The echoes of Abraham Lincoln in President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech (COMMENTARY)

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(Left) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday (February 5, 2015). Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Right) Abraham Lincoln portrait. Photo courtesy of Everett Historical via Shutterstock

(Left) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday (February 5, 2015). Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Right) Abraham Lincoln portrait. Photo courtesy of Everett Historical via Shutterstock

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MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (RNS) No president has made such an appeal to humility and mystery since Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

  • Frank

    Comparing Obama to Lincoln is the height of ignorance.

    Yes it’s also clear that Obama is more of a universalist then a Christian. He consistently denies theological truths.

    What an embarassing article for RNS and the author.

  • Karla

    Frank- Well said about Obama. He is part of all this false Christianty today
    where people want to go to heaven but don’t want to Repent/actually be a
    Christian/stick to what the Bible says. It’s like the so called “prophets” who
    are dreamers and speak on their own authority. When they lie they speak
    their native language. Many have now created a god/idol to suit themselves
    which is called idolatry. It’s idolatry of ones self cause they create a god/idol
    and become their own god which goes back to what happened in the Garden
    of Eden when Eve was fooled. No idolater will inherit the kingdom of heaven!
    Bible says that if anyone does not continue in all the teachings of Christ and
    comes preaching another/different Gospel they will be eternally condemned
    so all of the people who teach that there is no hell and Jesus was a created
    being/works can save us will then end up going to hell. The Bible says not
    to subtract from it or you go to hell so all of these people who teach there is
    no hell go to hell cause of that false teaching! Ironic. We must be Biblical.
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved! We all must Repent!

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  • Bob Robinson (@Bob_Robinson_re)

    Why, in front of a crowd that represent religious faiths, did President Obama not say what he said at the United Nations back in September?

    There, he spoke of what the world should do with ISIS. He was clear that the United States is not in a religious war with Islam, but with radicals within the religion of Islam. He even said, “It is time for the world — especially Muslim communities — to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL.” (see the speech here:

    This would have gone a long way toward keeping his critics from being so upset. It would have made it clear that he does not intend to make a moral equivalence between ISIL and historic Christianity. People would have been able to say, “Obama is saying that just as Christians now condemn the Crusades, slavery, and Jim Crow as not reflecting their beliefs as followers of Christ, those who believe that Islam is a peace-loving religion should condemn ISIL. Oh, I get it.”

    But instead, the President skipped around this and focused rather on those who “get on their high horse.” Of course people will find that offensive.

  • Neil U

    Frank/Karla…I read your comments and I see your point and I say to you, “WOW!”
    Would you all have preferred if Obama came out and said “DAMM THE MUSLIM TO HELL!” They are all bad people! Do you really want WWIII? He’s a politician…so was Lincoln.
    Frank – Why is this article “an embarassing article for RNS and the author.”? BTW you spelled embarrassing wrong…but I digress…is it because it doesn’t fit into your agenda. Also what are theological truths, I thought it was called faith? In fact one of the strongest ties we have to our faith is called the “Mystery of our Faith.” “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”
    Karla – What is false Christianity? Do we all have to live by the literal word of the Bible or we are bad Christians deemed to burn in the “HELL FIRES”? Would it make the world a better place if we all lived by the ancient teachings and scribes of men who adapted the messages of God in one book to appeal to the uneducated masses ? I try and live my life by the teachings of Jesus. I do my best to love my neighbor and treat others with respect and dignity. I don’t live by the letter of the law of the Bible. Does that make me a bad Christian? Is the Pope a non-Christian? He has some interesting views on the modern world and homosexuality. Are we still blaming all Jews for the death of Christ or was is just a small group that lived in that region 2000 years ago? Join the 21st century.

  • christian

    There is no such thing as a “true christian” because none exist. In light of all the varying theistic, polytheistic, and non-theistic cultures in the world, If American Christians keep with this ideology that they somehow are the only people in the world that have the “one true religion” it will be the death of Christianity. Karla is a perfect example of what’s wrong with America with regards to religion.

