President Obama used the Easter Prayer Breakfast this Tuesday morning in the East room of the White House to affirm the positive teachings of Christ, while condemning the “less than loving” aka hatred coming out of certain alleged Christians’ mouths.
President Obama said, “I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned.”
The President said in part:
Through God’s mercy, Peter the Apostle said, we are given “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” It’s an inheritance that calls on us to be better, to love more deeply, to serve “the least of these” as an expression of Christ’s love here on Earth.
That’s the spirit we feel in the example of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who encourages us to seek peace, to serve the marginalized, and be good stewards of God’s creation. Like millions of Americans, I’m honored that we will be welcoming him to our country later this year.
I want to quote him. He says that we should strive “to see the Lord in every excluded person who is thirsty, hungry, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith… imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper — whether in body or soul — who encounters discrimination.”
Isn’t that how Jesus lived? Isn’t that how He loved? Embracing those who were different; serving the marginalized; humbling Himself to the last. This is the example that we are called to follow — to love Him with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors — all of our neighbors — as ourselves. As it says in the first letter of John, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.
The President is calling everyone to be kind to those who are different, to remember that Christ taught us to embrace those who are different, to love our neighbors.
This is a direct hit at the hatred espoused by the alleged Christian right, and it’s high time a top Democrat started taking back “religion”. For far too long Republicans have co-opted religion so that many people believe – mistakenly – that if they go to church, they need to vote Republican.
Yet Republicans only embrace a certain kind of extremist religion, one that is focused on exclusion and hatred, one that caters to the very rich, one that is smug and superior above its neighbors.
Certainly the Democratic Party is comprised of humanists and atheists, but it also has many religious believers. No matter what people believe, most people can agree that the morality of Christ’s message to love thy neighbor is something they support. And politics are personal. Politics is about our morality. When we vote, we are saying — among other things — yes, I think it’s good and necessary to discriminate against gay people and women and Muslims (et al), or no, I believe in treating everyone as equals.
When the issue is framed around love, it’s easy to see that it’s cruel and unkind to exclude a group of people. And just as it is wrong to exclude LGBTQ people, it is wrong to dishonor women and exclude them from the same healthcare choices that men have. Religion and faith can be used for the good; they don’t have to be a weapon of mass destruction.
President Obama isn’t going to let his faith be tarnished by the broad brush of hate, nor is he going to concede faith to the right. He has made this clear from the beginning of his first term to the great distress of many on the left. But it’s important to make the point that the Republican party doesn’t own religion, try as they might. God didn’t pick any of them to be your president, no matter how many times they claim that.
The United States does not bestow alleged divine authority to political leaders for a good reason. But that doesn’t mean leaders aren’t informed by the morality of their personal beliefs and faith.