The President’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

After getting home, I read the transcript of President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. It’s really, really good. He made very strong statements about ISIS, and superb statements about the approach Christians should take. I’m proud to see such words come from my president.

I point this out because, on the way home, I listened to The Five on FoxNews. They used one sound bite in which President Obama used the Crusades to illustrate a theological point about the sin nature. They totally didn’t get it. Clearly, none of them are versed in basic Christianity, else they would have understood what the President was saying. Instead, they treated it as a political speech, and took this soundbite as condemnation of Christianity (which it wasn’t at all). It’s just dishonest, and I feel compelled to say something. Because all night long, the other FoxNews shows are going to be saying the same nonsense, and many of you will be listening. You may assume FoxNews is giving you an accurate report on the speech, when in fact they are giving you a very intentional hack job. It’s what they do.

As a Christian interested in the truth, I read the entire transcript. I often do that with speeches which pundits on either side are criticizing. I want to see the entire speech, with everything in context. In this case, I wanted to read what President REALLY said–not what the FNC pundits tell me he said.

Here is an early part of his speech, in which he set up his theme.

Part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.

As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife. We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done. We see faith driving us to do right.

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

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3 Comments to The President’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

  1. Mark

    Or, was it just a case of saying what the radical Islams are doing is not so bad because, centuries ago, people professing to be Christians did similar things?

  2. Mark

    If you have not already seen the 2-8-14 Meet the Press broadcast, you should visit their site and at least view how Random House editor Jon Meacham weighed in on President Obama’s speech at the Prayer Breakfast.

    On balance, that broadcast of Meet the Press was not very kind to “Your President”.

    Chuck Todd even accused The President of wanting to create contention at the Prayer Breakfast, year after year.

  3. Steve

    I read the entire speech for myself, so I don’t really need somebody else to tell me how to view it. He is, by the way, your president as well. That’s the type of country we are, as a democracy of “We the People.”

    A friend of mine, a former missionary with Wycliffe, has been involved with the prayer breakfasts for many, many years. He wrote: “I was there and heard the speech in person. The criticism is way overblown and I wish more people would take the time to listen to the speech in its entirety as you did. Kent Brantley’s prayer was AMAZING! I thought it was rather ungracious of Franklin Graham to make such comments after the President praised the work of Samaritan’s Purse. Jesus was front and center more than ever before at the NPB. Washington needs more Jesus and fewer right wing graceless critics.”

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