What will America learn today about Obama’s faith?

By Michelle Boorstein President Barack Obama, speaking at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast. Is today the day America will get … Continued

By Michelle Boorstein

President Barack Obama, speaking at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast.

Is today the day America will get a deep look at President Obama’s faith?

After more than two years of dealing with skeptics who question whether Obama is truly a Christian, and if he is, of what sort, the White House says the president this morning will give an unprecedented “deeply personal address” about his faith, with details adding up to a “window into how he approaches prayer, the study of scripture and other disciplines of his faith that impact his daily life.”

That’s how a White House official yesterday described the address Obama will give this morning (about 9 a.m. EST) when he speaks at one of the country’s most high-profile faith events: The National Prayer Breakfast, a decades-old Washington-y event made up of members of Congress who are in prayer groups, as well as faith activists and professionals across the spectrum. Presidents have been addressing the largely evangelical group each year since 1953 and this year about 4,000 people will be there.

Obama has been largely private about his beliefs and practices, coming off controversies during the campaign about his Chicago minister and then dealing with internet chatter about whether he adopted his father’s Muslim faith. He and his wife have only been to church services in Washington a handful of times in the past two years, though they also attend the private Evergreen Chapel when they are at Camp David. White House officials have issued statement after statement about the private nature of his Christian faith.

So it’s unclear what will change this morning — if anything — but whatever he says it will fuel debate about what sort of Christian he is, why and whether presidents need to talk about their faith and what Americans can learn about his policy positions from his God-talk.

The White House official, who spoke to reporters yesterday on the condition he not be named (this is typical Obama White House policy, which they say is an effort to keep the focus on the president, not his staff), said Obama will speak for the first time about how he has “leaned heavily on his faith during his presidency.”

The official said the president won’t really speak about one of the biggest, most explosive religion-related stories in the world right now – the situation in Egypt and what it means for Muslim reformers as well as for religious minorities in the Middle East. I found that striking and evidence that the White House very much wants, as 2012 approaches, to confront critics who try to paint Obama as a religious outlier.

Asked yesterday if Obama would speak about Egypt’s uncertain future and the fears of minority Christians, the official said the president “has addressed that forcefully,” an assessment which will be attacked quickly by religious freedom advocates who have been very critical of the White House for not installing a religious freedom ambassador and not pushing harder on countries like Egypt and China to protect religious freedoms.

The prayer breakfast, which draws many from the faith world to Washington for several days of shmoozing, will likely be an intense morning. Other speakers include one of the rescued Chilean miners and Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords’ office said the congresswoman, who is a member of a Reform synagogue in Tucson, was planning to attend the spiritual event before she was shot. Kelly, who is a Catholic, has only spoken in public one other time since the massacre, said Giffords spokesman, C.J. Karamargin.

Kelly will speak for a few minutes – Karamargin didn’t know about what – and give the closing prayer, as well as possibly an update on her condition.

The main speaker at the Prayer Breakfast is often a heavy-hitter – past speakers have been Mother Teresa, Bono and Tony Blair – and the person’s name is closely guarded until the day of.

My prediction is that the most closely-watched speaker will be the president, but if the past is any guide, he will remain circumspect when he talks about God and how Christianity specifically shapes his policies and moods and choices.

Why do u think the president is talking about his faith in more detail now?

Follow tweets from the breakfast, which starts at 8 a.m.:
National Prayer Breakfast

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  • nomobarry

    Anyone who listens to that racist, gibberish as spewed by reverend Wright, sure believes in an odd type of “Christianity”

  • eezmamata

    christians need to see people who are smarter and more powerful than they believing this crap, at least saying they believe it.Imagine how difficult it is for these peasants when they consider how many people who are so much smarter than they are laughing at their gullibility.Almost makes you feel sorry for them.

  • Loxinabox

    So is Obama going to say that we have right given to us by our “creator”? I thought our rights were given to us by Obama! It is amazing what Obmaba will not do in a failed attempt to get a second term. He has upset the left by lying to them and now he thinks he is going to get votes from the right? Hey Obama the average IQ is worked out so its always 100. Being a Dem and by your actions I know you are stupid so I wll use small words. The IQ test is rated on a “bell curve” If only people with an IQ of 70 or below will vote for you thats about 17 percent of the public. I am going to go out on a limb and say your chances are not good. Bye bye Mr. Liar we will not miss you. As always you can contact me at work

  • Loxinabox

    “Why is it overwhelming important for me to know what the president things about faith? He’s doing a good job. Let him worship and believe what he wants to worship and believe.”

