On Easter Sunday, President Obama successfully concluded his long search for a new White House dog but made no progress in his simultaneous quest for a new church for his family.
Could the contrasting status regarding the First Family’s two most publicized private decisions indicate that the President actually cares more about canine companionship than religious commitment?
While the Obama girls welcomed Bo, the pure-bred and specially trained six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog, the Obamas attended Easter services at St. John’s Episcopal Church – the 200-year-old “Church of Presidents” across the street from the White House. Presidential staffers, however, indicated that the First Family hadn’t even come close to a final decision on a new spiritual home, after their mid-campaign repudiation of the long-time Chicago church where they worshipped with the bombastic, America-loathing pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Amazingly, their Easter visit to St. John’s represented their first participation in Christian services since the inauguration – a period of nearly twelve weeks. The White House press office noted that the President had spent several weekends at Camp David, and that the Presidential retreat contained a private chapel, so that he might have worshipped there privately with unannounced clerical visitors. In actuality, anyone who has noticed Mr. Obama’s eagerness to tout his own Christian credentials would doubt that any such service would have been conducted without publicity.
The President even made a point of grabbing press attention for his attendance at an impromptu “White House Seder” in which he celebrated Passover with some Jewish members of his staff. The absence of rabbis or religious scholars demonstrates the relative unimportance attached to this “ecumenical” event by the Obama team; if the President had desired a more substantive learning and sharing experience for Passover, he might have included any number of luminaries, Jewish and Christian, rather than limiting the experience to White House insiders like Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod.
In any event, the President has every right to continue to take his time in finding a new church, but his delay seems to contradict his self-description as a “devout Christian” in his books, speeches, and interviews (including the adoring Newsweek cover story, “The Faith of Barack Obama”). Spending the first three months of a presidency without attending church is hardly an indication of bad character, but it is a reflection (at the very least) of a lack of conventional piety.