Prayer Event Controversy

February 04, 2010

This morning was the annual National Prayer Breakfast, which had more controversy than normal. The event, which dates back to 1953, is sponsored by a secretive group known as "The Family." However, the group has had a rough year. First, journalist Jeff Sharlet exposed a lot of information about the group and its teachings in his book The Family (which is an interesting read). Then, current and past members had sex scandals, such as Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and Chip Pickering. Finally, the group has been connected to a controversial anti-homosexual bill in Uganda. As a result, there was some pressure on President Barack Obama not to attend. Of course, had he broke tradition by not going, it probably would have sparked more inaccurate attacks on his faith. Thus, we have a political environment where the president is essentially forced to participate in a religious event. At the event, Obama spoke about the need for more civility, offering some good points about how it is needed and should come from people of faith. For instance, he stated:

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. But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship.
He makes a good point that we must be careful not to judge someone's faith because of political differences. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke at the event and she and Obama both condemned the Ugandan bill in their remarks. And Florida quarterback Tim Tebow prayed at the event. It is unfortunate that a prayer meeting is so controversial and political. But hopefully despite all of that, the prayer for more civility in our politics will be heard and followed by many Americans.