  • rsl903

    So a few weeks ago Barry and family spend 2 or was it 3 hours at a black church and now hes attending a prayer breakfast. Oh the indignities one (thinks he) has to endure just to get re-elected.

  • 7plus7net

    Nile Radio 98.7FM: Mubarak died>>> 7plus7. net

  • tjmlrc

    “Why do u think the president is talking about his faith in more detail now?”&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&He needs more conservative votes to get re-elected.A true Christian knows that it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.What has he DONE to demonstrate his faith in the ONE TRUE GOD?

  • slowe111

    It may be politically expedient for polititians to attend this show but it is most embarassing for the US President, in an official capacity, to legitimize this group by attending and speaking at it. Jefferson would have nothing to do with it. As a secular American, I find it offensive and as a modern human, embarassing.

  • Sara121

    It is pretty offensive and embarrassing. Too bad they can’t just have a discussion breakfast…. Give space to other types of groups like Wiccans, Native Americans, agnostics, atheists, etc…. Discuss ways they can all reaffirm their collective commitment to religious pluralism and the First Amendment…..

  • areyousaying

    Interesting how teabaggers are so quick to bash Obama over religion and even lie that he is a Muslim while, at the same time, they are so outraged if anyone mentions Romney or Huntsman’s Mormonism.Liars and hypocrites are the legacy of my father’s GoP.

  • Nina1908

    I am glad the tradition of the National Prayer Breakfast lives on. I do think the writer of this article paints an unnecessary negative view by focusing on what the President might say about his own faith. I am so exhausted with the press and others speculation about this man’s faith and religion. The media should act more responsibly and this article proves that way too often the truth is not what is relevant, rather it is what people are able to perpetuate (whether truth or not) is what matters. It is enough that some politicians make up stories and then present them as facts. Ms. Boorstein and the rest of the media should not.

  • slowe111

    What a disgusting introduction for the President – affirming his support for this event and the events surrounding it.

  • slowe111

    This is the most embarrassisng moment in the Obama Presidency – He should never have showed up. An afffront to seperation of church and state, a blow to human dignity, an attack on science and reason, an emotional indulgence, a politically calculated move.

  • Desertdiva1

    Suddenly Obama starts attending prayer breakfasts? What a politician won’t do for a vote.

  • TruCherryHillNJ

    Michelle says that “Obama has been largely private about his beliefs and practices, coming off controversies during the campaign about his Chicago minister and then dealing with internet chatter about whether he adopted his father’s Muslim faith”. What else does President Obama have to do or say to prove he’s Christian? I’m convinced that no matter what President Obama says or does; many if not all Repubs and even some Demo’s will not believe he is Christian. It reminds me of my biblical history where many during the time of JESUS did not believe he was the Son of GOD. I’m not comparing President Obama to JESUS but just pointing out what is clear.

  • slowe111

    I would just as soon prefer that he keep his religious views to himself. It should be a private matter. As President, he should be secular – like our government and like our Founding Fathers intended.

  • morryb

    This just demonstrates what is wrong with the world. The cult and supra-cult (religious) perpetuated by the indoctrination of very young minds into beliefs of primitive superstition and myths. We see it in Congress today and we witness it overseas. Ignorance, bigotry and irrationality are the companions of religion. It took centuries for the western Europeans to cast off the tyranny of religion but it still persists in much of the USA and in many Muslim countries that are actually theocracies.

  • stevie7

    What has he DONE to demonstrate his faith in the ONE TRUE GOD?POSTED BY: TJMLRC —————————-Who would that be? God, Yahweh, Allah, Dyeus, Perun, Shangdi?

  • dragondancer1814

    Sarah121, well said! Discussions need to include people from ALL beliefs, not just the monotheistic ones! And what difference does it make what religion Obama is anyway? What’s important is that he does his job, remembers that he works for EVERYONE, and does NOT proselytize at every turn! Of, by, and for the people does NOT mean “just for the Christians!”And FYI, Obama and his family haven’t publicly attended church out of respect for the general public! Can you imagine how long it would take everybody to get into a church on Sunday mornings if the President and his family were attending? Do the words “security nightmare” mean anything? Between the Secret Service having to check everybody, get them through the metal detectors, vet the media, and whatnot else, it would take all morning just to get everybody into the pews, much less get the service started! Obama didn’t want to put the public through that, and I applaud him for thinking of others before himself that way! He’s acting more like a Christian should than Bush did inserting his God into every other sentence and trying to turn this nation into a conservative Christian theocracy instead of a country where one was free to follow whichever belief system they adhered to as long as it doesn’t interfere with anybody else’s right to worship as they please!

