Tuesday, April 26, 2011

President Obama at the 2011 Easter Prayer Breakfast


To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual -- I’m going to make it annual, why not?  (Laughter and applause.)  Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast.  The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established.  (Laughter.)  The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends.  And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.
I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection -- something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective. 
We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work.  And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways.  And I admit that my plate has been full as well.  (Laughter.)  The inbox keeps on accumulating.  (Laughter.)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Martin Marty on the New York Times Food Writer Who Fasted


“Why We’re Fasting” is the title of columnist Mark Bittman’s essay in Wednesday's New York Times, the “we” being himself and David Beckmann, here described as a “reverend,” and “this year’s World Food Prize laureate.” The pastor heads “Bread for the World.” Yes, why fast? Readers can do their own sighting and hearing of all the media-reported clashes over the national budget, now in final crunch time. That scan will reveal the obvious: that lost in the necessary political and economic debates blighted by the side-tracking but focal partisan and sub-partisan disputes on the issue is one set of people. Biblical scholars in this “Judeo-” and “Christian” nation call them “God’s people.” They are the poor, disabled, disadvantaged, undersheltered and, yes, hungry, about whom some of the budget debates were supposed to have been waged.           
Bittman and Beckmann discuss Isaiah 58, essential reading for believers and bystanders alike at such a time and place as this. G. K. Chesterton famously observed that one can look at something 999 times and then, on the thousandth sighting, see something revelatory, as if for the first time. We are asked to do such looking now. To bid each other to do so will sound embarrassingly pious, and yet. . . .           
As Bittman tells it, he is fasting, or was, last Monday, when thousands of others also fasted to draw notice to those Congressional budget proposals (H.R. 1) which would “quite literally cause more people to starve to death, go to bed hungry or live more miserably than they are doing now.” Adds Bittman: “And: The bill would increase defense spending.”
Bittman confessed to some skepticism about whether things work out the way Isaiah 58, reporting on God’s revelatory word, suggests. That chapter also reflected God’s being bored by all of Israel’s fussing about how strenuous the people were about holy fasting. The prophet—in my own loose translation—says, for God: “You think you are going to impress me by fasting, but all you do is get hungry and thus get angry and then beat up on each other. Is that the fast you think I want?”

— RANTS + REFLECTIONS ON THE COMMON GOOD —

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