President Obama’s Easter statement

I’m posting this here so I’ll be able to find it easily and link back to it later.

This weekend, Michelle and I join our fellow Christians here at home and around the world in marking Good Friday and celebrating Easter. These Holy Days are a time to reflect on the momentous sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for each of us, and to celebrate the triumph of the Resurrection and His gift of grace. It is a time for renewed hope amidst continued challenges. It’s also a time to ponder the common values that unite us — to have compassion for all and to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. As we embrace our loved ones and give thanks for our blessings, we wish all who celebrate with us a blessed Easter.

This is President Obama’s fifth Easter statement. It’s a routine pronouncement of the sort that presidents make on various religious holidays.

But during the Obama administration there’s been a pattern of religious right groups pretending that this president never makes such statements — or that he only makes them in recognition of non-Christian holidays.

These religious-right groups, in other words, lie — they say something they know is not true. Or, at best, they say something they haven’t bothered to very easily find out is not true. Either way — through deliberate malicious intent, or semi-malicious, lazy negligence — they’re bearing false witness.

So in a few weeks, when the Liberty Counsel or the American Family Association or the Family Research Council or Concerned Women for America repeat this same lie that they’ve been repeating for years, claiming that President Obama never made any public statement acknowledging Easter, I’ll be able to link back to this statement and point out that these self-proclaimed religious people are, you know, full of it.

And then a few months later, when Rick Warren hears one of those liars repeat this lie on some Christian radio station and he sends out a tweet because he trusts the lobbyists of the religious-right and is always eager to believe their nastiest accusations, I’ll be able to link back to this again.

Oh, and here’s White House photographer Pete Souza’s picture of the president and first lady hosting a Passover seder on March 25, 2013, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House.

I’m a Baptist — a Baptist-type Baptist — who believes that the separation of church and state is absolutely necessary for free people in a free nation or a free church. But I like this photo, and I like gestures like the president’s Easter statement. A secular government in a religiously pluralistic nation must never establish religion and never privilege religion, but it’s possible to acknowledge and to respect the role of religion in the lives of many citizens without either establishing or privileging any particular religion or even religion in general.

In that spirit here’s my idea/request for next year at the White House: Vice President Joe Biden should host a Holi celebration.

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  • It’s rather a good thing that I graduated high school a few years before Columbine. I imagine that when they hauled a group of kids with a penchant for wearing trenchcoats down to the vice principal’s office on allegations of having attempted to assault a special needs student*, we very likely would have ended the day in jail.

    (* An extremely radical mischaracterization of what happened, but their minds were pretty well made up without the need to let any actual facts get in the way. We’d been playfully bouncing an empty soda can around the lunch table, and it rolled off the table and across the floor and came to rest close to the foot of a special needs student, and the teacher who saw it decided that one of us had deliberately thrown the can at the kid’s head in an attempt to seriously injure him)

    The “best” part of the story was that when we got haulled down to the office, there was another kid there because he was being picked up early for a doctor’s appointment. But he had had some diciplinary issues in the past, so when the VP walked in, he assumed that he was involved with us, and screamed at the kid, telling him that he had a lot of nerve showing his face there, and would be expelled and would be sent to the alternative high school. We were all also promised that we would not be having a merry christmas if he had anything to do with it (it was the last day before break).

    (I summoned up the cojones as we were being dismissed back to class to “tearfully” wish the guy a happy holiday, because it was pretty clear by then that the guy realized that he’d been a giant douchenozzle.)

  • reynard61

    The problem there is that the Republicans would probably serve Red Meat for the Traditional Dinner and turn the Airing of Grievances into a long anti-Obama “War on Christmas” rant. (Not that they don’t already…)

  • Loquat

    I once had a Christian co-worker who seemed to think Muslims and Hindus were interchangeable, or at least similar enough to all go under the category of “desert people”. (It was one of those moments where you just have to stare speechless for a bit, because where do you even start?) Unusually, though, she genuinely believed that Jews were indeed God’s Chosen People and had no need to convert to Christianity.

  • P J Evans

    Oh dear Ghu…

    It may be weird, but we had books in our house like the Time-Life World Religions, which went into more depth than the average magazine story. (The section on the Hindu religion had pictures of the various deities.)

  • Rae
  • Ross Thompson

    Not long after 9/11, I remember talking to someone I knew vaguely, and he was saying that he and his friends had … done something (verbally abused, I think; I don’t recall it being anything too egregious) to a shop worker because they wore a turban and were therefore Muslim.

    I pointed out that, quite apart from anything else, very few American Muslims wear turbans, and he was far more likely to be a Hindu or Sikh. His response was “Eh, it’s all the same.”

    Of course, this was the same person who insisted that “towelhead” was a technical definition and not a racial epithet because, you know, they wear towels on their heads…

  • Nick Gotts

    A secular government in a religiously pluralistic nation must never
    establish religion and never privilege religion, but it’s possible to
    acknowledge and to respect the role of religion in the lives of many
    citizens without either establishing or privileging any particular
    religion or even religion in general.

    It may be possible, but it’s difficult, IMO so difficult the attempt is best avoided, and I’m not convinced that’s what Obama has done here. His message appears to be addressed exclusively to those who share the religion he belongs to. He missed an opportunity to make it clear this was not so with:

    It’s also a time to ponder the common values that unite us

    He could easily have made it clear that “us” included non-Christians.

  • Man, that guy is an asshat. His Facebook consists of only two things: daily Bible verses and blasting Obama. His updated version of the Easter statement criticism is “Obama talks about common values. No, sir, it’s all about Jesus. Period.”

    Because Jesus never said a word about common values.

