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Psalm 139 and President Obama’s remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast

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Earlier today, as has every President since Dwight Eisenhower, President Barack Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton hotel in our nation’s capitol. As I have the last two years, I’d like to take a deeper look at what the President remarked to an audience of over 3,000, packed with dignitaries. (I’ve included what we wrote in NRL News Today in 2012 and 2013.)

The answer to the following may not be as obvious as we might first think. At a national Prayer breakfast whose audience is predominately Christian, what must be running through his mind when he says the following:

“Today, we profess the principles we know to be true. We believe that each of us is ‘wonderfully made’ in the image of God. We, therefore, believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away. And central to that dignity is freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear.”

Is the President oblivious to the context of “wonderfully made”? The words, of course, are from Psalms 139 (verses 13-16) which read

13 For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.

And in Your book they all were written,

The days fashioned for me,

When as yet there were none of them

God knew us from before the beginning, knitting us today in our mother’s womb in a fearful and wonderful manner. We are His.

Anyone, like the President, who is as close to the Abortion Establishment as two coats of paint–organizations whose reason for existence is to short-circuit the days fashioned for over a million unborn babies each year–might want to rethink alluding to Psalm 139.

I read the entire speech which was accurately summarized in news accounts as primarily addressing religious freedom worldwide, particularly but by no means exclusively of Christians. Nobody is saying that the Obama mandate that compels employers, including religious groups, to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections is of the same moral order as being killed for your faith.

But resistance to that mandate is, for many millions of Americans, an exercise of “freedom of religion” — the right “to practice their faith how they choose.” I cannot read the President’s mind but I would hazard the guess that he does not take seriously the idea that some/many/most of those who fearlessly oppose the mandate do so because they refuse to be complicit in evil.

I say that because his administration keeps floating alleged “compromises” which miss the core of why people resist. I think it’s fair to conclude those are all for show.

At least rhetorically, the President understand the importance of religious freedom at home and the role that the faithful have played in reform movements. He said

“Now, here, as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion. And, yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too — because religion strengthens America. Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to civil rights, workers’ rights.”

We would argue, of course, that nothing is more in harmony with “our founding ideals” than restoring protection to the littlest Americans.

One other thought about the President’s remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast. Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religious News Service made an interesting observation:

“Prayer breakfast organizers could be making up for the past two breakfast speakers, who both called out Obama in his policies. Last year, Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s address drew controversy for criticizing the Affordable Care Act and other policies. In 2012, Christian author and speaker Eric Metaxas criticized policies on abortion.”

No President looks for criticism, pointed or even blunted. But it is interesting that it just so happens that at a time when Mr. Obama’s popularity is sagging, organizers would invite not an outsider but a member of his administration, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, to provide the keynote address. As you can guess, Shah’s remarks hardly qualified as speaking truth to power, aka the Obama administration, which is what Dr. Carson and Mr. Metaxas fearlessly did.

If you have few minutes, please read “President Obama, the National Prayer Breakfast, and the Question ‘Who is Fully Human?’ and “What the President said at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast and what his remarks say to pro-lifers.”

And if you really want to read something that will move your soul, go to www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1982/20482a.htm where you will read the text of President Reagan’s remarks in 1982 to the National Prayer Breakfast.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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