“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
When dealing with people who hate President Obama, I am constantly amazed at how fast they can take the opposite side of LITERALLY WHATEVER ISSUE he is talking about. It doesn’t matter what the issue is… Obama could say, “Cancer is bad,” and the folks who hate him would be like, “Obama is trying to put Oncologists out of a job.” He could say, “I love puppies,” and haters would be accusing him of discriminating against cats. He could use an executive order to give everyone in America an assault rifle, and conservatives would be talking about him abusing his power, and calling him a “Flip-Flopper.” So when President Obama got up to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, it was no different. But really, he didn’t “speak.” He PREACHED. He read the verse I quoted above, and then he preached. And even after giving the most theologically sound speech I’ve ever heard a president give, people–both on the left and the right–are dismissing it without even listening to what he said…
And the main reason I’m writing this post right now is that I really–honestly–want EVERY SINGLE PERSON to listen to the things that Barack Obama had to say at this Prayer Breakfast. For my friends on the left, forget for a moment that this National Prayer Breakfast is put on by “The Family” in Washington D.C.–A horribly anti-gay “Christian” group that has ties to the American church leaders behind the new laws in Uganda making homosexuality punishable by death… And forget all the times that people have used religion to justify every kind of hatred and bigotry… And just listen to his words. For my friends on the right, forget for a moment all of those eMail forwards you got making a case for how Obama was secretly a Muslim… Forget the blame you regularly put on his shoulders… Forget about how you believe that he couldn’t possibly be a follower of Jesus because of his position on a woman’s right to choose… Forget how much you hate this guy, put away your “NOBAMA” stickers, and PLEASE JUST LISTEN to what he says in this video:
Now, here’s the thing: I can TELL how many people actually clicked on the video and watched it, and it’s never anywhere CLOSE to the number of people who read the posts. So I’m begging you–You don’t have to watch the whole thing… Just listen to it. Listen to it on your phone as you’re driving. Listen to it on ear buds as you’re working at your desk. Listen to it as you’re going to bed. You will not regret it.
And for those of you that need more priming than just my insistent begging, I’m going to quote part of the speech. I say “speech,” but it was definitely a sermon, and it was unimpeachably, unapologetically Christian. It was emotional and true. And it exemplified the power, the love, and the sound mind Paul talked about in his letter to Timothy. Here are the two stories he ended with, as well as his conclusion. If you’d like, you can view the ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT HERE. Please read… The highlights are mine.
A week ago, I spoke at a ceremony held at the Israeli Embassy for the first time, honoring the courage of people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. And one of the recipients was the grandson — or the son of an American soldier who had been captured by the Nazis. So a group of American soldiers are captured, and their captors ordered Jewish POWs to identify themselves. And one sergeant, a Christian named Roddie Edmonds, from Tennessee, ordered all American troops to report alongside them. They lined up in formation, approximately 200 of them, and the Nazi colonel said, “I asked only for the Jewish POWs,” and said, “These can’t all be Jewish.” And Master Sergeant Edmonds stood there and said, “We are all Jews.” And the colonel took out his pistol and held it to the Master Sergeant’s head and said, “Tell me who the Jews are.” And he repeated, “We are all Jews.” And faced with the choice of shooting all those soldiers, the Nazis relented. And so, through his moral clarity, through an act of faith, Sergeant Edmonds saved the lives of his Jewish brothers-in-arms.
A second story. Just yesterday, some of you may be aware I visited a mosque in Baltimore to let our Muslim-American brothers and sisters know that they, too, are Americans and welcome here. And there I met a Muslim-American named Rami Nashashibi, who runs a nonprofit working for social change in Chicago. And he forms coalitions with churches and Latino groups and African Americans in this poor neighborhood in Chicago. And he told me how the day after the tragedy in San Bernardino happened, he took his three young children to a playground in the Marquette Park neighborhood, and while they were out, the time came for one of the five daily prayers that are essential to the Muslim tradition. And on any other day, he told me, he would have immediately put his rug out on the grass right there and prayed.
But that day, he paused. He feared any unwelcome attention he might attract to himself and his children. And his seven year-old daughter asked him, “What are you doing, Dad? Isn’t it time to pray?” And he thought of all the times he had told her the story of the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Robert Marx, and 700 other people marched to that very same park, enduring hatred and bigotry, dodging rocks and bottles, and hateful words, in order to challenge Chicago housing segregation, and to ask America to live up to our highest ideals. And so, at that moment, drawing from the courage of men of different religions, of a different time, Rami refused to teach his children to be afraid. Instead, he taught them to be a part of that legacy of faith and good conscience. “I want them to understand that sometimes faith will be tested,” he told me, “and that we will be asked to show immense courage, like others have before us, to make our city, our country, AND OUR WORLD a better reflection of all our ideals.” And he put down his rug and he prayed.
Now, those two stories, they give me courage and they give me hope. And they instruct me in my own Christian faith. I can’t imagine a moment in which that young American sergeant expressed his Christianity more profoundly than when, confronted by his own death, he said “We are all Jews.” I can’t imagine a clearer expression of Jesus’s teachings. I can’t imagine a better expression of the peaceful spirit of Islam than when a Muslim father, filled with fear, drew from the example of a Baptist preacher and a Jewish rabbi to teach his children what God demands.For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I pray that by His grace, we all find the courage to set such examples in our own lives — not just during this wonderful gathering and fellowship, not just in the public piety that we profess, but in those smaller moments when it’s difficult, when we’re challenged, when we’re angry, when we’re confronted with someone who doesn’t agree with us, when no one is watching. I pray, as Roma so beautifully said, that our differences ultimately are bridged; that the God that is in each of us comes together, and we don’t divide.
Seriously… Say that again, Obama. “That our differences ultimately are bridged; that the God that is in each of us comes together, and we don’t divide.” I honestly don’t know if I could have kept myself from yelling out “Amen” if I had been there. And here’s how he ended it… I’m going to bold just about the whole paragraph, because every word is SO. STINKING. GOOD.
I pray that our leaders will always act with humility and generosity. I pray that my failings are forgiven.I pray that we will uphold our obligation to be good stewards of God’s creation — this beautiful planet. I pray that we will see every single child as our own, each worthy of our love and of our compassion. And I pray we answer Scripture’s call to lift up the vulnerable, and to stand up for justice, and ensure that every human being lives in dignity.
That’s my prayer for this breakfast, and for this country, in the years to come.
May God bless you, and may He continue to bless this country that we love.
Left or right, republican of democrat, Christian or Muslim of Jew or Hindu or Atheist of Agnostic… If these words resonate with you… If this is your prayer… Pass it along. Encourage someone else to listen to the good words of a good man. And even more than listening to these inspiring words, let us LIVE THEM OUT!!
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