President-Elect Needs Better Excuse For Avoiding Church

If President-elect Obama chooses not to attend church, that’s his business. The idea that our president must attend church, flies … Continued

If President-elect Obama chooses not to attend church, that’s his business. The idea that our president must attend church, flies in the face the very religious liberty upon which our nation is founded. But telling us that he has made that choice because he “doesn’t want to disrupt the service for others” stretches even this supporter’s ability to trust his answer on this issue.

For starters, my guess is that while his attendance at a church of his choosing would cause some logistical challenges, on balance, most worshippers would be delighted share a pew with the president-elect. Far from disrupting the service, I imagine it would affirm the faith of those who worship alongside him.

And even if one accepts his rationale for not attending church with others, it does not explain why the president-elect has not made alternative arrangements for formal prayer in a more private setting. He would be far from the first public figure to do so. So that cannot be it either.

It would be quite interesting to here from him why he chooses not to engage in any kind of public worship at this time, especially after so many years of regular church attendance. But whatever the real answer is, the inability to share it has as much to do with the American public as it does with President-elect Obama.

Are we really ready to hear our president say that public prayer is simply not that important to him? How safe is it to make such an admission to the American public, which is overwhelmingly churched? It is precisely those among us who would most like to see a president engages in some form of regular prayer that must make it okay to say that he chooses not to.

If all we do is harangue those whose religious views differ from our own, then we make it impossible to have an honest conversation about the value of prayer in our lives. If we want President-elect Obama to really tell us what’s going on, then we must be ready to hear what he might have to say. Failing that, we will get the kind of avoidant answers which help nobody, but at least avoid the nasty fights over religious faith which we seem compelled to have over and over again.

President-elect Obama owes the American people a better explanation for why he is not attending church. And the American people owe him the respect he deserves for making a perfectly reasonable choice about the place of prayer in his life. If he could give that answer and we could really hear it, the nation would be the better for both.

Brad Hirschfield
Written by

  • Farnaz2

    What bothers me is that given his long history of church attendance, he may, in fact, want to go. What can you do. Given the Rev. Wright fiasco, and so long as we continue to resist separation of church and state, he has little choice. The religionists are simply unprepared to allow the man to worship as he pleases sans public scrutiny. Then, too, not having to hear about his religiosity will be a great relief to some of us. His Dial and Pray operation, indeed, all of his faithy campaign initiatives were distasteful to many of us, including believers. I wouldn’t be surprised, indeed, I’d be delighted to learn that they left a bad taste in his mouth.

  • NoThinker

    I have to say I humbly disagree with your argument. First, I find it interesting that someone emphasizing the importance of public worship and prayer would instantly claim that Mr. Obama is being anything other than truthful. How can you presume that his intentions are somehow other than honest? It may not be an acceptable reason for you or one that you might agree with but you have essentially called him a liar.Second, I know that in many traditions, including Christianity, public worship is important. However, I would beg to differ that Mr. Obama has to make some public statement about his prayer life. In addition I don’t think we need to go into detail about the problems that surfaced from his former house of worship. He was made responsible for the words of his former pastor and that event did become a distraction for those who worshiped there. Personally, it’s nice to see a person thinking about others before he things about himself for a change. While I am sure that people would be happy to have Mr. Obama in their church I am sure that all the logistics and security would eventually get old and be a tremendous strain on those members. So, I say good for Mr. Obama who once again leads by example and shows us how to think a little less of ourselves. I am one spiritual person who is just fine if he settles for a new “prayer closet” in the White House where he can go for quiet reflection and guidance.

  • s_j_thaikattil

    Dear Rabbi HirschfieldHappy Thanksgiving Day!Soja John Thaikattil

  • washpostjrh

    Dear Rabbi: You sound like a talk show host, a little harsh on Barack, our prez. So I took a google peak at what is CLAL. Rabbi Greenberg, who’s chair you now warm, posts on Sh’ma, Principles of Pluralism. Would not basketball come under pluralism broadly? Many jews and other non-christians would be available for pick-up hoops on Sunday mornings.Olam and Oneg, James[faith without works is dead] hofacker27@netscape.com

  • washpostjrh

    sorry, spell check kaput. I guess Google peak means “only hitting the highspots” JAMES

  • lepidopteryx

    If he chooses not to attend achurch, he does NOT owe anyone an explanation as to why. To go or not to go is his decision and his alone.

  • Paganplace

    “And even if one accepts his rationale for not attending church with others, it does not explain why the president-elect has not made alternative arrangements for formal prayer in a more private setting. He would be far from the first public figure to do so. So that cannot be it either.”If it’s not in public, it’s none of anyone’s business whether he has or not. Christians are theoretically not *supposed* to go trumpeting how much they pray, *particularly* in private: it’s specifically mentioned by their Jesus.”President-elect Obama owes the American people a better explanation for why he is not attending church.”No, he doesn’t. The fact that it’d be disruptive and a circus also means that it’d take more of his limited time to get the transition work done. Fine by me.

  • knivesanddemons

    I can think of better reasons…1. Church is boring.

  • reddragon3668

    I’ve never concerned myself with the Presidents church attendance habits; and, I am a religious person. However, I would be concerned if he dropped his participation in faith initiatives, which were a significant part of his campaign. I would really hate to find out he did something just to placate a bunch of folks to get votes and then turn his back on them. At that point, he’d just be more of the same and that’s the last thing we need.

  • colinnicholas

    As far as we know there are no gods. I like to think that Obama is intelligent enough to see this. If he actually believed that a powerful SkyGod lived in the clouds and watched everything we do etcetra, then he’d be just as delusional as Dubya; and we’ve seen what a mess his belief got us into.Long live common sense; down with childhood religious indoctrination.

  • Sparrowhawk

    I don’t think Obama owes any kind of explanation to anyone anywhere about his religious life. But then, I don’t think any kind of elected official should even have to say anything about their religion, so maybe I’m just different that way. We should be electing people because we think they have high standards of governance and respectability, and then hold them accountable regardless of their religious beliefs.