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November 2, 2011

Obama Spokesman on Jobs: Bible Phrase Is 'The Lord Helps Those Who Helps Themselves'

President Barack Obama noted in speech today that the House ignored his jobs bill but passed legislation yesterday affirming that “In God We Trust” is the U.S. national motto.

“That’s not putting people back to work,” the president said in Virginia today. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”

As a follow-up to his speech, press secretary Jay Carney was asked by a reporter, “Isn’t it a bit much to bring God into the jobs debate?”

“Well, I believe the phrase from the Bible is, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves,’” Carney said at the White House daily news briefing. "And I think the point the President is making is that we should — we have it within our capacity to do the things to help the American people."

The White House noted later in the transcript "The Lord helps those who help themselves" is a "common phrase" and does not appear in the Bible. Many Christians cringe at the saying, suggesting that it diminishes the idea of grace. One's need for salvation rests on his or her dependence on God, evangelical theologians would likely argue.

Obama raised the issue of jobs when he met with members of the National Association of Evangelicals executive board last month. A source close to the president sent CT the following statement:

"The President was likely making the simple point that Congress should focus on helping those in need and putting people back to work; he’s done more to engage people of faith than any Democrat in recent memory. Those making hay out of this are just attempting to rile the faith community, they don’t genuinely think the Administration was being disrespectful."

The following includes a portion of the transcript (starting around minute 2 of the YouTube video):

Q Okay, and on the President’s speech today, he referenced the House action yesterday on the “In God We Trust” motto and said, “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.” I mean, isn’t it a bit much to bring God into the jobs debate?

Carney: Well, I believe the phrase from the Bible is, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” And I think the point the President is making is that we should — we have it within our capacity to do the things to help the American people. And that’s why he’s working so hard to get Congress to take action on the American Jobs Act and the provisions therein. And he — because he believes it’s in the interest of the American people that that action be taken and certainly believes that Americans who are unemployed, who are looking for work, deserve the attention of Washington, the attention of Congress as well as of the President in their policymaking decisions. It’s a number-one priority for him, getting the economy growing faster and getting the economy creating more jobs.

Now, he was obviously making this particular reference in the context of inaction by the House of Representatives, which has spent time on issues like commemorative Hall of Fame baseball coins and reaffirming a motto that I don’t think anyone doubted, which is that “In God We Trust” is our motto. So his point was simply that the House should get busy with matters of great importance to the United States and to the American people.


Sounds to me like an attempt by the Obama administration to pander to "those right wingers," you know, the people who "stand for God and personal responsibility". It's easy to get those mixed up together as one thing when you aren't reading your Bible carefully.

A friend once said her favorite Bible verse was, "God never promised you a rose garden." She couldn't remember where it was found.

Does anyone expect Biblical literacy from a member of the Obama administration?

He's shown every sign that he doesn't know the Bible, this is just another example. He certainly can pronounce the qaran correctly with the correct accent and I'm sure the muslim school he admits going to for 4-5 years while in Indonesia taught him more about the muslim faith than he knows about Christianity. Others will complain about this statement but they probably haven't heard his speeches or read his books.

Carney was wrong on two counts. The quote is "God helps those who help themselves.". It was written by Ben Franklin and first appeared in Poor Richard's Almanac. Published long after the Bible and long before Mr. Carney was born. Perhaps he could benefit from reading each.

To Kim:
I have both heard Obama's speeches and read his books and find little in either to merit such an ungracious put-down of his Christian faith. President Obama is an imperfect believer, as are both you and I and all of us for whom Christ died. Lest we forget the "more excellent way" of 1 Corinthians 13, we would do well to spend a little more time meditating on that chapter and less time looking pridefully down on others for their apparently inferior knowledge of scripture.

With all the swirl around Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and the sexual harrassment allegations, THIS is the story that CT politics focuses on? Heads in the sand....

Obama, why does it have to be either/or? Why can't we praise a productive Congress for protecting an important piece of history AND work on getting us jobs? Shaking my head.

Obama really, really does Not gives good Lip service to churchianity and church goers. Doesn't he?


Regarding the resolution sponsored by Randy Forbes: Which "God" is he referring to? Is the God being referred to in "In God We Trust" the same God that is being worshipped by Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other non-Christian faiths? Or is the God in "In God We Trust" only the Christian concept of God? If the Christians who support this resolution believe that "In God We Trust" is irrelevant to non-Christians, it seems to me that they feel Christianity takes legal precedence over all other religions in the U.S.. How can that be Constitutional?

As far as I can tell the "God" in In God we Trust must be Mammon. It is after all on our currency...and Wall St is his/her kingdom for sure!

Reflectimg on personal responsibility comment above and about evangelicals and grace in the article is a handsome juxtaposition between our real tensions between our faith and our politics.

