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.