by L.D. Breen
The media and the blogosphere are abuzz with dumbfounded reactions to the White House’s snub of Christians during the weekend. No presidential proclamation celebrating Christianity’s highest holy day of Easter was issued, compounded by the White House chief spokesman’s scoffing response to reporters’ questions about the omission.
As Fox News noted on Monday, “By comparison, the White House has released statements recognizing the observance of major Muslim holidays and released statements in 2010 on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj, and Eid-ul-Adha.” On top of neglecting Easter, the president “also failed to release a statement marking Good Friday.” The White House did, however, “release an eight-paragraph statement heralding Earth Day,” which fell on Good Friday.
What’s more, on March 20, President Barack Obama even videotaped an “important message” that was more than four minutes long commemorating Nowruz, the Persian New Year that Iranians celebrate. In it, the president said, “You — the young people of Iran — carry within you both the ancient greatness of Persian civilization, and the power to forge a country that is responsive to your aspirations.”
He spoke to Iranians the way other presidents have spoken only to Americans, assuring them that, “though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you.”
When asked about the conspicuous absence of an Easter statement from the president during Monday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney adopted a smirking demeanor.
“You know, the president went to the church yesterday,” he said. “It was well covered. I’m not sure if we put out a statement or not, but he obviously personally celebrated Easter with his family and went to church to celebrate that.”
“Wait a minute,” one reporter interrupted. “The highest Christian holiday and you don’t know if he put out a statement?”
Another reporter immediately chimed in, saying, “Jay, come on,” provoking laughter among other reporters in the briefing room.
Carney trivialized their queries, sarcastically responding, “I’m glad you’re asking these key, important questions, guys.” Carney assured them that President Obama is “a devoted Christian” who “believes it’s a very important holiday for him personally, for his family and for Christians around the country.”
But, as Barack Obama made no bones about admitting in his 2006 memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” the secularism of his mother, father, and stepfather led him during his younger days to be far from a devoted Christian when it came to Easter.
“On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites,” Obama remembered. “But I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part — no introspective exertion or self-flagellation.”
Soon after that passage, Obama noted his mother’s now well-known skepticism and hostility toward religion. “Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways — and not necessarily the best way — that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives,” Obama wrote.
The future president told of the religious relativism that pervaded the environment in which he was raised. “In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.”
Obama added that “although my father had been raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed atheist, thinking religion to be so much superstition, like the mumbo-jumbo of witch doctors that he had witnessed in the Kenyan villages of his youth.” Obama’s Indonesian stepfather was, similarly, “a man who saw religion as not particularly useful” in life.
The president did mention Easter in his most recent weekly address, but only to note that “This is a time of year when people get together with family and friends to observe Passover and to celebrate Easter” and “to give thanks for our blessings and reaffirm our faith, while spending time with the people we love.”
A year ago, Obama was criticized for issuing an all-inclusive greeting that did not salute Christians exclusively but mentioned Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and even non-believers. “All of us are striving to make a way in this world,” the president said at Eastertime in 2010, “to build a purposeful and fulfilling life in the fleeting time we have here.” He called such sentiments “aspirations at the heart of Judaism, at the heart of Christianity, at the heart of all the world’s great religions.”