First, it provided the opportunity to thank President Obama personally for the kindness he and his staff have shown me since 2007. It took amazing moral courage to get the Affordable Care Act passed. The Iran Deal moved us off the path toward another war in Middle East. Saying thank you in person was important and this could be my last chance before President Obama leaves office.
It also gave a chance to see many friends - both White House staffers and religious leaders - who I've come to know and care about. There was a sense of nostalgia today. The president said so in his remarks. This will be his last Easter in The White House.
I was able to briefly share with Vice-President Biden my support for his cancer "moonshot." I'm a cancer survivor. But the wound of my mother's death from cancer is still raw. He understands this as well as anyone. We also got a few seconds to talk about our friend Les AuCoin.
Other conversations were just as important. I spoke with a senior State Department official about my hope that the president take a resolution before the United Nations outlining a path toward peace between Israel and Palestine. It was an opportunity for me to share my belief - shared widely - that the Palestinian people need hope and relief from suffering. Nothing justifies terrorism. I strongly support the right of Israel to exist. But I also strongly believe the human rights of the Palestinian people are not being met.
Many conversations dealt with the ugly rhetoric of this campaign season. If you're thinking that those gathered were a bunch of progressive Christians, well, you'd be wrong. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, some of them conservative, were in attendance. They were just as upset as me regarding the Islamaphobia and misogyny evidenced in this campaign. As religious leaders, I think we are all struggling within our own contexts with how to best offer a prophetic word this election year.
President Obama said this morning:
...in light of recent events, this gathering takes on more meaning. Around the world, we have seen horrific acts of terrorism, most recently Brussels, as well as what happened in Pakistan -- innocent families, mostly women and children, Christians and Muslims. And so our prayers are with the victims, their families, the survivors of these cowardly attacks.
And as Joe mentioned, these attacks can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us, or pray exactly as we do. And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are most in need of help and refuge. That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith, to weaken our best impulses, our better angels.
And Pastor preached on this this weekend, and I know all of you did, too, as I suspect, or in your own quiet ways were reminded if Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid.
Bringing light to dark places. That has always been a central understanding of what it means for me to be a Christian.
So I talked with faith leaders today working to assist refugees. I talked with faith leaders working to combat climate change. I talked with faith leaders working for civil rights and police accountability. I talked with people who disagree with me on important theological and social issues and asked where we could find common ground and work together. You better believe I invited all of these people to visit Pacific University.
Yes, it was worth the trip. I'm a little bit tired typing this out on my iPad while flying back to Portland (a very first world problem to have) but my own hope is restored after breaking bread this morning with a group of faithful Americans who, like President Obama, are trying in difficult and conflicting times to bring light to dark places.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad