At a prayer breakfast this morning, President Barack Obama said he looks to the story of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection for inspiration whenever he struggles:
The president got “Amens” from religious leaders at a White House prayer breakfast in the East Room as he recounted Jesus saying, “In this world, you will have trouble.”
Obama says he’s among those who sometimes question God’s plan for him. But he says that’s precisely when he recalls the “triumph” of the Easter story, and Jesus overcoming his doubts and fears before the crucifixion.
This isn’t the first time Obama has cited Jesus and his Christian faith as an animating force in his life. A media double standard applies here, as it does in so many things: When GOP candidates talk about religion, they’re often criticized for somehow not respecting Thomas Jefferson’s principle of the separation of church and state, but, to my knowledge, Obama has never been criticized along the same lines for his religiously themed comments.
In the interest of avoiding a double standard myself, though, I’ll write that I find Obama’s comments encouraging. They display none of the weak understanding of Scripture that some of his past comments did; they’re just a generic tribute to the Easter story near the Easter holiday. While such a tribute might very well have had a partial political motivation, it might also have been sincere. Either way, it says something positive about this country that our president knows statements like these won’t hurt his standing in the eyes of the electorate.
More importantly, though, the passage he cited is a good one for any president — but especially for progressive presidents — to contemplate. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace,” Jesus says in the Gospel of John, Chapter 16. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Perhaps pondering that verse with regularity will help Obama to realize that earthly utopia is neither the aim of Christianity nor a possibility in this fallen world. Perhaps that realization, in turn, will inspire him to recognize, “The purpose of politics is not redemptive” and that “When governments seek after utopia, they end in oppression and disaster, because man and society are infinitely complex, and cannot be reshaped by an aristocracy of experts. Humility is the only proper attitude for governing authorities,” as Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner has written.