While speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this Thursday, an emboldened President Obama spoke about those who would use religion as a pretext for war and violence. He urged those at the breakfast to practice peace and tolerance in the face of evil.
As his breakfast speech began, the President welcomed the Dali Lama to the National Prayer Breakfast saying that the Tibetan leader is “a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings,” and praised God for bringing the two together at the breakfast.
Adding some levity to the national event, Obama added that by bringing the Dali Lama and Darrel Waltrip, keynote speaker and NASCAR hall of famer under the same roof, that “God works in mysterious ways,” adding that “I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives – Jesus, take the wheel. Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.”
During the wide-ranging prayer talk, Obama spoke on how religion is “twisted and distorted” by extremism and used to justify violence.
“From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.”
Obama also likened ISIL with the infamous Crusades in Europe in which Christianity took over like a firebrand, burning anyone who stood in the way, saying that “during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Then he used that as a bridge to relate religious extremism to events in America’s history that have been less than altruistic. He reminded those attending the breakfast that America had, in its past, a similar tradition.
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. “
In many ways, the Obama who spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast was a president unafraid to express his opinions on the subject of race and religious intolerance. as he pointed out in his latest State of the Union Address, he no longer has to concern himself with winning an election.
Obama told attendees that God compels us all to counteract this intolerance. He then went on to use the National Prayer Breakfast to unveil his thre guiding principles of faith: Be humble, uphold the distinction between faith and government, between church and state, and to treat others as you expect to be treated.
“Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred.”
Do you think Obama crossed a line at the National Prayer Breakfast or were his words long overdue?