  • Karla

    Neil U.-Thank you for the feedback. Bible says Repent and believe the
    Gospel to be saved. 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 lists all who won’t inherit the
    kingdom of heaven unless they Repent. Two of those sins are coveting
    and getting drunk/a drunkard. If people claim to be a Christian then still
    turn around and are getting drunk,mean,gambling,gossips/still are living
    like the world/sleepin around/living for sin they are not going to heaven!

    Jesus said you are one of Mine only if you continue in My teachings and
    follow Me so we are all sinners yes but we can’t continue in our sin. The
    woman that was caught in adultery is the perfect example. After He/Jesus
    saved her from being stoned Jesus told her to go and sin no more! He told
    her to change all the behavior. Noboby is perfect but we must have change
    of heart about all our sin. Two guys were next to Jesus on the Cross. Only
    one guy went to heaven because only one guy Repented and had a change
    of heart about their sin. Luke 13 says to Repent or perish! We must Repent!

  • Karla

    christian-Wrong! You are what’s wrong! We have a whole country of
    people who think they are saved/going to heaven because of faulty
    preachin/so called “Christians” like yourself who don’t follow the Truth.
    If you don’t want to Repent/follow Christ you are not saved! Noboby is
    perfect so in that sense they are no true Christians because the Bible
    says we all fall short/there are none good..not even one so all of the
    people who say they are a “good person” or there are “good people”
    are deceived. You really need to open up a Bible/do some studying.

  • Karla

    There’s no condemnation in Christ Jesus only if we are in Christ.
    Read 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 whole chapters plus all of Luke 13.
    If people still practice sin and don’t Repent then think there is no
    condemnation they are deceived. Bible says to Repent or perish!
    Bible says to Repent and then believe the Gospel to be saved!
    The Bible says to Repent or perish! We all need to/must Repent!

  • Karla

    christian- Polytheism isn’t true! There is only one God/creator. If you
    created something should someone else get the credit for it? No they
    shouldn’t. It’s the same with God. All roads/gods are the same isn’t true
    and doesn’t make sense. Only one God went to the Cross and that’s
    because there is only one God/the God of the Bible/Lord Jesus Christ.
    If there were other ways/gods why would Jesus go to the Cross if there
    are other ways? Jesus Christ is the Messiah/the only way to heaven!
    Psalm 22:16-18 and also Isaiah 53:3-7 are very specific about Jesus.
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved! We must Repent!

    No true prophet can be revered if they are a liar so if Jesus wasn’t the
    Messiah He was a liar and can’t be revered or a true prophet so either
    Jesus was a liar or He was/is the Messiah and the only way to heaven!
    Jesus among other gods by Ravi Zacharias is also a good book to read.

  • Sniffles

    For those up in arms because the Crusades was centuries ago, maybe the president should have brought up the lychings of an estimated more than 4,700 people (majority black) in this country, the anniliation of the Indians to steal their land, the internment of Japanese Americans, the discriminatory treatment of the Chinese while they (and blacks) built the railroad for US commerce. For those who want to claim its all in the past, well the last recorded lyching was in Mobile Alabama in 1981, yes, 1981. If those were not acts of terrorism cloaked in justification by good Christians and the bible I don’t know what is. Oh BTW, many lynchings were attended by thousands carrying picnic baskets with children in attendance, breathing in the burn ashes of the dead, while pictures were taken and turned in postcards. Wanna see? Just Google, Without Sanctuary.

  • You guys still believe in a god? I can’t wait till they write the new new testiment in 2020. Yeah ya know…… A couple of church guys are just gunna sit down get some starbucks and write some fact down about what happen in 20BC that will somehow coincidentally align the church more with average person of today, like oh actually Jesus doesn’t care if your Gay (OUR BAD), or naaaa divorce? No its totally natural to want to stray (i mean we are all animals in a sense) Jesus gets it! And he gets you! Lmao and it will be a best seller. ” smh”

  • Karla

    Big bang-Evolution is impossible. Read Romans 1:18-32. For you to say
    that the world formed from nothing then became this whole universe with
    design where the sun is set perfect where we don’t burn or freeze is just
    being blind. Many don’t want God to be real because they don’t want to
    be told how to live. The Bible prophecy accuracy is why you can trust the
    Bible. Read Psalm 22:16-18 and also you should/can read Isaiah 53:3-7.

  • Frank

    Yes I spelled a word wrong. Of course only people who cannot cogently respond to substance worry about spelling and grammar.

    I would prefer that Obama knows what he is talking about before he talks. Not too much to ask.

  • Frank

    How embarrassing for you.

  • Frank

    You “don’t know what is” apparently.

  • Ralph Murray

    Well said Neil, it seems Frank and Karla believes in hope, faith and love, and not understand that love is the greatest of the three. I can say in confident that any Christian that does not place love in their heart as a priority for his neighbor is missing the point. It seems that the so called Christian’s who disagreed with the President’s Prayer Breakfast speech is unable to understand the content of this speech. And I would suspect that is because if your operating in the natural mind and not a spiritual mind, you can not possible understand. Because you can remember and quote scriptures does not make you a Christian. To denied history because you simply refuse to believe the people were burned a live in the name of Christ in this country in just out right denial. Obama is saying to the Christian right to get off their high horses and really stand up for Christ. All Christians should speak out again hatred not only in foreign country but also in this country. I send out a plea to Frank and Karla stop being part of the problem, and use your faith in God to help resolve the race problem we have in this great nation of ours.

  • Karla

    Ralph Murray-You really need to read all of the Bible not jut part of it.
    Telling people they are okay/just giving someone/somebody a pat on
    the back when they are heading to hell is not Biblical or love. The fact
    that you are agreeing with people that are teaching things that are not
    Biblical shows that you are the real problem so I hope that you wake up
    and start to follow the real Jesus/the God of the Bible not this false god
    that people have created which is idolatry and no idolater will enter or
    inherit the kingdom of God/heaven! Read Luke 13. We all must Repent!

  • Stan S

    I agree. Pulling out specific times of history and not taking it’s context of what brought it on, is just as if America has elected the publisher of the National Enquirer to be President.

  • Karla

    Ralph Murray-You need to read 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 whole chapters.

  • Neil U

    Karla – I respect your beliefs. I’m sure that from the time you were old enough to reach for a Cheerio you were indoctrinated in your parents beliefs, and that’s OK. But at some point you need to look at reality. Do you really believe that Adam and Eve started the entire human race? If so why don’t we all have the same DNA? The reason we are the planet Earth and not Mars or Venus is exactly that…we don’t burn or freeze! Earth provides the perfect balance for nature to create the carbon based beings that are arguing here about Obama’s speech, not whether the planet and the universe were created in 7 days…sorry 6 days. Who told the writers of Genesis these facts…the men who wrote the bible had no concept of this…they still thought the entire universe was MENA! It is really kind of difficult to not believe how planet Earth and the Universe were created. The Big Bang Theory9yes theory) makes a whole lot more sense. I’m not sure if there is a God, (hope so) but I do believe in Jesus and what he taught. And I don’t need to be able to quote the Bible to live a Christian life. And just who should I repent to? Is there really someone keeping count of how many drinks I’ve had, or the piece of Bazooka Gum I took from corner store when I was a child?

    Frank – Obama does know what he is talking about…that’s why he said what he said. Would you rather he just throw gasoline on the fire and incite the entire Muslin population? Would you prefer that he instigate this into a religious war or WWIII? Like I said before, he is a politician! He is trying to keep this thing from exploding into a full on Holy War just like ISIS would prefer! Let the Middle East take care of the Middle East for now. I don’t care if we look week, or intimidated. I don’t want to suit my teen age boys up in sand camo to go off and fight some Holy War against the entire Muslim population because someone thinks that their religion is better than someone else’s beliefs!
    Repent on that!

