President Obama teased his critics in his Easter remarks as religious leaders gathered at the White House for a prayer breakfast Tuesday.
Obama noted the biblical call that Christians are called to love each other. But he said he sometimes hears “less-than-loving expressions by Christians.” He added, “but that’s a topic for another day,” to applause and some jeering and laughter, “I was about to veer off. I’m pulling it back.”
Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed, Obama said, getting back on message after laughter.
“Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect,” he said. “Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God.”
Vice President Biden introduced Obama at the breakfast, which has become a regular tradition under Obama’s administration.
“We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country,” Biden said. “We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better.”
Both men drew from the inspiration and words of Pope Francis in their remarks. Obama noted how the pope will visit the White House later this year, nodding to the pope’s call to serve “the least of these.”
“That’s the spirit we feel in the example of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who encourages us to seek peace, to serve the marginalized, and be good stewards of God’s creation,” he said. “Like millions of Americans, I’m honored that we will be welcoming him to our country later this year.”
Obama noted the death of iconic preacher and civil rights leader Gardner C. Taylor, who “used his spellbinding sermons to spread the gospel and open hearts and minds.”
“I am no preacher,” Obama told his guests. “I can’t tell anything to this crowd about Easter that you don’t already know.”
Obama spoke of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday,” he said. “The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Savior.”
During his remarks, Obama also joked about whether his guests had enough to eat.
“Sometimes prayer breakfasts are advertised and you get there and there’s a little muffin, a couple of berries,” Obama said. “And though your soul may be nourished, you leave hungry, and I hope that’s not happening here.”
He also asked for prayer for his family as he goes on college visits.
“I start tearing up during the middle of the day and can’t explain it,” he said. “Why am I so sad?”
Music artist Amy Grant, popular in the ’80s and ’90s, sang her song “Thy Word.” On Facebook, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore noted that they shared the same flight. “So I am on this flight with Amy Grant, who Maria Hanna Moore knows was my middle school/high school crush,” he wrote, tagging his wife on a status update.
Amy Butler, who is now the senior minister of Riverside Church in New York, offered a prayer.
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