News Articles

Obama: Religion ‘can bring us together’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Differing religious beliefs should not prevent people from loving and serving one another for the “betterment of our world,” President Obama said Feb. 5 in his first speech at the National Prayer Breakfast since taking office.

The new president said at the annual event attended by about 3,000 people the “very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same.”

“But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate,” Obama said. “There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being.”

He said the Golden Rule — “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12) — unites all major religions.

“It is an ancient rule, a simple rule, but also one of the most challenging,” he said after citing various religions, as well as texts from some of those religions that are similar to the Golden Rule. “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.

“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,” the president told the audience of legislators, administration officials, foreign diplomats, religious leaders and others gathered in a Washington hotel ballroom.

Obama acknowledged he was not reared in a “particularly religious household.” His father was a Muslim who became an atheist; his grandparents a Baptist and Methodist who did not practice their faiths, and his mother a skeptic regarding organized religion, the president said. His mother, however, was the “kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known,” he said.

“I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the south side of Chicago after college,” Obama said. “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.”

Afterward, a pro-life leader said she desires the new president would fully apply his declaration there is “no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said in a written statement, “My deepest prayer is that President Obama will move forward in the spirit of the Golden Rule and embrace policies that affirm the dignity of every human being, especially the most vulnerable of all, the unborn.”

Obama was an advocate of unlimited abortion rights during his careers in the Illinois and U.S. Senates. Since becoming president, he has issued an executive order reversing a pro-life policy that prevented federal family planning funds from going to international organizations that perform or promote abortion.

Tony Blair, former British prime minister, delivered the keynote speech.

Reps. Heath Shuler, D.-N.C., a Southern Baptist, and Vern Ehlers, R.-Mich., co-chaired this year’s breakfast. Members of Congress read Scripture and prayed during the event.

The National Prayer Breakfast, which is sponsored by an evangelical Christian organization, began in 1953 during President Eisenhower’s first administration.

Obama’s comments may be accessed online at www.whitehouse.gov/blog. Blair’s comments are available at www.tonyblairoffice.org/2009/02/full-text-of-tony-blairs-speec.html.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

    About the Author

  • Staff