You’ve read Cameron’s Easter speech, now read President Obama’s

Yet again I’m failing to stick to my blogging break, but having posted David Cameron’s Easter Speech yesterday, I thought it would be good for comparative purposes to post the transcript of Barack Obama’s Easter speech he gave today at the White House Easter prayer breakfast for church leaders.

If having read David Cameron’s speech you’re left wondering which bits of the Easter story he actually believes, you’ll have no such doubts with President Obama’s blatantly Christian message.  It seems somewhat ironic that Obama has been accused of not being Christian enough by some Americans when we have a poll in the Guardian where 67% of respondents so far have said that it is not OK for prime ministers to ‘do God’ in public following on from Cameron’s speech which was much less overt.  (Update: the poll ended two days later with 58% in favour of prime ministers ‘doing God’, so thank you if you voted ‘Yes’!)

I am not a fan of American politics, but at least their politicians can be open and honest about their beliefs without having to dress them up in inclusive language and water them down in  order not to offend.

For a more thorough analysis and comparison of the two speeches, I recommend you read Peter Kirk’s latest article at Gentle Wisdom, ‘Cameron and Obama on the Resurrection’.

Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks at the Easter Prayer Breakfast, April 4, 2012

THE PRESIDENT: It is wonderful to see so many good friends here today. To all the faith leaders from all across the country — from churches and congregations large and small; from different denominations and different backgrounds — thank you for coming to our third annual Easter prayer breakfast. And I’m grateful that you’re here.

I’m even more grateful for the work that you do every day of the year — the compassion and the kindness that so many of you express through your various ministries. I know that some of you have joined with our Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I’ve seen firsthand some of the outstanding work that you are doing in your respective communities, and it’s an incredible expression of your faith. And I know that all of us who have an opportunity to work with you draw inspiration from the work that you do.

Finally, I want to just express appreciation for your prayers. Every time I travel around the country, somebody is going around saying, we’re praying for you. (Laughter.) We got a prayer circle going. Don’t worry, keep the faith. We’re praying. (Laughter.) Michelle gets the same stuff. And that means a lot to us. It especially means a lot to us when we hear from folks who we know probably didn’t vote for me — (laughter) — and yet, expressing extraordinary sincerity about their prayers. And it’s a reminder not only of what binds us together as a nation, but also what binds us together as children of God.

Now, I have to be careful, I am not going to stand up here and give a sermon. It’s always a bad idea to give a sermon in front of professionals. (Laughter.) But in a few short days, all of us will experience the wonder of Easter morning. And we will know, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus…and Him crucified.”

It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the triumph of the resurrection, and to give thanks for the all-important gift of grace. And for me, and I’m sure for some of you, it’s also a chance to remember the tremendous sacrifice that led up to that day, and all that Christ endured — not just as a Son of God, but as a human being.

For like us, Jesus knew doubt. Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened — that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, “He is Risen!”

So the struggle to fathom that unfathomable sacrifice makes Easter all the more meaningful to all of us. It helps us to provide an eternal perspective to whatever temporal challenges we face. It puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems He was dealing with. And it gives us courage and it gives us hope.

We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us — (laughter) — but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph. Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” I heard an amen. (Laughter.) Let me repeat. “In this world, you will have trouble.”


THE PRESIDENT: “But take heart!” (Laughter.) “I have overcome the world.” (Applause.) We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live. And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.

Thanks to Sojourners for the transcript.

Categories: Easter, Faith in society, President Obama

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23 replies

  1. wow, Obama’s had a ton more balls than David’s! I think Obama just preached a straight-up gospel message! He could have gone straight into an alter call right there!

    Just goes to show the difference between ourselves and the yanks. The separation of church and state allows the church to be free – it allows a head of state to express in no uncompromising terms his personal faith.

    I would say Obama’s message has much more ‘bible’ behind it, which I personally appreciate. I understand why Cameron walks on eggshells, (I can’t imagine what would happen if he made a statement like Obamas) – but boy would I like him to do it, for his sake if no-one else’s!

