For those of you looking for real time tweets on @kingdomtweets from the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, I apologize.
My guess is the Secret Service disrupted digital data communications for security reasons, as I could not access Twitter or even send a text, even though I had five bars (which is a rare occurrence for an AT&T customer).
This was my first NPB, and I expected a universalist-leaning, civil religion-promoting sterile affair. What I experienced was something very different.
Each speaker offered something inspiring or God-honoring. The former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi read from 2 Chronicles 1:8-12 and spoke of how true wisdom is birthed out of humility. It was as insightful a reading of this passage as I’ve ever heard from any preacher.
The highlight of the event though was the keynote speaker, Eric Metaxes, author of the New York Times bestseller, Bonhoeffer. Metaxes’s speech was perhaps the single best speech I’ve ever heard in person. You can see it here.
Metaxes first plied us with humor, and he is very funny. He then slipped inconspicuously into his theme: that there is a difference between phony religiosity and knowing Jesus. Jesus helps those who know Him to see things we, as fallen humans, can’t or aren’t willing to see. Metaxes cited William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as examples. Wilberforce helped put and end to slavery in the British Empire and Bonhoeffer opposed the Nazis when most Germans just went along with them.
Each person who had spoken before President Obama had avoided partisan politics. Even Metaxes’s comments about abortion were challenging without being political. But President Obama’s remarks sounded like a stump speech and they politicized an event that to that point had truly honored Jesus. For example, President Obama suggested if you were a Christian you should be for higher taxes and bigger government.
Contrast this with Metaxes. Metaxes credited Christianity for moving Western civilization to a consensus about caring for the poor, even though, he magnanimously noted, good people can disagree about whether that burden should fall on the government or the individual. Consequently, Metaxes inspired the Christians who were there; President Obama divided them.
I offer all this without a comment on whether President Obama’s political beliefs are correct. It didn’t matter. He could have said Christians should be for less taxes and government and it would have been just as imprudent.
All in all though, the NPB was a wonderful experience, and I hope to attend in the future. GS