Jewish Journal

Obama grounds financial reform in ‘love thy neighbor’ at National Prayer Breakfast

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 2, 2012 | 9:43 am

Barack Obama and Leader Nancy Pelosi at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Feb. 2. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning—and not the People’s Prayer Breakfast—President Obama grounded his push for financial reform in the Bible. Specifically, Obama said:

And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’

Obama followed that up with an ecumenical tip of the hat—“I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs — from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato”—but it was still interesting to hear Obama putting such emphasis on biblical values in encouraging through and signing in the Dodd-Frank Act. And he didn’t stop there.

Now you’d expect Obama to be a bit more effusive about his Christian beliefs at the National Prayer Breakfast. And you wouldn’t simply be a cynic to point out that it’s campaign season and Obama needs to grab some of those moderate Christian voters, particularly evangelicals, who don’t know what to do with the GOP candidates.

But there seems to me a good deal of sincerity here. Much as questions about his faith have haunted Obama, this is not the first time he’s spoken openly about how Christian values have influenced his politics. In doing so, he comes off as a pretty run-of-the-mill liberal Christian. Which probably isn’t far off.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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