Religion and politics have in many ways become intrinsically entwined in America these days, from conservative candidates trying to win the praise of the evangelical right to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops making policy pushes on health care and birth control issues.
From Passover to Easter, this is one of the largest weeks of Judeo-Christian celebration in the nation, and the administration, too, is staying highly involved, taking advantage of the timing to extend outreach to religious communities beyond just the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.
The White House began with a Passover Seder on Monday, inviting family and staff to come together for a semi-traditional Jewish meal. The New York Times reports:
According to the White House, the Seder was not strictly kosher, but could be considered kosher-style. Most of the food was prepared in the kitchen there from family recipes provided by the president’s staff. The menu included chicken soup with matzoh balls, braised beef brisket, potato kugel, carrot soufflé and matzoh chocolate cake.
And just as in the first year, for its prayers and readings the group used a Maxwell House Haggadah, the booklet retelling the Exodus story that the coffee-maker has provided for nearly 80 years.
Today, the President held his annual Easter breakfast, inviting over 100 leaders of the Christian faith to attend for a morning of prayers and hymns. According to Politico:
President Barack Obama Tuesday morning continues a Holy Week tradition that has helped him develop relationships with some of America’s most high-profile Christian leaders — an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.
More than 100 Christian leaders of different denominations and political persuasions are expected, according to a White House official.
The aim, said the official, is simply to “honor the Resurrection.”
But the gathering, the first of which took place last Easter, also allows a president whose faith is at times questioned the opportunity to worship with an array of bold-faced names in the Christian community.
Among Tuesday’s attendees: Texas-based evangelist T.D. Jakes, National Association of Evangelicals president and Tim Pawlenty’s pastor Leith Anderson, Presbyterian pastor and author Tim Keller, Disciples of Christ president Sharon Watkins, and Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox church in America.
At today’s breakfast, the President remarked that it was the struggles of Jesus that helps him keep political squabbles “in perspective.”
Hosting an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House for the second straight year, Obama said his own plate’s been full lately, and critical national debates are raging. But when it comes to understanding what’s truly important, “Nothing beats Scripture and the reminder of the Eternal.”
Although the president will be traveling to promote his 2012 budget plan and discuss the economy, he will be back at the White House in plenty of time for Monday’s annual Easter Egg Roll, a tradition now over 130 years old.