President Barack Obama's address to the National Prayer Breakfast this week echoed themes from his much-admired (and much criticized) 2006 Call to Renewal keynote speech on the role of religion in political life. (I, for one, liked it.)
In that speech, he chastised his fellow progressives not only for trying to exclude religious viewpoints from political discourse and public life, but also for assuming that they could have any hope of reforming American society without appealing to the religious sensibilities of the 90 percent of Americans who believe in God. The religious faith of the American people was an essential element that drove compassion for others and a commitment to right living.
In Thursday's address, he tried to model the theory he articulated in 2006, linking it strongly to his personal prayer life.
The President said that he talks about "shared responsibility" because he "genuinely believe[s] that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for [him] to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone." "I think to myself," he continued, "if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense."
He based his willingness "as a Christian" to give something up for the common good on "Jesus' teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.' " He went on to state that other policies he has pursued—ranging from fostering lifesaving medical research to preventing violence in Uganda—stemmed from biblical principles: ...1