The President at the Prayer Breakfast
President Obama, whose church attendance during the three years of his presidency has been as notable for its paucity as his visits to the golf course have been notable for their frequency, showed up -- as he proudly pointed out, for the third time -- at the National Prayer Breakfast to talk about the importance of his faith in his governing, politics, and policy-making. Coming from a president whose administration, from one end to the other, has worked consistently to limit religious freedom in this country, demonize Christian believers, and remove religion from the public square, the speech was a masterpiece of manipulation and demagoguery. He had the gall to come to the prayer breakfast to proclaim that "we can't leave our values at the door" after ripping up the "conscience clauses" so that people of faith and personal religious convictions must pay for abortions as part of ObamaCare and all employers must provide abortifacients to their employees under the new HHS mandates regarding health insurance coverage.
"Know your audience" is one of the first rules in public speaking, and Obama's rhetoric, as usual, was pitch-perfect for this particular audience. He began by "giving all praise and honor to God" and expressing how "truly blessed" he and Michelle were to be there and asking those assembled to "seek God's face together." Like most American politicians, he definitely knows the Christian vernacular; he even knows to quote C.S. Lewis. He also knows how to slyly slip in zingers for the opposition, with a smile on his face that signals he's putting one over on the rubes. In the context of acknowledging the "rancor that too often passes as politics today," he asked the assembled faithful of "imperfect vessels" to avoid "phony religiosity" in order to listen to Him.
Well and good -- if you could forget for the moment all of Obama's rancorous attacks on any and all who will not accede to his disastrous policies. For the informed listener, well in tune with the facts, what followed was a bumpy ride of cognitive dissonance. We had to listen to Obama declare that the economy is "making progress as we recover from the worst crisis in three generations," which was made worse and longer by his economic policies, which have given us the weakest and most protracted recovery since the Great Depression. We had to forget his disdain for our fighting men, the imposition of the homosexual agenda on the military, and his cutbacks on defense as we listened to the hollow praise for "our men and women in uniform," and then he got down to his real message: "Part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can't dictate our response to every challenge we face."
He cited the following Americans who have made our nation a "somewhat more perfect" union: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and Abraham Heschel. Though all are admirable people, they are not exactly the list of "great reformers in American history" that the majority of Americans would list, and coming from Obama, the predominantly black list seemed racist. It certainly made no attempt to be unifying, nor did his list address the importance of faith in unifying the nation. But the president cited them for "bold" actions based on their faith, "sometimes in the face of resistance." He declared that facing a situation fraught with "resistance" is no different for him today. So, his imposition of big-government programs using Saul Alinsky-style mob tactics and "Chicago way" payoffs is equivalent to Martin Luther King's peaceful demonstrations?
The president declared that he begins his day with prayer, Scripture, and devotion -- and sometimes with clergy friends -- but that it is necessary for him to also "make sure those values motivate [him] as one leader of this great nation." Does anyone who has watched him believe that he sees himself as "one" leader? His "leadership from behind" has greatly diminished this great nation in the eyes of the world. He is "the" leader of the United States; he cannot get away with passing the buck on the leadership issue. He might not be the "one we have been waiting for," but he is the one ultimately responsible for the disastrous policies of the past three years.
So, to sum up his speech to this point: after attempting to establish his bono fides -- talking about praying every day and using evangelical lingo to seem to fit in with those in the audience -- the president tried to score points and shift blame on his three areas of major weakness -- economy, military, and leadership. After laying that groundwork, the president then got down to the real purpose of his remarks: to put his socialist policies into a leftist social justice ideology, using an evangelical framework, and justifying it all through biblical quotations taken out of context.
Economic Disparity: President Obama lamented all the "neighbors in our country [who] have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years." (Emphasis mine -- this is Bush's fault, too?) Then he cited "God's command to "love thy neighbor as thyself'" as the reason for making the "economy stronger for everyone." And, by the way, this "version of the Golden Rule" is not just Christian; it is found "from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato." (To his secular supporters, he seemed to be saying, "So take that, all you Bible-believers sitting here at a Christian prayer breakfast! Don't be thinking your faith is special.")
Shared Responsibility: President Obama used "Jesus' teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required'" to tell the audience of people "who've been extraordinarily blessed" in comparison to "seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills" that they must "give up some of the tax breaks" that they currently "enjoy." Again, he just had to bring in Islam and "Jewish doctrine" to supposedly support his interpretation and to imply that other faiths in other countries do a better job of living up to the idea than do American Christians.
Opportunity Equals Entitlement: The president made it clear that he believes we are all "our brother's keeper" and "our sister's keeper" and that we all have a responsibility to make other people's "opportunities" -- give kids a college education and provide a "chance to retrain" for the unemployed. Fair enough. Obviously, Christians do believe that we have a responsibility to the poor and unfortunate, but the president's help is government intervention and ineffective, impersonal federal programs that provide a handout, not the compassionate, personal help and hand-up that caring, committed Christians have, throughout history, voluntarily given to those in need. Like many of the leftist "social justice" proponents, the president muddies the waters by mixing in with his utopian solutions some worthy programs that all agree can be addressed only through concerted national efforts, like advocating support for those who face "atrocities in places like Uganda" and those who are victims of horrific human trafficking.
Be Doers, Not Believers Only: The president challenged attendees to "[s]peak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." Again, he cited the Jewish principle of helping people so that they can "stand on their own." He challenged the crowd to not "just give lip service" or just "talk about them one day a year," but to "hope" (hope?) that "God will buttress our efforts." The president warned the assembled believers not "to declare our policies as biblical." Instead, he urged us to seek "common ground and common good as best [we] know how, with respect for each other." In other words, the president was saying Scripture has no ultimate authority other than as a set of good principles to guide our best judgment and intentions. He went so far as to warn those "in this room" that "biblical injunctions are not just words, they are also deeds." He cited John: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
The president concluded his remarks with a poignant reference to his visit with Billy Graham, while his family was on vacation in North Carolina. While he recounted the story with touching imagery, the message was not that Billy Graham prayed with him as Graham had prayed with numerous other presidents. Ironically, amazingly, and appallingly, the important thing for this president was that he prayed for Billy Graham.
Take-home message for attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast: see, Obama really is the "One" we have been waiting for.
Janice Shaw Crouse, former Bush 41 speechwriter, is a political commentator for Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee.