President Barack Obama has been taking lumps from Republicans for years over his support for Wall Street and health care reform, but today at the National Prayer Breakfast he claimed support from on high to defend two of his most controversial legislative achievements.
"And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.'"
"I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs — from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato," Obama added.
The president said he often falls to his knees in prayer, and emphasized the role of his religious values in determining where to lead the country.
"I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends. So instead, I must try — imperfectly, but I must try — to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation."
Obama maintained that his call for the wealthiest to give up their tax breaks, he's doing so out of economic necessity, but also in line with biblical teachings.
"And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,'" Obama said, noting Jewish and Islamic teachings say much the same thing.
Obama also defended foreign aid from assault, noting that it not just enhances the nation's security — but fulfills the biblical requirement to look out for those who cannot speak for themselves.
"And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure. It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these — for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.
To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.'"