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.