    One final thought – secularists/humanists will have complained/have been complaining about Camerons message. But I’ll bet if you ask them who do you prefer – Obama or Cameron? – the vast majority would say they align with Obama.

    But O is well to the right of Cameron, much more openly religious, much more willing to express personal Christian belief and really well to the right of him on just about everything else.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    • We mustn’t be too hard on David Cameron. He has to be much more careful with his language than American politicians. Can you imagine the uproar in the British media there would have been if he had given Obama’s speech?

      • Indeed I can – on one side he would get battered but on the other he’d be right and having a major positive influence!

        but yes of course I recognise the differences in the landscapes. Cameron has a more difficult job on the faith front, I just wonder if he doesn’t make it hard on himself by keeping quiet. the longer the silence the harder it becomes to speak out.

    • Trust me folks, I am a “Yank” and you can’t believe a word of what Obama says! Remember, this is an election year. Also, if it were George Bush who made this speech, the left wing media would be all over him shouting “Separation of Church and State!”. Unfortunately, in the USA they have and are continuing, to take God of everything they can.

  2. Gillan, thank you for the link, and for searching out and posting the full text of Obama’s remarks, whereas I relied on a newspaper’s extracts.

    Interesting that Obama as well as Cameron used the word “struggle”. But what to Cameron seems a negative word, “I don’t really believe this but don’t want to openly reject it”, becomes for Obama a positive one, “I really want to affirm this despite the difficulties”.

    In some ways Obama’s words as Head of State are less like Cameron’s and more like our British Head of State’s. The Queen, in her Christmas message, was as explicit as Obama in declaring her faith. Perhaps we British expect that to be her personal responsibility, and maybe those of the bishops she still nominally appoints, whereas her government ministers are supposed to stick to secular business. Ironically we have here a deeper separation between church and state, and an older one because it is rooted in the Thirty-Nine Articles, than the constitutionally mandated separation in the USA.

  3. Cameron is not Obama. He has had an upbringing that taught him to get what he want he must play to the audience. Obama has had far more political trouble than Cameron. In truth Cameron does not believe but wants the Christian, Gay, Muslim, Secular, Humanist vote. So he does not say what he believes really to any of them. Perhaps that is what being a politician is all about. I liked Cameron’s Easter message but yes Obama’s was more integral. PS I find Sojourners an excellent site, one of many that is not fraught with emotional shrill.

  4. I heard him give this speech. It sounded nothing like what is written here. In the speech, he did not say “resurrection” or quote Paul. He said Jesus overcame his trials and his pain… a very Muslim perspective. Muslims teach that Jesus was nailed to the cross… but then broke his bonds, got down, and walked away. I’m looking for the audio.

    • If you actually heard him then you obviously weren’t paying attention. I’ve now put up the video of the speech from YouTube and it matches the transcript word-for-word. Don’t try and deliberately deceive people. Barack Obama is not a Muslim.

      • Interestingly enough, he used the phrase Son of God, a phrase in relation to Jesus which no Muslim would use.

      • Indeed, Steve. I was just reading elsewhere about ” the Qur’an’s very specific and explicit anathemas against the mere utterance of the phrase “son of God””. If Obama is a Muslim, he is a very bad one indeed! In fact by being baptised as a Christian he showed himself an apostate and became subject to the death penalty, according to Sharia law.

    • Most Muslims I know state that Jesus was never on the cross to begin with. According to Islam, Jesus never died on the cross, nor ever wanted to die on the cross, nor ever was born to die on the cross. Allah supposedly took Jesus to be with him at some stage before the crucifixion and made someone who looked like Jesus to be crucified. I’d be interested in your source, particularly as it is so easy to disprove the Muslim claims from their own sources.

  5. Gina is likely to be correct on this one, especially as Obama has mainstream media in his pocket. It’s the first Christian message I’ve noticed after having kept track of Obama’s progress since inauguration. A long-standing Christian journalist within the White House always comments upon the president’s non-Christian stance and, if he’s a believer, then it would be clearly apparent by now – as well as to many Christian leaders! This source is of the opinion Obama’s politically targetted speech was by Rev Joel Hunter rather than the very extreme Jeremiah wright.
    As for David Cameron’s speech, imho it serves notice that his heart is in the right place. But it may be affected by the Anglican broadbrush approach rather than exhibiting that of a well taught, clear thinking and committed believer.