  • garybrumback1

    Self-serving politicians will always pander to eccleastical interests just as they do to the war industry. Moraly courageous politicians would keep church and state separate and the state free of deadly, unending, and needless warring.Gary Brumback

  • tinyjab40

    Why is it overwhelming important for me to know what the preident things about faith? He’s doing a good job. Let him worship and believe what he wants to worship and believe.

  • mglbrown1

    All you have to do to see the Obamas at church is google “Obama attends church.” What is so hard about this? Why does it remain so controversial and mysterious? It is not true that they never go, but it is infrequent.

  • jckdoors

    Who cares? Religion has no place in government.

  • IraqVet1906

    I really don’t understand what the big deal is here. Why does the president have to answer to anybody about his faith. If he says he’s a christian then he’s a christian? And how is it offensive to speak about his faith in a public event? Faith is as much a part of who he is as his race or education. Would it be offensive for him to talk about what his ethnic background is? Chill out people.

  • ZenMan1

    The National Prayer Breakfast is a project of The Family, the secretive quasi-Christian group that ran the C Street House in DC where several members of Congress lived paying sub-market value rents. This is the same group who are behind the “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda. These folks are only interested in accumulating political power for their conservative agenda. It is outrageous that Obama would give these folks legitimacy by attending, let alone “confessing his faith” before such a group.

  • humanist1

    Speaking at this affair shows a lack of respect for the First Amendment. The president is just another beast of pray.

  • heuristic77

    So, once again, Obama is going to crawl on his belly to the religious right by proving what a good “Christian” he is. Disgusting.

  • LarryG62

    After two years of this clown’s dishonest incompetence, arrogance and condecension, I don’t believe a word he says, the media lapdogs say, or any of his disingenuous staffers say.

  • jillcohen

    Who cares about Obama’s faith? Really?! Isn’t one’s faith personal? Isn’t one’s faith irrelevant to performing one’s duties as POTUS? I am offended by a prayer breakfast and can’t wait for the 1st POTUS to reject it.

  • WmarkW

    President Obama is am empty vessel into which voters pour their idealized visions.I don’t take his professions of faith any more seriously than an actor in character.

  • detroitblkmale30

    There is nothing embarassing about this event. I for one am glad they have it. It is simply a part of the country’s and government’s civic religion. it does not call for all americans to believe in faith, but takes the opportunity for those who do, the president included to focus on it for a few hours.

  • patmatthews

    Christians demand aleegiance to them alone and have the nerve to question anothers faith. What about your faith with abusing children, theft, lying, cheating on spouses, selling your soul for votes, etc.? and these are just the politicians. What about the rest of you Christians that demand the rest of us follow you and not some greater good.As a Nichiren Buddhist, i am ashamed at my fellow American’s for questioning th faith of anyone other than yourselves.None of YOU are your GOD and lack the ability to know anything other than your own judgemntal attitudes of others.I think the President should not have to discuss his fatih with amnyone other than his wife and minister.the rest of you are nosey.BTW, what is wrong with Muslims, or other non-Christian faiths?My Christian friends have told me, as a Buddhist I lack faith, because I do not believe what they believe, their GOD. prove the existance of your GOD without mentioning the word BIBLE or verse. Impossible.I do not believe in magic rabbits, magic fat men in red suits with presents, etc., but I do believe in people that believe in the power of self and others.

  • ThomasBaum

    humanist1You wrote, “Speaking at this affair shows a lack of respect for the First Amendment. The president is just another beast of pray.”Does it show a “lack of respect” or does it show not only respect for this “right” but that he is willing to exercise this “right” written into the founding documents of this country?Do you think that when someone becomes President of this country that the “rights” accorded to the rest of the country should not be exercised by the President because some people don’t have a clue what these “rights” even amounts to?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    patmatthews You wrote, “I think the President should not have to discuss his fatih with amnyone other than his wife and minister.”I don’t think that the President should have to discuss his faith with anyone at all but I also don’t think that he should have to be barred from speaking about it either.Isn’t this what “freedom of religion” is all about?Isn’t this what “freedom of speech” is all about?As I asked previously, does someone have to give up their “rights” according to the founding documents just because they become President?Are these “freedoms” to become so “politically correct” as to be absolutely meaningless?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ringostone78

    It is very clear that obama embraces no biblical values. This just another one of his ploys to get votes.If indeed he is a Christian why is he for same sex marriage and abortion. Being a Christian means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.I have never heard him mention the name of Jesus Christ.