  • Frank

    There is no love found in affirming, accepting, condoning, celebrating or remaining silent about someone’s sin. That’s what hate looks like.

    We have some racism still in this country but it’s not institutionalized so it only needs to be called out on an individual basis.

  • Karla

    Neil U. Thank you for the feedback. I came to know Christ through reading
    the Bible/Word of God/doing the research on my own not because of what
    someone told me. The flood/Noahs ark/Adam and Eve/the Bible is all true!
    There are many false things being taught/misinformation that is being told
    today so I hope you read your Bible/do some more research. The God of
    the Bible is who you pray to for your sins to be forgiven so I hope you do.

  • Frank

    I suggest you study some more science. All DNA on this planet is almost identical. And the most current research disproves the Big Bang and claims the universe just has always existed.

    You don’t need to quote the bible but you do need to know what it says and live accordingly.

    I would say Obama would have been better off and look less ignorant of he said nothing about it. Kinda like you.

  • Larry

    Frank, I suggest you read anything besides the one book you keep mistranslating. It would be helpful if you read ANY science. Not just the little tidbits the Creationists misquote to avoid sounding like complete morons.

    “All DNA on this planet is almost identical. And the most current research disproves the Big Bang and claims the universe just has always existed.”

    None of which is an endorsement of Creationism. Science is not a zero sum game with dishonest religious nutball ideas.

    “You don’t need to quote the bible but you do need to know what it says and live accordingly.”

    …if you want to find socially acceptable excuses to act as obnoxiously as possible.

  • Mark

    Obama comparing the atrocities committed by ISIS in the name of Allah as justified due to the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition is an argument of moral equivalency, a fallacy. Moral Equivalency attempts to define distinct and conflicting acts in similar terms when, in fact, they are not equal.

    This is called the “tu quo” argument (“But you did it, too!”).

    The “tu quo” argument fallacy is commonly used as an anti-semitic argument, where people heap blame on the Israelis while saying nothing at all about the doings of Hezbollah and results in making the Arabs the only victim of the violence. To put it another way, it is analogous to making the Germans the victims in the acts of warfare from WWII, due to the fact that they suffered far greater civilian casualties than did the Allies.

  • Mark

    Some answers for you…

    “Do you really believe that Adam and Eve started the entire human race?”

    “If so why don’t we all have the same DNA?”
    We do. Please refer to mtDNA and Y-DNA.

    “Who told the writers of Genesis these facts[?]”
    God did.

    “they still thought the entire universe was MENA”
    Where does Moses say that?

    “And just who should I repent to?”
    You don’t repent to someone, you confess to someone. You repent OF a behaviour, attitude, or thought.

    “Is there really someone keeping count of how many drinks I’ve had, or the piece of Bazooka Gum I took from corner store when I was a child?”
    Yes, God knows everything you have done and everything you will do.

  • Mark

    The President obviously does not understand the primary sources of either faith [Christianity and Islam] for him to make such a tendentious parallel. The predominant delight in his remarks would be in the Muslim world and the irreligious. The next day Geraldo Rivera, opining favorably, made the oft-repeated lie that more people have been killed in the name of God than in any other cause. Try telling that to the Chinese and the Russians and the Cambodians and the victims of the Holocaust! ‎Such intellectual ignorance gains the microphone with pitiable privilege. If a thinking person doesn’t know the difference between the logical outworkings of a philosophy and the illogical ones, to say nothing of the untruth perpetrated, then knowledge has been sacrificed at the altar of prejudice.