    • Richard, are you denying that Obama said these words? See the video. Of course it is normal for others to write his speeches, but he also has to approve and agree with the contents. That does not prove that he was being sincere. But there is also clear evidence of a campaign by conservatives in America, including many Christians, to discredit Obama in all kinds of unfair ways such as portraying him as a Muslim and as foreign born. This campaign has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with politics – and perhaps to do with race. If your Christian journalist contact is politically opposed to Obama, I would suggest that he is deliberately rejecting or covering up any evidence he finds that Obama is a Christian. After all, it would be fatal to his political position if American Christians discover that Obama is a better Christian than any of his likely challengers this year.

      • Thanks Peter, and I’m certainly not denying that. In fact I hope that he is being sincere. But a number of pastors I know, plus the accredited correspondent, have reported upon and been concerned with the Adminstration’s non- or even anti- Christian bias and policies; that is, the fruit.

      • Think of such phrases as “children of God”, “Christ Jesus…and Him crucified.”
        “triumph of the resurrection”, “gift of grace”, “Son of God”, “celebrate the resurrection”, “bore the sins of the world”, ” “He is Risen!”, “unfathomable sacrifice”, “the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live.”. They sure don’t look like phrases that would come from Muslim lips to me. Now compare Obama to, say, Mitt Romney’s Mormon beliefs. Is this really what the Republicans really want to do? How strange.

      • Steve, it will certainly be interesting to see what American Evangelicals have to say on an Obama vs Romney contest. One’s a Christian and the other is not. But I think some people will agree with me but disagree on which is the Christian!

      • Yes indeed Steve, sound scriptural phrases are certainly heartening to hear, along with the developments across three Easter presentations during POTUS Obama’s term. Also, it’s excellent that many across the political divide have been praying for him. So perhaps we may see lots of better things?

        Allow me to clarify just some reasons for my previous remarks: Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech gave rise to my reservations about his claims therein to being not only a Christian but also a historian. Like almost all presidents, his grasp of and involvement with Middle-Eastern religio-politics, leaves a great deal to be desired (This is the opinion of many secular specialists, including the long standing White Ho correspondent I referred to. His focus over two decades has been not partisan politics but close monitoring against Biblical standards of key global indicators. This includes American as well as Church policies in the M-East and which, he maintains, have consistently affected the USA’s wellbeing.) And not to mention the hostile body language when PM Netanyahu addressed him in May 2011.

        Also, at that time a renowned intercessor was so concerned as to refute with historical documents Obama’s claim that, “America is no longer and never has been a Christian nation”! Also, another who prays regularly for the president wrote of ‘a foreboding created by the demeanour and laws being passed by the Obama Administration which seem to be specifically designed to open doors for persecuting the church’. In fact, a Homeland Security instruction was actually issued for such but got withdrawn after widespread challenges. Yet those comments would appear to still stand.

        I’m of the opinion, therefore, it’s the fruit of how one conducts a presidential office that demonstrates one’s beliefs and values, ie. what POTUS Obama permits on his watch!

      • Richard, no one ever claimed that Obama held a typical American dispensationalist pre-millennialist Israel-can-do-no-wrong position. But as far as I know this position is not considered essential to salvation. And he is quite correct that “America is no longer and never has been a Christian nation”, as it was deliberately set up as one with no established religion.

  6. Peter, on your first point; agreed and definitely not. (I know a lot are ‘pre-trib’ and ‘rapture-ready’, also many think that’s what a Christian should be, but they get OTT, in my opinion.)
    Second point; yes but. Yes they wanted to get away from the old world practices and thus wrote safeguards into the new Constitution, but most early Americans were non-conformist and staunch in their belief (although there were masonic influences). I understand the founding fathers wrote their early papers in Christian terms, which is what I recall the intercessor was demonstrating.


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