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WASHINGTON — In a 2006 speech here, then-Sen. Barack Obama said Jesus' Sermon on the Mount was so "radical" the Defense Department wouldn't survive its application. Earlier this month, the new president suggested the economy couldn't get along without it.

In the middle of a nuts-and-bolts speech at Georgetown University on economic policy, Obama overtly cited the sermon's parable of two men, one of whom builds his house on rock, the other on sand.  "We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand," the president said. "We must build our house upon a rock."

The reference to Jesus' most famous — and notoriously challenging — sermon quickly drew attention from the media, some of whom labeled the speech "Obama's Economic Sermon on the Mount."

Obama has referred to Jesus' mountainside sermon several times in recent years, sometimes using the same two-houses parable to make a point about sound government policy, at other times using the sermon's wider message of tolerance and love to defend his progressive interpretation of Christianity.

For instance, on the campaign trail last March, and in his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama has cited the sermon to explain his support for same-sex civil unions.

"If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans," Obama said at a campaign event in Ohio when a local pastor asked him how he plans to win evangelical votes when he disagrees with many of them about same-sex unions.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul condemns homosexual acts as unnatural and "unseemly."

With its turn-the-other-cheek vibe, and "blessed are the peacemakers" Beatitudes, ...

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