White House Easter Prayer Breakfast Gets Benediction By Gay Bishop

This morning, Twitter was all atwitter after Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly bishop in the Episcopal Church, tweeted that President Obama asked him to give an impromptu benediction at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast.

“OMG!” Robinson tweeted.

The breakfast, an annual event, is attended by Christian leaders and clergy, some of whom do not support LGBT rights.

Robinson gave a prayer at a concert at Obama’s 2009 inauguration, tapped after the outcry over Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation.

It’s only been six years since Obama felt all squirmy talking about marriage equality, filling a perceived need to placate religious conservatives.

Ed Kilgore reminds us how some GOP presidential hopeful are flummoxed by the nation’s mind-bendingly rapid transformation on marriage equality, and feel the need to condemn Obama over it. Kilgore notes that Mike Huckabee recently said:

[M]y question that I would love to pose to the president is this: Mr. President, please explain that when you said in 2008 at the Saddleback Church forum that you stood for traditional marriage and you did so because you were a Christian and because it’s what the Bible taught, please answer: Were you lying then, are you lying now, or did the Bible get rewritten?”

Kilgore checked the transcript and found that Obama actually said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian … it’s also a sacred union. You know, God’s in the mix.” But Obama did oppose Proposition 8, which at the time Warren urged his followers to support.

But Warren claimed, after the forum, that when he asked the candidates about marriage, Obama and John McCain “both said the same thing. It is the universal, historic definition of marriage, one man and one woman, for life. And every culture for 5,000 years and every religion for 5,000 years has said the definition of marriage is between one man and a woman.” Which of course is not what Obama said, precisely, but what he did say will stand as an artifact of a moment in history when he (and other Democrats) were too afraid to articulate a stance for marriage equality.

“[W]hen we think about our faith,” Obama finally said when he endorsed marriage equality four years later, “the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

It would be too facile to claim this was what Obama was thinking about when he asked Robinson to lead the group in an Easter prayer in this morning. Obama is a political animal, and for all the religious talk, the Easter Prayer Breakfast is a political event. But as political statements go, this one was very clear.

[This post has been corrected to reflect Robinson's role in Obama's first inaugural.]

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email

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