The president has quietly collected a handful of pastors to meet with him on the phone for private prayer sessions and for discussions on the role of religion in politics. Three are black. Two are white. All of them are men.
Their names are well known. They are all ministers with major religious followings.
The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., veteran of the civil rights movement, Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Baptist in Cleveland, Ohio and father of Rev. Otis Moss, III, the young man who succeeded Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright at Trinity UCC in Chicago. Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, both pastors with entrepreneurial savvy who pastor mega churches in Texas also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion. And Rev. Joel C. Hunter, former president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, pastors a Florida megachurch and is the author of the book “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians.”
Presidents have through the ages tapped pastors for spiritual support, policy advice and political cover. The Rev. Billy Graham was a counselor to at least five (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush).
The ordeal with his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright has probably made Obama skittish about the idea of trusting his soul (and reputation) to one pastor or of casting his lot with any particular church there in DC. Although many churches and pastor have been eager to get him and the First Family to visit and join their church, I’m from friends in the know there in DC. What a circus church services are likely to become if the First Family should show up. Forget about the crowds that gather whenever President and Michelle Obama step out at night for dinner at a restaurant. I guess setting up conference calls with his favorite pastors is the next best thing the president can do. Well, at least Obama is being spiritually counseled, I suppose. But what can of counseling can we expect him to get from these particular spiritual leaders? Moreover, we can only assume that the wife and children have come up with their own spiritual disciplines.
Too bad life as President means that you sometimes have to choose between God’s House and the White House. Yeah, yeah, yeah, God is everywhere. And one doesn’t have to attend church to find God and spiritual nourishment. Still I’m just saying…
I happen to believe that there is something special about belonging to a community of worshippers and regularly attending services with your family. Too bad the Obama girls won’t get to experience singing in the children’s and youth choirs. Too bad the family can’t attend Wednesday night bible study. Too bad they won’t know what it is to hear “amen” ring out from the pews during Sunday worship and not know what it is to stand up and clap when Usher Board #3 marches in in grand style on the Sunday of their anniversary service.
Still, the President has his own personal pastors. I guess that’s a good thing.