Saturday, February 9, 2013

Obama's Prayer Breakfast Speech

Last year I wrote a piece on Obama's prayer breakfast speech that got me in a small bit of trouble

Below are my thoughts on this year's speech.  (I guess you can call me a glutton for punishment).  First, I encourage you to watch the speech.  It is only about 18 minutes long.

Perhaps it was the reverence of the occasion, but Obama seemed tired. Nevertheless, he used the Bible, and its message of humble living, to call for an end to the political culture wars that have been inflicting the nation.  As he has done dozens of times, Obama defended the idea of Christian republicanism.  Faith, he believes, helps us to cultivate a more virtuous nation.  By diligently seeking God in our lives we will inevitably act more kindly and benevolently toward one another.  By being humble we resist the urge to degrade our political opponents. Obama's use of Lincoln and King on this front was certainly appropriate.

As most American presidents, Obama's commitment to civil religion is strong. Most of his decidedly Trinitarian speech centered on the way that Christian virtues teach people to sacrifice themselves for the common good.  In this sense he is not unlike the Founding Fathers who, as I have been arguing in some of my talks on Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, thought religion was absolutely essential to the success of the American republic they created.  For the founders, Christianity was useful not because it got people to heaven or brought them closer to God, but because it offered a moral system that made good Republican citizens.  Obama has been championing this message ever since the 2004 Red State-Blue State Speech that he delivered at the Democratic National Convention.

The prayer breakfast speech confirmed once again that Obama is a "God and country" president.