What do we expect from Obama and his administration? Anyone who thinks Obama is a believer either has not paid attention to him, the Bible or both. He is a Marxist, plain and simple. That is his "Faith". And that is the direction he is trying to move this country.

I can't believe that someone like Jay Carney who has spent his whole life in the communications business, and a Harvard graduate like Obama could be so Biblically illiterate. Things like this you just can't fake. I continue to pray for the president.

Yes, admittedly an awkward briefing. I do not, however, see the reason for the affirmation since it has not ceased to be our motto since--what 1956?
I also continue to pray for our president.

Jesus died for the helpless--everyone who has sinned and fallen short of His glory. Paul says that's all of us. God helps those who seek His help. He doesn't force His will on anyone. He loves us, and desires everything good for us, but, again, He has given us free will and will not violate it. It is His will that we should help the poor, forgive our enemies, love one another. I can't do all those things without trusting Him for the consequences. Nor can I do them without His help and wisdom.

Can you please give me a few verses where it says that God gives us free will and that He will not violate it? It sounds like an important point, and I was wondering where the verses are that say we choose Him, and He will not violate our free will.

Jax, thank you for your kind response. Hebrews 11:6 says: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." I believe faith is a choice. Genesis 2:16--man created in God's image. 2:27--Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 3:1-24--God gave Adam choice; Eve listened to Satan's lie; Adam listened to Eve. We live with the consequences of those choices. 4:7--Cain chose to kill His brother. The rest of the Old Testament is the story of the choices men made and God's efforts to bring them to repentance and His judgments when they chose to ignore Him. When Jesus became a man He had the power of choice. He was tested in the wilderness, Matthew 4. He chose to do God's will all the way to the cross. See Philippians 2:1-11; Mark 14:3-6, Luke 22:42. After His resurrection Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, Mark 16:15-16. We have a choice. 2 Peter 3:9 states that God is not willing for any to perish. I deserve death. Through Jesus I can choose to live in faith and obedience. You can, too. This is Good News! I hope this helps.

“Freedom [or love] cannot be reduced to a sense of choice: it is a freedom to act fully. Such freedom must involve the transcendence of a sense of choice. For a sense of choice is a symptom of the disintergration of the will: the final union of knowledge and feeling would involve a man in the object of his choice in a way that any other alternative would be inconceivable” (Augustine of Hippo, Peter Brown, p. 376) We ought never to confuse having a sense of choice with having "free will."

So he made a mistake quoting the Bible. Big deal.

Many Christians I know quote the Bible perfectly, but have no idea how to apply what they've memorized. Love thy enemy, do not judge, whoever says, "you fool"...

Tell me, who commits the bigger sin?

the issue is not sin, cause the book does say all have come short, but the issue to me is disappointment in bible thumping lamely, in such a prosaic manner, with inexactitude, from a high place.

These comments indicate a high level of mean-spiritness now present in American Christians who have chosen to be diverted to secular politics instead of the Great Commission.

OK. So a spokesperson for the president made a mistake about a Bible verse. That makes the President a bad Christian? I believe, to use Scripture, that is "straining at gnats". (Full context: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:23–24)The weightier matters of the law are justice and mercy and faithfulness. Let us focus on the need for jobs, so that people will have the dignity of work (justice), rather than slogans. As James says, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" And let's show a little mercy to the poor spokesperson for making a mistake (parable of the ungrateful servant).

Bethany and Bennett, y'all said it all.
I can add: amen and amen

Thank you, Peter. I think I get your point. God chose to create the world. He chose to create man in His image. He chose to redeem all that He created through the willing sacrifice of His Son. He chooses to be true to His nature--Love, Righteousness, Justice--in spite of our disobedience When I choose to believe in Him I choose to believe in everything He is and to consistently live within the boundaries of that choice. I become a willing slave to everything God asks of me, including dying to all my selfish desires. As Paul said, "It is not I that lives, but Christ who lives in me." Is this what you mean?

Interesting title: "Obama spokesman...". Someone working for the president makes a mistake on a scriptural quote, and the first word in the title is "Obama". I wonder if, had a Bush staffer made a similar blunder, the corresponding CT article would have read "Bush spokesman...". Another example of evangelical media bias against president Obama.

What also never ceases to amaze me is the total ignorance of some evangelicals. Obama, a Marxist? His policies make Richard Nixon look like a liberal! For crying out loud, read Wiki or something on Marxism before you blurt out such nonsense.

I really don't have a problem with this. I'm sure all of us, at one time or another, has misquoted scripture. Some of us catch our mistake later; some of us never catch it. I'm more impressed that a spokesman of Obama caught the mistake than I am that a mistake was made in the first place. Someone was paying attention!

Before CT writes a political article about the Obama spokesman misquoting the Bible and posters critique the President's faith over what someone else's error, you should probably check the articles CT previously published on why many devout Christians are biblically illiterate:


Just sayin'