I was upset some weeks ago when President Obama spoke at a prayer breakfast in Washington. I was upset when he felt compelled to say how much he depended upon his Christian faith in his life and work. I was upset that he felt called upon to declare any kind of faith at all-- unless it were something like this little speech to the breakfasting prayerful politicians that I have composed for him here. Perhaps it will also make me feel better. Here it is:
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen. We have come here to pray, have we not. And now it appears to be my turn. I am called upon, but I wonder. As I look over the room, from table to table, I wonder to whom I should try to pray? I am deeply uncertain. Shall I pray to your god, I or yours, or yours, or hers?
I wonder, too, in what must I believe in order to pray at all?
Like all working men and women, I must believe in myself first and last. I must believe in the terrible responsibility of that belief.
I believe in the inspiration of my family. I believe in the counsels of my trusted friends and enemies. I believe in what I have learned and experienced. And I believe in the collective wisdom-- and the history-- of all of you who, with me, care about our nation. I, for one, believe that our country’s essential humanity and vision of liberty will lead us through the hard places of our history. I believe that in the end we ourselves will be sufficient to achieve our material, intellectual, and spiritual well being. And I believe-- it is my faith-- that most of us here this morning, in our heart of hearts, share these beliefs and this faith. Let us pray….
There it is: my breakfast sermon for a president.
Yes, I wish that the President of the United States would stay away from prayer breakfasts. I wish he would stay away from all that pharisaical posturing. I wish he would stay home and exercise his extraordinary, species-given powers to help get the nation out of trouble it is in.
Let those who will, continue to cry to heaven over their breakfast coffee. Let them thank their god that they are not as other men. No, indeed, they are not like other men and women, good people for the working day, who continue, day in and day out, to do the world’s work with what species intelligence, imagination, responsibility-- and love-- they can muster. For too many of them there is very little to be thankful for.
Theirs be the power and the glory.