President Obama and his family headed out to church this morning for the third time in a month, the latest sign that the president may be using religion to boost his image as the campaign heats up.
Obama has rarely gone to church since becoming president. But last month he and his family walked across Lafayette Park in front of the White House to attend services at St. John’s Church. They attended Christmas services at a Marine Base in Hawaii and today were at Zion Baptist Church in DC.
While it’s possible the trips to church a part of some kind of renewed personal religious commitment, they are also consistent with Obama’s increased use of religious imagery as part of his public profile.
During two recent annual events – the televised Christmas in Washington gala and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, Obama invoked specifically Christian themes he had shunned in the past.
The Christian narrative is appealing to a key demographic that fled Democrats en masse during the 2010 midterm election – white working class voters. Obama will need to bring as many members of this group back into the fold if he hopes to prevail in critical swing states like Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and other must-win states in the Midwest and the South.
The increasingly large doses of religion added to the Obamas’ public profile has been accompanied by other Average Joe-pleasing displays of middle class virtuousness, like Michelle shopping at Target or the president heading to Best Buy to purchase gifts for his daughters and to PetSmart to get a bone for the dog.
Here are a few details about today’s church trip, courtesy of the White House pool reporter on the scene.
The motorcade rolled out at 10:12am, arriving at 10:23 at Zion Baptist Church.
POTUS and family entered through side door, as choir sang a rousing rendition of “Lord, You Are Good.” Parishioners are on their feet, hands clapping. First family is standing in the second row of pews. POTUS is clapping and bouncing to the beat.
“Enlist sinners, educate students, empower the suffering, encourage the saints, exalt our Savior.” Acts 2:41-47 is enshrined, in metal lettering, on the wall below a huge cross at the front of the church.
Program books, titled “I have a dream,” have a picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on covers.
The program book has a plea for donations of “new and gently used warm blankets, sleeping bags, hand and feet warmers,” etc. for Occupy DC.
The Rev. Keith W. Byrd, Sr, is the pastor of Zion Baptist Church, located on Blagden Ave., NW
POTUS and first family was acknowledged and saluted by the Rev. Byrd. Deacon Hendri Williams read from the Rev. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Collection baskets are being passed. POTUS places what looks look a whit envelope in the basket.
Pool is sitting in a balcony at the back of the church. It’s a beautiful church. Stained glass windows. A-type vaulted ceilings, of planked wood, with massive wooden trusses.