I’m continuing to keep an eye out for religious perspectives about the suffering in Haiti.
And this morning, President Obama addressed the subject at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C.
His take is, as I’ve written before, the most common: God is with those who have responded to the suffering. He does not address God’s role (or lack of one) in the quake itself.
Per a White House transcript (which you can read here):
There is, of course, a need for prayer even in times of joy and peace and prosperity. Perhaps especially in such times prayer is needed — to guard against pride and to guard against complacency. But rightly or wrongly, most of us are inclined to seek out the divine not in the moment when the Lord makes His face shine upon us, but in moments when God’s grace can seem farthest away.
Last month, God’s grace, God’s mercy, seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti. And yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy. It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake’s wake. It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation, holding bibles in their laps. It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics; translators; servicemen and women, bringing water and food and aid to the injured.
One such translator was an American of Haitian descent, representative of the extraordinary work that our men and women in uniform do all around the world — Navy Corpsman Christian [sic] Brossard. And lying on a gurney aboard the USNS Comfort, a woman asked Christopher: “Where do you come from? What country? After my operation,” she said, “I will pray for that country.” And in Creole, Corpsman Brossard responded, “Etazini.” The United States of America.
God’s grace, and the compassion and decency of the American people is expressed through the men and women like Corpsman Brossard. It’s expressed through the efforts of our Armed Forces, through the efforts of our entire government, through similar efforts from Spain and other countries around the world. It’s also, as Secretary Clinton said, expressed through multiple faith-based efforts. By evangelicals at World Relief. By the American Jewish World Service. By Hindu temples, and mainline Protestants, Catholic Relief Services, African American churches, the United Sikhs. By Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.
It’s inspiring. This is what we do, as Americans, in times of trouble. We unite, recognizing that such crises call on all of us to act, recognizing that there but for the grace of God go I, recognizing that life’s most sacred responsibility — one affirmed, as Hillary said, by all of the world’s great religions — is to sacrifice something of ourselves for a person in need.
Obama also used the occasion to renew his now-regular call for lessening the political partisanship in the country:
Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility. That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions. 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. We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet. We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can’t solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda. Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.
Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable; understanding, as President [Kennedy] said, that “civility is not a sign of weakness.” Now, I am the first to confess I am not always right. Michelle will testify to that. (Laughter.) But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship. (Laughter and applause.)
ADDITION: A reader points out that none other than Tim Tebow offered the closing prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast.
We are only three days away from Tebow’s much-anticipated commercial during the Super Bowl.
Here is Tebow’s prayer, from a blog called Tebowseyeblack.com:
Dear Jesus, thank you for this today. Thank you for bringing together so many people that have a platform to influence people for you. Lord as we disperse today, let us be united in love, hope, and peace. Lord, let us come together as one and break down all the barriers in between us that separate us.
Lord, you came to seek and save that which is lost, and we thank you for that. Lord we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future, and in that there is peace, and in that there comfort, and in that there is hope.
Lord we pray for the people all over the world that are hurting right now. The verse that comes to mind is James 1: 2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, whenever you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. And we pray for the people in Haiti right now Lord, that you make them perfect and complete because you love them and have a plan for their lives, just as you do with our lives now.
So my prayer, as we leave today, that we are united as one because of you. We love you and thank you. In Jesus name, amen.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)