thoughts on @barackobama at the 2012 national prayer breakfast

Obama, National Prayer Breakfast

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

February 3, 2012


For the record, I hate talking about politics. Specifically, I hate how divided people become when talking about politicians and how they deal with the issues.

I know that ‘hate’ is a pretty strong word, and I rarely use it around here. But I feel like it’s important for people to understand that by sharing this, I am not trying to make a political endorsement or statement.

And like it or not Barack Obama is the leader of our great (and, yes it’s still great) nation, so what he says matters. Especially when he talks about the role of faith in impacting our country.

When I listened to what he had to say at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast recently, there were a couple of things that struck me as important ideas.

He said:

“Our goals should not be to declare our policies as Biblical… Instead it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and … common good as best they know how, with respect for each other.”

Interesting, huh? I’m not sure how you take this, but I take it to mean that there is a Higher Law that should guide me. It’s something that transcends any earthly law or policy.

I can wrap my head around this.

Furthermore, it resonates deeply with me as it relates to my stance on various issues. For example, I’m not a fan of the current abortion laws. At the same time I recognize that those laws don’t impact me directly. My wife and I simply don’t consider abortion an option.

But… we do see investing in people as being an important aspect of our faith-walk. I’d rather put my efforts into reaching people with the Love of Christ than to protest laws I don’t agree with. You might say that I’m dreaming, but I think that the best way to get rid of abortion is to minister to the hearts of the people who feel like there is no other way, and not by legislating my moral values to others with a different worldview.

I’m not trying to debate the abortion issue here. I want to focus on the idea that our faith-based values should rise above any governmental policies and laws. Obama continues on this theme by saying…

“I think we all understand that these values cannot truly find voice in our politics and our policies unless they find a place in our hearts. The Bible teaches us to be doers of the Word, and not merely hearers. We are required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives. And each of us is called on to give something of ourselves for the betterment of others, and to live the Truth of our faith, not just with words, but with deeds.”

This is where I agree with Obama the most in his speech. I think we (the Church) too easily get wrapped up in trying to be right, legislating morality, and talking about how bad things are. The truth is that we should be putting more of our energy into being the Church and ministering to the needs of others. The problem is that we somehow feel like the later is much more difficult than the former.

I certainly felt like this speech was a great reminder that we (the Church) need to focus on the right things… and that’s people.

What do you think? Do you get the same challenges out of this speech? What else did you get out of it?


  1. Andy Carlson

    Thank you for acknowledging the church’s (and the membership thereof) withdrawal from the political arena in a civil (nations of laws) democratic (majority directed) society. I hold to the comment that “as moral law decreases (or those with a particular moral persuasion abdicate their responsibilities and opportunities to influence) civil law increase” (to legislate what historically was carried as preference from the presence of moral code as a living reflection from a participatory active interconnected social community).  As traditional Christian followers have withdrawn from the legislative making process (taking our value system with us) we have left a vacuum to be fill…and so it has. Now, to “install the moral code” we are asking that “Laws”  be enacted to protect what we are no longer willing to participate in. We do not influence because we are not there.    Yes, I agree with your comments regarding our President’s perception of how we out to be living our faith in the community. Mark Knoll’s book, Scandal of the Evangelical Mind brings clarity the political moral environment we now find ourselves in.  There will always be a moral code…the question is: whose?  if we do not participate…it will be someone’s  who does. As Pogo once said, looking in the mirror, “I have seen the enemy, and he is us”.

    • @bibledude

      i’ve heard it said recently that “government rules the minds of people, but the pulpit rules their hearts.” i believe that if we want to bring about real change in people, then we must change their hearts. legislation never has had the ability to change someone’s heart.

      if we are going to change the moral climate in our country, then i think it will be through the kind of ministry that can only come from the church. 
      it’s funny to me how this whole issue of government and moral values gets down to an evangelism thing in the church…

  2. Rochelle Itsnotaboutme Hairsto

    “I think we (the Church) too easily get wrapped up in trying to be
    right, legislating morality, and talking about how bad things are. The
    truth is that we should be putting more of our energy into being
    the Church and ministering to the needs of others. The problem is that
    we somehow feel like the later is much more difficult than the former.”

    How easy could it be, when more and more of our religious rights are being snatched away, are we expected to do nothing?  Christians, if you have not realized it, are being mocked, harassed, accused, hindered, etc. and this country is becoming more and more a GODless country…meanwhile, the soil of our land is soaked more and more in the blood of the innocent unborn, but since it does not affect us directly, let’s not address it. (EVERY single True Believer should oppose and fight abortion)
    Our children and grandchildren are being forced to embrace the sexual perversion of this country, and family/marriage is being redefined…so, lets not fight for legislation that promotes morality, legislation that will not condemn us and call us intolerant and force it’s agenda on us…lets just minister to people. 

    • @bibledude

      i believe that God’s extravagant Love is more powerful and any legislation from any human government. when you say, “let’s just minister to people,” it tells me that you underestimate the kind of ministry that the Church is capable of. 

      i’ve recently started attending a different church, and this church is changing lives through their work in the community that helps addicts get cleaned up, provides a way out for those stuck in prostitution, and gives dignity to once homeless veterans. 
      “just ministering” to people (the right way) can bring about real change in our communities…. change that legislation never will be able to bring.

      just sayin’…

  3. Tolulope Ilesanmi

    We the body of Christ are representatives of the Man who said “all power in heaven and on earth has been given unto me…” I would suggest that if there is anything wrong in our societies therefore, we who have access to all power including heart-changing power, are to blame. We can control the spiritual climate of our societies and that is more power than any President has. Protests suggest powerlessness, in my view.

    Yes I think we have vacated leadership in the political, social and economic arenas and that creates a vacuum that gets filled negatively but I think the real vacuum is spiritual. When we take our place spiritually, laws align, we shine as lights, we function as salt, we act in our various capacities as Christ would, in love but also with all power in heaven and on earth, and that changes the world. Far from being transformative, love without power may actually be suicidal.

    We shy away from following Christ perhaps because it makes us seem weird or we just consider it impossible. Christlikeness, to my mind is not just caring for the sick, the poor and the hurting. Non believers in Christ can do that.

    Christlikeness is also accessing supernatural resources to meet the day to day needs of humanity, like Christ did. While it would take years for an addict to recover normally, we in cooperation with Christ are able to make it happen in an instant. While it would take years for a business to thrive, we in cooperation with Christ can make it happen in less than one hour as Jesus did with his fishermen disciples a number of times. That is weird and is a place we shy away from. And since we shy away from it, a negative spirituality is gaining ground before our very eyes so that new age is moving onto center stage gradually…

  4. Dylan

    we separate certain actions/issues into physical or spiritual. But
    this is a false dichotomy. After all, isn’t Jesus’ incarnation
    itself the most striking example of the interweaving of physical and
    spiritual. By responding to people who are marginalised we are
    worshipping God: Matthew 25: 40 “The
    King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the
    least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


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thoughts on @barackobama at the 2012 national prayer breakfast

by Dan King time to read: 3 min