Wednesday, May 13, 2015

President Obama Speaks Out On Poverty At Catholic-Evangelical Panel Discussion

As reported by Religion News Service, President Obama yesterday engaged in a fascinating 75-minute panel discussion at Georgetown University's Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty.  Labeled "Conversation on Poverty" (full text), the panel, moderated by journalist E.J.Dionne, also included Harvard professor Robert Putnam and American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks. The President said in part:
I think it would be powerful for our faith-based organizations to speak out on this in a more forceful fashion. 
This may sound self-interested because there have been -- these are areas where I agree with the evangelical community and faith-based groups, and then there are issues where we have had disagreements around reproductive issues, or same-sex marriage, or what have you.  And so maybe it appears advantageous for me to want to focus on these issues of poverty, and not as much on these other issues....
There is great caring and great concern, but when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you're talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that this is oftentimes viewed as a “nice to have” relative to an issue like abortion.  That's not across the board, but there sometimes has been that view, and certainly that's how it’s perceived in our political circles....
And there’s noise out there, and there’s arguments, and there’s contention.  And so people withdraw and they restrict themselves to, what can I do in my church, or what can I do in my community?  And that's important.  But our faith-based groups I think have the capacity to frame this -- and nobody has shown that better than Pope Francis, who I think has been transformative just through the sincerity and insistence that he’s had that this is vital to who we are.  This is vital to following what Jesus Christ, our Savior, talked about.