared his experience and prayer time with Billy Graham, perhaps the most impactful preacher/pastor in the 20th century. Obama gave an insight into his personal prayer life since meeting Graham:
I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment — asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong.
Critics will argue that the president is playing politics with his faith, however using moral and ethical theologies to care for the least of society is the type of theological reflection that most conservative Christians engage in with the issues of abortion and gay marriage. Jesus spoke more about poverty and the poor more than any subject in the four Gospels. And, Jesus’ second most commented topic was the inequality of wealth, power, and social status.
Most do not like when our presidents play theologian-in-chief when it comes to hot political topics. Christians like our presidents to pray, go to church, talk about God, and defend public displays of faith. When it comes to policy making, some Christians are Americans first and Christians second. Putting political ideology over theological ideology.
I’ll admit, the president has stances on abortion and marriage that are not consistent with strict biblical teaching. Nevertheless, let’s give him some room when it comes to standing up for the poor in a society of great wealth. The government can’t solve all the problems of the poor, but we as a society can help the least of these through both public and private means.
Read the full text of the president’s address here.