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The President's Prayer Breakfast Catastrophe

On the same day President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post published a curious story by Anne E. Kornblut on the role religion plays in the Obama White House.

If we’re to believe Kornblut and the long list of oh-so-helpful unnamed Obama advisers she quotes, God is just all over that place. Case in point:

Some aide sends the president religious passages every morning on his BlackBerry, that come from, according to an unnamed official, “a variety of sources.”

An unnamed adviser says he worships regularly at Camp David.

More unnamed advisers insist he prays privately.

Yet another unnamed senior official says the president is “a prayerful guy.”

There you have it, case closed. The president is, like, totally holy.

The timing of this bizarre non-story is no accident. In the weeks following Scott Brown’s stunning senate victory in Massachusetts, the president has ratcheted up an impressive, albeit totally manufactured, embrace of populist rhetoric. You’re angry? He is too! You hate profligate spending? He does too! You’re mad at Wall Street? So is he!

And nothing complements a good populist screed like a few shout-outs to the Almighty. After all, in times of struggle, what do all those common folk in the square states do? They git out thar’ guns and thar’ religion! So after months of virtual silence about the man upstairs, the president’s spin doctors have undoubtedly assured him it’s time to get back on the God bandwagon.

Never mind that the president skipped last year’s National Day of Prayer, covered up religious insignia at Georgetown, canceled the flyover at “God & Country Day,” and gives regular shout-outs to atheists whenever it is, in fact, least appropriate.

Like today. During his speech at the Prayer Breakfast the president was sure to point out – again – that not everyone in America believes in God. He’s right, of course, but wouldn’t you think that at a prayer breakfast, he’d direct his remarks primarily to the population that prays? The humanist salute to solstice does not, in fact, count as a “prayer.”

While today’s speech was perhaps the president’s most muscular discussion of faith to date, it was rife with incongruities and contradictions that reveal just how incomplete his understanding of American faith actually is, regardless of what Ms. Kornblut tells us an unnamed adviser said.
The worst misstep of today’s speech? When the president said that “God’s grace” is expressed “by Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.”

Uh, no it isn't -- unless my definition of atheism is different than his. Most atheists insist that God’s grace most certainly is not expressed through them, and that there are no “higher” purposes. While we may all come together for “a purpose” – like relief work in Haiti, poverty, AIDS, or world hunger – no atheist I know would consider this God's work.

It’s time the president end this hooey, and give up on his obsessive need to equate belief and non-belief. They are apples and oranges, and every time he does this he sounds less like the scholar he’s supposed to be and more like a petulant child.

But wait, there were other bizarre moments today:

Christ is nowhere to be found: The president is supposedly a Christian, yet there wasn’t a single mention of Christ or Jesus in today’s speech.

God and war: Obama said that God’s grace is expressed through the efforts of our armed forces. Really? Sarah Palin was publicly flayed for suggesting just this when she asked her congregation to pray for the military.

Americans are terrible: The president devoted a considerable portion of his speech to condemning Americans for becoming “absorbed with our abstract arguments, our ideological disputes, our contests for power.” It might have been nice to mention that we are also the most philanthropic country in the world, especially considering that even in our own time of economic struggle, we have generously opened our wallets to help rebuild another devastated nation.

Dissing evangelicals: In throwing a bone to the religious right, Obama doesn’t miss a chance to also insult them. “We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system. It’s not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God.” He may as well have just called them xenophobic nativists.

And no Obama speech would be complete without a shout-out to the other big guy upstairs – himself. So he closed his Prayer Breakfast speech by congratulating himself for doing such a great job with his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, just in case you momentarily forgot that 2012 is right around the corner.

All in all, it was actually fairly predictable – if you’ve ever heard this president discuss faith you know that he is incredibly uneasy with the themes and constructs of American belief, and often manages to slight the faithful just as he’s awkwardly trying to address them.

But rest assured, his friends in the liberal press – indeed, the ultimate Tower of Babel – will hail this speech as they do all the rest, and insist it proves he is indeed, as unnamed officials say, “a prayerful man.”

S.E. Cupp is a writer and author. Her forthcoming book “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity,” will be in bookstores in April.