On Thursday, the President affirmed his decades-long commitment to Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast. The takeaway line? "My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years," he stated. "All the more so, when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time, we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we're being true to our conscience and true to our God."
But is there a particular reason the president is sharing this with us now? Here's how the message and timing of the speech were interpreted:
- Obama Is 'Clearly Laying the Groundwork' for 2012 and trying to "short circuit conservative critiques," writes Time's Michael Scherer. "It was a speech dripping with praise for American exceptionalism, and national optimism. In the same way, his prayer breakfast is clearly an attempt to claim his own Christianity, something he has tried to do in subtler ways before. Rather than Confucius or Islam, Obama mentioned T.D. Jakes and Joel Hunter. He was sending a signal to the Republican field: He will not allow others to define his own beliefs for him."
- A 'Christian Version' of the State of the Union, figures Politics Daily's David Gibson. "The White House denied that the president's remarks on Thursday were part of an orchestrated plan to put his faith before the public, and certainly Obama has spoken eloquently at times about his Christian convictions. But for security reasons, Obama, like most recent presidents, has not joined a church in Washington. He and his family have attended services a few times in recent months, however, and a number of his spiritual advisers have pushed him to recover the prophetic voice of his campaign days."
- The Focus on Prayer Was Reassuring for a Change, writes Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post. "Because we all do it, whether reflexively or reflectively. Obama prays for Egypt just as hundreds of people tweeted prayers for the imprisoned journalists. And although these prayers are directed to different destinations, it's worthwhile to get together once a year, before we return to the murky business of Doing, and acknowledge that, at all kinds of bizarre times and places, we look beyond ourselves to Something or Someone and ask if things can be straightened out, just this once."
- White House: Address Wasn't Meant to Clarify Religious Affiliation The Guardian's Richard Adams notes this, while still observing that the "speech today was laced with Biblical references in his most public affirmation of his faith." Obama's "frustration" came through when he said "My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time."