    But let me get to the President’s final statement, after he had wandered off into erroneous territory. That final remark was true. He said, “It is sin that leads us to distort reality.” He was right. In fact he embodied it in his talk. But there is good news for the President. At least in the Christian message forgiveness is offered for sin. In Islam it isn’t. You must earn it. May I dare suggest that if Christians had been burning Muslims and beheading them, he would have never dared to go to Saudi Arabia and tell them to get off their high horse. He unwittingly paid a compliment to those who preach grace and forgiveness. That is the dominant theme of the Gospel. That is why we sit in courtesy listening to the distortion of truth, the abuse of a privilege, and the wrong-headedness of a message.

    I cannot recall when I have heard such inappropriate words at so important an occasion, in such a time of crisis. The world is burning with fear and apprehension. We need a message that will inspire and encourage and redeem. Ironically, two years ago when Dr. Ben Carson spoke and made some comments about our medical plan and the tax system, the White House demanded an apology from him for straying into controversial terrain, because it felt his comments showed disrespect for the President.

    This year’s National Prayer Breakfast speech was a blunder in thought. But there was a silver lining. In the end, President Obama blundered into the truth. Sin distorts… and only Jesus Christ restores the truth. Christ will ever rise up to outlive His pallbearers. Even presidents will have to get off their high horses then and recognize the Lord of life and hope and peace. There will be no speech making then. Only a prayer of surrender… which is what the National Prayer Breakfast was meant to be in the first place.
    – Ravi Zacharias

  • Neil U

    Karla…I’m sure you’re a nice person. Good luck to you, I hope you live what you preach.

    Frankie Baby- Obama is and idiot and so am I…well my dad can beat your dad, and it’s my ball so I’m going home!
    Listen up Francis! I was referring to that 2% that makes us all different. Sure 98% of DNA is the same in all humans, and chimps as well…OH NO! Something like 30% or 40% of our DNA is the same as fish! Wait the Apostles were fishermen. The science I read doesn’t come from a Christian minister or journals. Funny how some people are so RIGHT (Wing) they’re wrong! I can hear you singing now as they march you off to battle. “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus going on before us and George Bush as well.” USE SPELL CHECK! Adios Frankie baby!!!
    John – GREAT article!!!!!

  • Karla

    Neil U.- I hope you do some research/accept Christ as Lord and yes I do live
    what I preach. Many don’t preach the Truth/against sin because they still do
    get drunk,sleep around,gossip,gamble,be mean/belittle/have a sharp tongue
    so that’s why they only talk about gay marriage/abortion. 1 Corinthians 6:9-12
    lists many sins/sin right along with all of the homosexuals. We all must Repent!
    Thank you for all of your input/feedback and all the best to you. God bless.

  • Larry

    And its exactly these kinds of non-answers which makes one not take your POV seriously.

    “We do. Please refer to mtDNA and Y-DNA.”

    Why refer to it? You don’t.

    You simply throw out a vague reference that you think should support your mythology without any basic understanding of it.

    And your proof God exists is Genesis. Circular argument.

    Please learn to separate your religious belief from objectively credible evidence. Your belief is entirely based on faith. Claiming otherwise is bearing false witness.

  • Larry

    Seriously people, how hard is it to understand the concept that religiously inspired violence is a bad thing and has been going on for ages?

  • Mark

    “Why refer to it? You don’t.”
    Um, I just did refer to it genius. Is there a learning comprehension problem here? mtDNA is passed down in females. Y-DNA passed down in males. Pretty simple stuff. Do you need me to hold your hand?

    I’m sorry it’s difficult to take you seriously when you talk about anything “objective” or “credible” as you have demonstrated your angry rants are neither.

  • Jack

    Not a good analogy….The Civil War was a fight of brother against brother, in many instances, literal brothers from the same family. It was a war of American against American. And most important, it was a war in which the victor would have to be compassionate if we were ever to become one country again.

    It was a war in which the victor would have to engage in self-criticism and public humility.

