God and Man at the National Prayer Breakfast

President Obama spoke Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast. I’ve long studied the sitting president’s remarks at these breakfasts, particularly President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and President Ronald Reagan. I note this to hopefully lend a little credibility in putting my observations into historical context, while also not avoiding the current political climate — as Obama certainly did not.

This is an ecumenical gathering, and Obama was precisely that, warmly acknowledging the different faiths assembled. On the other hand, Obama was so ecumenical that he never once mentioned “Jesus” or “Christ” or called himself a follower of Jesus Christ or a Christian. It wasn’t as if the president was pinched for text; this was a 2,000-word oration, with numerous figures mentioned.

The most common figure in this speech was Barack Obama. In a 17-minute address, one that included the word “humility,” Obama referred to himself 30 times. He thereby continued the brisk pace of at least one self-reference per minute on rapid display in his lengthy State of the Union address the previous week.

On the plus side, the president several times referred to “God,” including “God’s grace,” “God’s mercy,” and the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I.” He also used the word “Christian” once — in reference to the truly God-sent abolitionist Wilberforce. This section was excellent. Obama stated: “Remember William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith led him to seek slavery’s abolition in Britain.”

Here was a poignant reminder by Obama, one the angry secular left — which voted for Obama stronger than almost any group — needs to hear repeatedly, as it blames Christianity for every sin under the sun over the last 1,000 years. For Obama to highlight the indispensable role of Christians in ending slavery is a splendid rejoinder to the “God-Is-Not-Great” crowd. Bravo, Mr. President.

Unfortunately, where Obama went next in the speech troubles me somewhat. He spoke of “crimes of conscience that call us to action.” No doubt, my bias studying Bush and Reagan reflexively leads me to expect moving words to follow on the sanctity and dignity of human life. That was my inclination when I heard President Obama speak of “common humanity,” “denied … humanity,” and “life’s most sacred responsibility.” In this speech, however, the “right to life,” or the essentially dignity of all life, was not mentioned.

Of course, this is not a surprise. President Obama did likewise in his Inaugural, heralding “liberty and equality” but not “life and liberty” — words akin to the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man but not the American Revolution’s Declaration of Independence.

Instead, Obama headed to the theme of his address. The progressive president, immediately after underscoring “crimes of conscience,” spoke of “progress” three consecutive times; indeed, “progress” or “progressive” appeared five times in this speech. That’s fitting, given that it’s Obama’s progressive agenda that is defining his presidency and has drawn the lines of distinction between him and his opponents, and has naturally fueled the political-ideological division enflaming the current landscape. Such divisions understandably arise when one charts a sharp new course, an unmistakable agenda of “change.”

Yet, instead of accepting the differences, Obama went back to a tried-and-true political tactic he has used artfully. He repeatedly preached an end to “division” (three times), the need to find “common ground” (twice) — a brilliant tactic he has employed with Religious Left progressives, including the breathtakingly naïve Catholics at Notre Dame — and urged “civility” (eight times).

President Obama has employed this rhetoric incessantly while (in practice) never veering from a hard-left agenda. This means that common ground can be found only if the other side comes to his side. It’s a common ground that occupies only one side of the fence.

And yet, Obama said much more. He denounced the practice of demonizing opponents. This raised a few eyebrows. Consider:

Barack Obama is an ardent disciple of Saul Alinsky, his fellow Chicagoan and the father of community organizing. He learned and honed the craft from Alinsky’s own manuals, which Obama studied and taught. Among Alinsky’s core tenets in his landmark Rules for Radicals — a book Alinsky literally dedicated to Lucifer (no kidding, look it up) — is to isolate the target at hand and “demonize” it. In Obama’s first year as president, the target assumed various form, from institutions and industries, to banks and health-insurance companies, to the recurrent demon: the Bush administration.

In this speech, however, Obama offered the faithful an olive branch — at least in rhetoric — when he closed: “progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents….. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.”

Amen. And now that technology has allowed us to look into the faces of unborn human beings, may we see God in them as well. I hope the president will lead that charge. That would be a refreshing change.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • m7wij

    The truly “green” individual, intent upon preserving the environment, as well as, one who would most like to improve our current economic woes, is the one who most strongly advocates for protecting our most precious natural resource: Unborn humans. Science has clearly demonstrated that our DNA makes us human, and we are human beings from conception.

    There is no need to demonize the progressive president. Saul Alinsky, one of Mr. Obama’s most important, if not defining, influences did it for us. Anyone who is a devotee of Lucifer is no Christian. It matters not what he calls himself. His rhetoric is just hollow sounding words, when taken in that context.

    He has defined himself as extremely pro-death (praise Lucifer?) and anti-life. May God have mercy on his soul, and may the loving Grace of Jesus Christ, through the power of God, embued through the Holy Spirit, lead him back into the light onto the right path.

  • m7wij

    After posting my comments yesterday, I read St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and found that his introductory remarks apply equally to Mr. Obama’s approach to “unifying” us. Mr. Obama is intent upon spreading his good news of “common humanity,” and “liberty and equality,” while working in earnest against “life’s most sacred responsibility” to the unborn and infirm. These are the most vulnerable lives amongst us.

    Paul wrote: “I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned.” -Jerusalem Bible 1968. Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd.

    Again we see the seductive influence of Lucifer at work here, further dividing us, while at the same we are called to unify on common ground (apparently with Lucifer as king of that land). As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.