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April 29, 2011

Are White House Easter Controversies Just Rotten Eggs?

A few conservative activists accuse Obama of intentionally ignoring Easter, while others are taking issue with his choice of church. Last week, President Obama hosted the second annual Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. On Easter, President and his family attended Easter services at historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. Monday featured the annual White House Easter Roll. But in today's political climate, even Easter can be controversial.

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When a member of the White House press corp asked on Monday why the president did not issue an Easter proclamation, Jay Carney said that Obama and his family went to church to celebrate Easter, but he was unsure if a proclamation was sent out.

For the American Family Association (AFA) the lack of an official proclamation was “an intentional act of disrespect.”  The AFA said he ignored Easter, but “he has released statements in honor of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha, holidays which most Americans cannot pronounce and certainly do not celebrate.” The AFA encouraged people to send an e-mail to the president over the issue.

The lack of proclamation was featured in a Fox News story that was subsequently picked up by the  Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which referenced it on Twitter: “The White House failed to release a statement recognizing the national observance of #Easter or Good Friday. http://ow.ly/4Hoo8 @foxnews"

While the White House did not issue a proclamation, it did host an Easter prayer breakfast April 19 with around 130 Christian leaders in attendance. Obama initiated the prayer breakfast last year.  In his remarks at the breakfast, Obama explained the purpose for the breakfast and the importance of Easter:

"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," Obama said. "…And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection."

The Family Research Council FRC noted that the group of clergy included clergy from “non-traditional groups, among them clergy from homosexual and pro-homosexual denominations, one considered a forerunner in shaping homosexual theology.” 

In a very different take on the breakfast, ThinkProgress.com criticized the breakfast for featuring two prominent “anti-LGBT pastors,” Bishop T.D. Jakes and Pastor Tim Keller, who “preach that homosexuality is among the sins for which individuals should seek repentance.”

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Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity have each featured stories on the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church where the president and his family attended Easter services. The pastor of the church is Rev. Wallace Smith, who is Dean of the Smith School of Christian Ministries at the Palmer Theological Seminary, the seminary of Eastern University.

The Fox hosts focused on statements Smith made around Martin Luther King Day last year at Eastern University when Smith was asked to speak on the topic of racism. Hannity compared Smith to Obama's long-time pastor in Chicago Jeremiah Wright. Since the broadcasts on Fox, Shiloh Baptist Church has received threatening phone calls and emails, the Washington Post reported.

Obama is not the first president to go to worship at the church; Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have also attended the church.

Both the church and its pastor have been generally viewed as positive in the past. For example, in May 2006, First Lady Laura Bush went to the church. Shiloh was helping helping seniors sign up for Medicare prescription drug plans.

“I want to thank Reverend Smith from the Shiloh Baptist Church here. Shiloh is one of the most distinguished churches in Washington, one of the oldest African American churches, and it's a church that's always had a ministry into the community,” Bush said.

Images: (1) President Barack Obama, T.D. Jakes, (behind the President) and others stand and applaud Wintley Phipps at the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the East Room of the White House April 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(2) President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha attend Easter church service at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Sunday, April 24, 2011.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Comments

Has any president issued an Easter Proclamation?

Sometimes I'm ashamed to be a conservative.

Mountains out of molehills.

Go tell someone about Jesus, and stop splitting Obama hairs.

even worse: sometimes i'm ashamed of my fellow christians.

Fox showed a video clip of the Shiloh pastor's speech in question. The gist: Jim Crow and the KKK mentality are alive today but wear better clothes and hide behind talk radio. The obvious intent was to foment racial antagonism. To hear the pastor, one would think there had been no progress in race relations during the past 100 years. What I hear on talk radio is very different from what I heard in conversations 60 years ago.

Obama has managed to give a speech for every moslim holiday, and yes, other Presidents certainly did give Easter speeches, it's easy enough to google.

It seems that the churches the Obama's attend are more political than biblical. It's too bad they didn't talk about the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior on Easter Sunday.

Barbara, how do you know that "the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior" was not preched about at the church the Obamas attended on Easter Sunday? Where you there? Did you hear the entire sermon? Witness the entire worship service? Besides that, did you see and listen to the Easter reflection Obama himself gave at the White House during Holy Week at the Easter Prayer Breakfast? So easy to make snap judgments in ignorance.

Correction: "preached" (not typo "preched"; sorry 'bout that).

QUOTE: For the American Family Association (AFA) the lack of an official proclamation was “an intentional act of disrespect.”

Always have to be the victim don't they!

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Peterson's view, that we should not..."split hairs" on issues pertaining to our leaders ideas. Let me go further by saying, I think we do serious damage to the cause of Christ, by now holding ALL our leaders morally, ethically and yes, even socially accountable. Our inattentiveness to such matters belies a lethargy and lack of spiritual perception and discipline which not only stregthens our internal beliefs, but codifies them in our society! Such lack of attention, as was displayed by an earlier generation, allowed on women, who was highly motivated, to push for, and achieve her goal, of removing prayer from schools. The evolution of that plan, is seen in our culture widely today. The cloth was considered an honorable and noteworthy profession, those who engaged in that service were esteemed and highly regarded, today they are viewed with distain. Christianity, and pursuit of the Golden rule where things to be pursued, now they are scorned and a joke. The name of God was reverenced and lauded, now it is another curse phrase. Jesus taught that salt was good. I do not have time to go into all the properties of salt which bring healing, and cleans putrified flesh. It in application to a festering wound not only heals, but purifies. With that come pain. Jesus said, it is good, but if it has lost those essential traits which bring healing and cleasing, it is good for nothing, worthless, and only good enough to be thrown out and used as a footpath. So it is, with believers who do not question our leaders actions.

1 Timothy 2 urges prayers--not just prayers but supplications, intercessions and thanksgivings--should be made for people in high positions. Not just on account of their work, which is surely difficult, but also so that their citizens may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

One important correllary to the story about Rev. Smith himself is the reaction that Shiloh Baptist Church received on account of negative news coverage on their pastor: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/shiloh-baptist-church-receives-threats-after-comments-from-sean-hannity/2011/04/27/AFLSKi5E_story.html.

I think it's fair to say that sending a church faxes with images of monkeys in cross hairs is no way to promote godliness and dignity. And while I don't know the religious affiliations of all the people who made nasty calls or sent nasty faxes to Shiloh, I also think it's fair to say that if we were truly to pray for our political leaders, our church leaders, and our brothers and sisters in Christ (even the ones who live in politicized cities), that sort of thing would happen less frequently.