  • CeeQ

    Only if the Trans Am can be included in the celebrations =D

  • CeeQ

    On your post specifically – I’ve finally grown weary of the evangelical bullshit that I’ve been subjecting myself to since 2008 when I started attending an evangelical mega church in the Chicago suburbs. I’ve learned a lot and so has my husband but I am weary of the celebrity, the authoritarianism, the hypocrisy, the legalism disguised as biblical living, the political rallies disguised as church, the rock concerts disguised as worship. I’m taking a break from church. I hope to find one later that is actually church, not self indulged self worship and hand wringing over being “victims”. But for now, I’m enjoying the silence. And finding God is still with me. Imagine that.

  • My wife’s stepfather keeps referring to muslims as “dot-heads”. Y’know, in reference to the custom of wearing a bindi.


    (When my son was about 4 months old, I once saw him do this fantastic facepalm. I wish I’d had a camera in reach so I could throw that picture up at times like this with the caption “He is four months old and HE knows what you just said was dumb”)

  • Carstonio

    After reading the stories from Loquat and both Rosses, I’m hearing the Major from Fawlty Towers recounting an argument with his date at a cricket match, both of them possessing equal ignorance. A brilliant scene about the idiocies of ossified bigotry, one that the BBC is apparently trimming on rebroadcasts.

  • storiteller

    I hope you find a church that meets your needs and matches your values more. They’re out there, but can be challenging to find.

  • CeeQ

    Thanks friend!

    IF ANYONE KNOWS OF SUCH A CHURCH – Please hook a sister up. Because seriously….! I am SO TIRED of the perpetual OUTRAGE that passes for bible teaching at the churches I’ve been to….

  • EllieMurasaki

    May I recommend you find the nearest group of Unitarian Universalists?

  • AnonaMiss

    May I ask in which Chicago suburb you’re located? I can vouch for either of the two Methodist churches in downtown Naperville, though the parking is atrocious. They’re right across the street from each other – a product of the merger of the Methodist and United Brethren (?) denominations – and work together on many of their not-Sunday-morning programs.

    I grew up going to the smaller of the two, which has had flyers on most of the doors since at least the mid 90s about how everyone is invited regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, etc.

  • CeeQ

    Sadly I don’t live near Naperville. I live in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, near Elgin.

  • CeeQ

    I’ll give them a try =)

  • storiteller

    I adore my church (, but I live in the D.C. suburbs, so that doesn’t help you much. We’re not part of a larger denomination, so there’s no larger body to refer you to. Unfortunately, a lot of the mainstream churches that tend to be more liberal are also more high-churchy, so if you are coming from an evangelical church the worship style might take a while to get used to.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’d still suggest you check out local Methodist churches. Unfortunately I can’t recommend the denomination whole-heartedly because they still don’t allow gay marriage, but it shouldn’t be a problem in the Chicago area.

    I’m an atheist now, and I still have a great fondness for the Methodist church, even though I don’t believe in the supernatural parts of their doctrine anymore. Low church, social justice-focused, pretty non-judgmental, acknowledge the importance of reason in official doctrine. They used to be considered evangelical but got redefined as mainline Protestant somewhere along the line, probably because evangelical came to mean “Baptist or heavily Baptist-influenced”. Anyway they’re worth a shot, especially if the UUs turn out to be too non-denominational for you.

  • CeeQ

    I got baptised in a Baptist church in Sydney (so different from the American Baptists….). I’m thinking Methodist might work for me. I also went to a Presbyterian church with my family in my teens. Didn’t care for it much. I’d probably be attending an Anglican church if I still lived in Australia. Thanks for the encouragement =)

  • CeeQ

    I don’t mind the high church style, it’s what I am more used to, to be honest. Going to church in Australia, most of the congregations we were part of were more high church-y. The rock concert style evangelical worship were more prevalent in the Hill Song churches (charismatic leaning for the most part) back home.

    When we started to go the evangelical mega church here, I liked it at first but after a while, it felt manipulative. My husband was never moved by what he referred to as “on cue music” to solicit emotion. He might be a bit on the harsh side =) I love singing and praising God but even I got tired of the slick production values after a while.

  • CeeQ

    You know, Naperville isn’t that far of a drive from my house. I wouldn’t mind it if I knew I was going to be part of a great congregation of believers. And not have to wonder which conservative politician or evangelical celeb would be profiled every time I stepped into the sanctuary…..=)

    Or whether I was going to told that I was a) probably not tithing/offering enough because this handy list of BLESSINGS had not rained down on me and my house yet; b) be told that I was probably not reading the bible enough, praying enough or having enough faith because once again BLESSINGS are not flowing down or c) how much God is working thru OUR church… though we were the one lone beacon of LIGHT AND GOODNESS in this evil degenerate world (well…at least compared to THOSE mainline Protestant churches that are closing en mass as we sit here in church today!!)

    When I moved to the US, I thought of myself as an evangelical. Now I run from that label. Sad, isn’t it? But I just don’t want to be associated with the evangelicals here in America. They’re….not my kind of people =)

  • CeeQ

    I’d move to DC. I’ve always loved it in that area.

  • Aha wow, that’s the first parody of this mindset I’ve seen that actually manages to be over the top enough that I don’t know someone who already believes it – amazing. However, if he were to do something like that, yes, I can assure you, the reaction would be along the lines of “I knew it!” Sigh.

  • The Cricket

    No matter who is president the poor man will be tortured by one group through out their term(s). And they will have others who would defend them if they ate toddler brains. I’ve become completely indifferent to all presidents. The past three presidents have caused me to watch a lot of suffering in my state. And since I’m tired of watching ppl starve and miss THEIR holiday dinners I’ve just decided to ignore all presidents and help with whatever damage control there is in my region. I mean you can’t be mad the past and future presidents have a lot to take on nothing will ever be perfect.