Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Richard Kauffman at the National Prayer Breakfast

Richard Kauffman is the book review editor at The Christian Century and a friend of this blog. Kauffman recently attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. and reflected on his experience at the CC website. 

You may recall that we had something to say about Dr. Ben Carson's speech during this event.  Kauffman did too, but he also focused on Barack Obama's speech, delivered after Carson (indirectly) criticized the President on a number of fronts.  Here is a taste of Kauffman's piece:

The President, regardless of party affiliation, is always expected to attend and give a speech. President Obama got the last word, speech-wise. His demeanor was noticeably low key. His lack of a spirited presentation reminded me somewhat of his disastrous first debate with Mitt Romney last fall in Denver. A friend I attended with said the president’s apparent lack of energy could just be an indication that he too is cynical about this event.

I found a couple aspects of Obama’s speech to be noteworthy. He acknowledged his own Christian faith, while respectfully pointing out that there are good Americans of other faiths and others of no faith. He may just be remembered as the first U.S. president to appreciate religious pluralism. And his speech ended with a call for humility in politics—what I would call the most underrated virtue in public life. “Those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble,” the president said.

At one point, Obama made what sounded like an off-the-cuff comment about how people come together for this occasion to pray, then go back to their offices and jobs and it’s business as usual. It came off as part lament, part rebuke. Other than the scriptures read near the outset, it was the most truthful thing I heard at the prayer breakfast.

2 comments:

mutteringsofahappyfool said...

When I first saw the speech I felt that there was not a lot of Christianity and prayer and a whole lot of Right-wing Nationalism.

And as a Baptist, I am disgusted that we even have a "prayer Breakfast" in the first place. Mixing Church and State is, to borrow an expression, like mixing horse shit and ice cream. Doesn't really change the horse shit but it sure as heck ruins the ice cream!

John, can we get a post on the historical context for the "Prayer Breakfast?"

John Fea said...

Hi Happy Fool: I actually used your line about mixing church and state today at a conference on secularism at Georgetown.