Thoughts on Praying for the President

Gael, left a comment on my brief post asking God’s blessing on President-elect Obama. You can read the comment here.

I’m assuming his comments above are meant to be humorous. Though given the heat of the recently finished presidential election campaign, it is understandable that they are not.

If they are not, I should point out that praying for the President as the servant of God is taken from the Orthodox Christian invocation asking God to bless someone that is used at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

Whether one agrees with his policies or not, whether his policies are compatible with the Gospel or not, Orthodox Christians–indeed Christians of any tradition–are required by God to pray for civil authorities.

And yes, President-elect Obama is God’s servant. He may or may not understand himself as such and if he does he may or may not understand rightly, much less act rightly upon, what is required of him–but he is still God’s servant as our we all.

That said, some of his policies (I’m thinking particularly about his support of abortion and stem cell research) are evil and within the realm of what I can do I will oppose them. Let me go further, I would hope that all Orthodox Christians–indeed all Christians–would oppose Mr Obama’s policies on abortion and stem cell research.

Are there other policies with which I disagree? As a priest, I feel myself obligated by my office to limit my public political comments to only those things about which the Orthodox Church has spoken clearly. This means that in the realm of what is often called prudential matters–economics, or the general range of domestic or foreign policy matters–though I have my own view, but I remain silent about them.

Senator Obama has been elected the 44th President of the United States. Insofar as I or any of us can do so in good conscience and without violating the teaching of the Church, we should support the new administration at the very least with our prayers. Are there policy areas in which Orthodox Christians are bound to oppose the new administration? Yes certainly (particularly in matters of abortion and stem cell research) and again at a minimum with our prayers.

Finally, as for some of the rhetoric used by Mr Obama and his support–yes it often sounds messianic, but then American political rhetoric often does. And why are we suprised? Americans are, fundamentally, a religious people. Our nation was founded on an ideal drawn as much or more from Christianity as from any Enlightenment philosophical speculations.

Where I think the fault line lies in American politics is not between those who use and those who do not use religious rhetoric–but between those whose use of it I agree with and those whose use of it I find objectionable.

Let me go further, I do not object to the use of religious rhetoric by Mr Obama and his supporters–I welcome it as I did when it was used to such good effect by President Reagan. For all that it has become unfashionable, even among Christians, to do so it is important to remember that we are all of us called by God to fulfill certain roles in life. No the objection I have is not to the use of religious rhetoric by either the left or the right. It is rather to our unwillingness as a nation to take seriously the implications of that rhetoric–and again this is a problem I see on both the left and the right.

So God grant His servant President-elect Obama many years and may He also grant him, the wisdom need to govern and through his administration peace and prosperty to the people of the United States so that we may excel in every good work.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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