    The war we currently face is more like WW II, in which we are fighting a totally evil Nazi-like enemy who rapes women, crucifies men, and uses human heads in soccer ball stadiums.

    It follows that while Lincoln’s words of war fit so beautifully and even perfectly with the context that was the Civil War, President Obama’s words, however well-intentioned, were a disappointing and awkward fit with our times. The place to teach the Crusades and their barbarism is the classroom, not the presidential bully pulpit. As with WW II, the presidential bully pulpit is for standing firmly for the American cause and not giving a deadly foe anything that he can use for propaganda value in the battle of hearts and minds (and recruitment).

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  • Chris

    Mr. Fea commits so many logical fallacies in this article that it really was difficult to take it seriously. First, any comparison of Obama to Lincoln is both premature and, at first glance, more of an essay in contrasts. Second, Obama’s moral equivalence between what the Crusaders did, in a defensive war to take back land stolen through Muslim aggressions for 400 years, and what Islam has done throughout its history – namely perpetuating aggressive wars – is stunningly naive and not befitting a writer of an article we are to take seriously. Finally, Obama is using events that happened 1,000 years ago to make comparisons with events today! Even if we were to dismiss that Muslims don’t kill more people in 1 year than the Inquisition killed in 350, or that they don’t kill more in a decade than Crusaders killed civilians in 300, and if we grant the author’s moral equivalence, it’s very difficult to believe that the author could use the actions of another nation, in another era, and even that of a Catholic Church for which most Protestants might not wish to assume responsibility, to draw lessons for us, today, facing the enemy we face. I understand Fea is probably an Obama voter, but the sheer ludicrous nature of his assertions are so bereft of intellectual rigor that RNS should be rather embarrassed to publish this shallow article. Fea might as well have pointed back to the sins of Adam, Abraham or David to support the stretch Obama had to make in his speech. Let us not forget that this is a man who cannot even bring himself to utter the words, “Islamic terrorist”. No doubt his Muslim upbringing, regardless of what his present faith claims may be, have colored his inability to grasp the reality of the present and his very Middle Eastern Islamic inability to forgive or forget the Crusades and Inquisition (both of which were, again, in response to violent invasions by Muslims into formerly Christian lands).

  • Chris

    So atheist-inspired violence, or politically-inspired violence are okay? I’m not sure why you have to point out “religiously inspired” violence, as opposed to just “violence” in general. Of course, this would beg the further question of whether or not any use of force (violence) is okay in your estimation. Once you address this, then and only then can you begin a dialogue about “just violence” and “unjust violence”. If there is “just violence”, then there are “just wars”. If there are “just wars”, then it is highly possible that some of the wars condemned simply because they are “religious in nature” are still “just”.

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  • Larry

    Throwing a term out is not a reference. You missed the point of the question as well. If we were all descended from the same two people there would much greater genetic commonality among people. Your answer is just lazy. Forget pretending science supports your Protestant Christian belief. It only encourages you to either lie or distort facts.

  • Larry

    “So atheist-inspired violence, or politically-inspired violence are okay?”

    No. You are being foolish. You are trying to hard to defend your faith through nonsense zero sum arguments. I see you have trouble understanding such a simple concept as decrying fanatical religious violence.

    “Of course, this would beg the further question of whether or not any use of force (violence) is okay in your estimation. ”

    Yes, to save lives of others. To prevent genocide and other atrocities. Never solely in favor of one’s faith or ideology.

    “If there are “just wars”, then it is highly possible that some of the wars condemned simply because they are “religious in nature” are still “just”.”

    There can never be a just war for purely religious or ideological reasons. That is just license for atrocity. An excuse to use God to justify one’s bad behavior. You are simply making excuses for Islamic State.

  • avinash

    Praise THE LORD

  • Trudy

    I am thankful that God is in control, not man who fails everytime.

    Titus 3:9
    But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

    1 Timothy 2:1-2
    First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.