The Prayer Breakfast and a President Who Feels Our Pain
The president's promise to end discrimination against 'religious institutions' is greeted with an ovation.
People of faith from all across America gathered in the nation's capital this week for the 49th annual National Prayer Breakfast. This year's meeting was undergirded by a powerful sense of excitement and expectation.
People were clearly energized and excited by their new Methodist president and his unapologetic testimony to the role his Christian faith plays in his life. Based on comments and conversations overheard among attendees, President Bush's inaugural address, suffused with religious themes, resonated deeply with many people and further heightened their expectation.
Meanwhile, officials were taken aback by the demand for tickets to the event. This year's prayer breakfast was attended by approximately 4,900 people, up from 3,200 last year. Two auxiliary ballrooms were needed to handle the crowd, which included officials from 170 nations as well as numerous members of Congress and the executive branch of the government.
And the faithful were not disappointed. Both Democrat and Republican members of Congress briefly testified to the tremendous solace they received from attending weekly prayer breakfasts held in the Senate and the House of Representatives. I suspect most Americans, whatever their faith convictions, would be encouraged to hear our nation's leaders describe the impact these weekly gatherings have had on their lives.
Deeply religious Americans believe that they now finally have a president who actually feels "our" pain--the pain of being discriminated against, caricatured, and mocked by social, cultural, and media elites, who, as Stephen Carter argues in "The Culture of Disbelief," relentlessly seek to marginalize and segregate Americans' religious faith from society and the nation's public policy.
Sen. Bill Frist, R-TN, a heart-transplant surgeon before he entered the Senate, spoke movingly at the breakfast of the role faith has played in his medical and public service careers. He concluded with a humbling story of his medical missions work with Samaritan's Purse in Sudan. He recalled an encounter with a Sudanese Christian who had lost his family and part of his arm and leg to the barbarous war being waged against him and his fellow Christians by the Sudanese government.