President Obama junked secular humanism Thursday and offered up by far the most overtly religious Christmas Tree Lighting remarks of his presidency, mentioning God and Christ for the first time during the annual ceremony and stressing Christian rather than “universal” themes.
While it’s possible Obama, who almost never attends church, has had some kind of religious awakening, the remarks are consistent with recent attempts by the president to appeal to white working class voters, many of whom are regular churchgoers.
Obama last month hosted a country music event at the White House and also dispatched Michelle to serve as Grand Marshal at a NASCAR race, though the move backfired when she was booed. And in what appeared to be an event staged to get media attention, she was also photographed on September 29 by an AP photographer at a Target, where middle America shops.
Working class white voters comprise crucial voting blocs in swing states Obama desperately wants to win, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Florida and Missouri.
In his remarks Thursday, Obama practically took to the pulpit, citing Christ by name twice and God four times.
Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us. And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
That teaching has come to encircle the globe. It has endured for generations. And today, it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it’s a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season.
So long as the gifts and the parties are happening, it’s important for us to keep in mind the central message of this season, and keep Christ’s words not only in our thoughts, but also in our deeds . . .
God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.
Last year, Obama’s remarks were devoid of religious imagery.
Each year we’ve come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia. It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians, but it’s a message that’s universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world.
It’s a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters.
In 2009, he portrayed Christianity as a “tradition” whose message could be embraced by all.
While this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal. It speaks to the hope we share as a people. And it represents a tradition that we celebrate as a country –- a tradition that has come to represent more than any one holiday or religion, but a season of brotherhood and generosity to our fellow citizens.
Recent reporting suggests that the Obama campaign has largely ceded the working class white vote to the Republicans and will focus instead on minimizing its losses with the group, which went heavily for Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections. Nevertheless, the Christmas Tree Lighting remarks and other events suggest Obama will make a serious play to salvage as much of the demographic as he can.