Friday, February 06, 2009

Thoughts on the National Prayer Breakfast

Yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama gave the following speech wherein he made some very particular comments. USA Today also carried a concise run-down:

Regarding the history of the Prayer Breakfast, the President said it "strikes me that this is one of the rare occasions that still brings much of the world together in a moment of peace and goodwill."

The President said, "There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next – and some subscribe to no faith at all."

The "Friendly Athiest" remarked, "It’s strange hearing a politician mention non-religious people in a positive, inclusive way. I could get used to this."

The President went on to say, "But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know." I wonder what he meant when he said that?

John Piper preached on January 25, 2009 a "Sanctity of Life" sermon ("The Baby In My Womb Leapt For Joy") where recalling how on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the President said, “We are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”

The President continued. "Whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.' The Torah commands, 'That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.'" In Islam, there is a hadith that reads 'None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.' And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule -– the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth. It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue."

In case you missed it, even neo-pagans are included by mention of the "ancient rule."

"Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I’m announcing later today.

"The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another – or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."

Our community faces the challenges of crime, murder and drugs. One group says "live and let live. Who are you to tell us what to believe and how?" These are the criminals in my community. Yet, I know of Security Guards and Law Enforcement Officers who know that if they let allow me (among others) to present the Law of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching that men should repent of their sins (like lying, stealing, covetousness, adultery, etc) and put their faith and trust in the finished work of Christ, their job of law and policy enforcement will be easier. I've actually heard a Security Guard in a store breathe a sigh when I came through the door of the store, "Oh, good. You're here!" I fail to understand how people who choose to live without restraint can call the police when they are victimized . . .

This is the most important paragraph of the President's speech: "I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done."

He goes on. "I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose."

Consider this comment by Ray Comfort in The Evidence Bible: "Many people do similar things. They may steal from their employer or cheat on their taxes, then give to a charity or spend Thanksgiving helping at a soup kitchen. They think they are balancing the scales: they have done bad, and now they are doing good. However, the Bible reveals that the motive of guilty sinners is one of guilt (see Hebrews 9:14). They are at-tempting to bribe the Judge of the Universe. However, the Judge in this case will not be corrupted. He must punish all sinners. Good works cannot earn mercy; it comes purely by the grace of God. He will dismiss our iniquity only on the grounds of our faith in Jesus."

The President concludes, "We come to break bread and give thanks and seek guidance . . ."

From WHO, Mr. President? And when He guides, who will obey?

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