Obama at last prayer breakfast: ‘We heal hatred with love’

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President Obama prepares to take his seat after speaking at his final Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House on March 30, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

President Obama prepares to take his seat after speaking at his final Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House on March 30, 2016. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS)  President Obama hosted his last Easter Prayer Breakfast with Christian leaders, pausing to reflect on what he called a “bittersweet” occasion.

“Since 2010 this has become a cherished tradition,” he said to 140 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders, including denominational heads and prominent pastors, on Wednesday (March 30).

As he usually does, he used the occasion to speak openly about his faith within the context of world events, such as the recent terrorist assaults in Belgium and Pakistan.

“(T)hese attacks can foment fear and division,” he said. “They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do. And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge.

“That’s the intent of the terrorist, is to weaken our faith and weaken our best impulses, our better angels.”

But he said people of faith should remain strong.

“(I)f Easter means anything, it’s that we don’t have to be afraid,” Obama said. “We drown out darkness with light, and we heal hatred with love, and we hold on to hope.”

He also used the breakfast to shed light on his own Christian perspective.

“(O)ur faith changes us. I know it’s changed me,” he said. “It renews in us a sense of possibility. It allows us to believe that although we are all sinners, and that at times we will falter, there’s always the possibility of redemption. Every once in a while, we might get something right, we might do some good.”

Other than his annual remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, chaired each February by members of Congress, the Easter Prayer Breakfast is one of the few regular opportunities to hear Obama speak about his personal faith.

President Obama speaks to Christian leaders on April 7, 2015 at the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

President Obama speaks to Christian leaders on April 7, 2015 at the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Here’s a roundup of some of what he has said:

2015: ‘I fall short so often’

“Today we celebrate the magnificent glory of our risen savior. I pray that we will live up to his example. I pray that I will live up to his example. I fall short so often. Every day I try to do better.”

2015: ‘Less than loving expressions by Christians’

“On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.”

2014: ‘We’re all children of God’

“(W)e have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God,” he said after the shooting deaths at two Jewish facilities in Kansas. “We’re all made in his image, all worthy of his love and dignity. And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society.”

During his annual Easter Prayer Breakfast, President Obama on April 14, 2014 called for people of all faiths to deter gun violence and anti-Semitism, one day after a gunman killed three people at Jewish centers in suburban Kansas City. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

During his annual Easter Prayer Breakfast, President Obama on April 14, 2014 called for people of all faiths to deter gun violence and anti-Semitism, one day after a gunman killed three people at Jewish centers in suburban Kansas City. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks


RELATED: Photo Gallery: Easter prayer breakfast at the White House


2013: ‘He is eternal’

“I was reminded that while our time on Earth is fleeting, he is eternal,” he said, recalling his recent trip to the Holy Land, including stops at sacred places in Jesus’ life such as the Church of the Nativity.

“His life, his lessons live on in our hearts and, most importantly, in our actions. When we tend to the sick, when we console those in pain, when we sacrifice for those in need, wherever and whenever we are there to give comfort and to guide and to love, then Christ is with us.”

2012: ‘Remember Christ’s own doubts’

“We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us … but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph.”

Video courtesy of The White House via YouTube

2011: ‘It calls me to pray’

“This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this ‘Amazing Grace’ calls me to reflect,” Obama said. “And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.”

President Obama prays with Christian leaders in the Blue Room of the White House, prior to the Easter Prayer Breakfast on April 6, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama prays with Christian leaders in the Blue Room of the White House, prior to the Easter Prayer Breakfast on April 6, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

2010: ‘I commit my spirit’

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. These words were spoken by our Lord and Savior, but they can just as truly be spoken by every one of us here today. Their meaning can just as truly be lived out by all of God’s children.”

(Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national reporter for RNS)

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  • CarrotCakeMan

    Please note that the term “homosexual” is considered an epithet. Here’s how the New York Times explained why they refuse to use that term except as a direct quote:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/fashion/gays-lesbians-the-term-homosexual.html?_r=1

  • Abu

    Glad he didn’t spout off more nonsense about the Crusades. And how Christians are on a “high horse” . Go away Obama, you won’t be missed.

  • G Key

    I had no idea, CarrotCakeMan. I thought it was simply the “correct terminology” (as Dad used to say) for what people today call “gay”.

  • Doc Anthony

    “Homosexual” IS the correct terminology. Even pro-homosexual textbooks like David Greenberg’s classic “The Construction of Homosexuality” used the term.

    However, homosexual activists decided many years ago that they needed to alter the terminology, in order to make their corrosive movement more palatable to the voting public. People won’t knowingly drink “Cyanide,” but they WILL drink “Kool-Aid”, if that’s the brand name you give to the brew. All it takes is a change in terminology.

    “Since the 1970s, gay activists have successfully taken their official scientific terminology of homosexual and replaced it with the word gay. This was a brilliant move because the word gay has emotional and cultural connotations of being happy and carefree as opposed to the word homosexual, the very name of which emphasizes something different from the (heterosexual) majority of the population.”

    –Joseph Mattera, writing in Charisma Magazine (2013)

  • Hill

    Yep. You’re one of the ones we have to pray for and about.
    Much Love.

  • Overbearing Obama Mocks Christians Again! Mar 30, 2016 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Obama Says Terrorists Trying to ‘Weaken Our Faith.’ Islamist Obama blames terrorist attacks on Christians. He continues to defend and protect his Islamist brethren and still refuses to call the terrorists Radical Islamists. Sep 7, 2008 The Washington Times: Sen. Barack Obama accidentally said “my Muslim faith.” Apr 2013 The Huffington Post: Obama: ‘I Am Not the Strapping, Young Muslim Socialist That I Used to Be.’ Nov 2, 2015 IJ:‘Proud Liberal’ Bill Maher Slams Obama For the 2 Words He Won’t Say About Islam ‘Islamic extremism.’ 13 Jan 2015: Obama: ‘Our Job is to Promote Islam.’ The two-faced Obama cites the Belgium and Pakistan atrocities, but at the time of their occurrence, he did not utter of word of condemnation or sorrow for the deaths of the Christians. The two-faced Obama bemoans “horrific acts of terror,” but would not stop the horrific acts of the ISIS genocide against Christians by refusing…

  • G Key

    One thing I’m very glad not to have learned is to associate negative connotations with who loves whom, and to dwell upon what my equals do in their private lives & in their private bedrooms.

    I can’t think of anything less my business, though a woman’s right to control her own private body & make her own private choices is certainly no more my business than the sex lives of strangers!

  • G Key

    (I meant for the above to appear as a reply to Doc Anthony’s post.)

  • G Key

    Stunning how some people feel perfectly okay about spewing vile bile about and toward President Obama.

    I really do believe it boils down to “But the President is bbb… bbl… bbbla… Oh, it’s just so awful… I can’t even say the word!”

    No matter how many times I read or hear people mouth off with their minds & hearts stuck in fifty-year-old gutters, I’m still appalled that such hate has been made welcome in the thoughts & words of modern-day inhumans who claim to be Americans.

  • MarkE

    G Key – you know, if the pres was a Repub, and such kinds of things were spewed about him, the conservos would be all over how disrespectful it is that anyone would disparage our elected chief executive and call him such vile names and claim such disingenuous, despicable and deceitful things about him and his policies. My, my, how I hate our public politics.

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  • Abu

    Yes, it has nothing to do with Obama being a narcissistic, self centered race baiting Marxist ideologue.

  • Everett

    “We heal hatred with love”

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • G Key

    Do all dehumanizers get points for how many insults they fit into a single sentence about people they don’t even know, or do you have to be a dehumanizing politician to score?

  • yoh

    You are right. We all know conservatives don’t love people