President Obama literally edited Christ out of his “holiday greeting” today when he excerpted a sermon given by a military chaplain on Iwo Jima on Easter Sunday 1945.
Below is the relevant paragraph from Obama’s holiday greeting today:
The rites of Passover, and the traditions of Easter, have been marked by people in every corner of the planet for thousands of years. They have been marked in times of peace, in times of upheaval, in times of war.
One such war-time service was held on the black sands of Iwo Jima more than sixty years ago. There, in the wake of some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, a chaplain rose to deliver an Easter sermon, consecrating the memory, he said “of American dead – Catholic, Protestant, Jew. Together,” he said, “they huddled in foxholes or crouched in the bloody sands…Together they practiced virtue, patriotism, love of country, love of you and of me.” The chaplain continued, “The heritage they have left us, the vision of a new world, [was] made possible by the common bond that united them…their only hope that this unity will endure.”
Their only hope that this unity will endure.
Now read below the same paragraph again, but this time note the additional bolded language that comes from the original audio of the 1945 sermon and its context, but which President Obama decided not to include:
There, in the wake of some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, a chaplain rose to deliver an Easter sermon, consecrating the memory, he said:
He has risen. With all due reverence, we apply these words to our beloved dead.
There are too many air call wings encrusted with the stain of their owners’ life blood, too many marine trousers upon the graves, too many symbols of American dead – Catholic, Protestant, Jew. Together,” he said, “they huddled in foxholes or crouched in the bloody sands under the fury of enemy guns here on Iwo Jima. Together they practiced virtue, patriotism, love of country, love of you and of me. Together they stand before the greatest soldier of them all – Jesus Christ, to receive the token of our triumph. For Christ has said: “Greater love than this no man hath then that he lay down his life for his friends.”
And so our beloved dead have gone from the world of hate to the world of eternal love.
The chaplain continued, “The heritage they have left us, the vision of a new world, [was] made possible by the common bond that united them in the drudgery of recruit training or here in the chaos of bursting shouts. Their only hope: that this unity will endure.”
And so our dead have risen to glory.
The American President is president of all the people, believers and non-believers alike. So when presidential messages are delivered to mark the special observances of major religious groups, it is understandable that a president will strive to provide some measure of explanation of how a particular religious observance honors values that all Americans can share.
But there are limits. A president cannot possibly hope to be a grand synthesizer of all religious traditions in the United States. Despite his skills, it is above President Obama’s pay grade to construct some kind of civic religion that stands above traditional religions and which should guide Americans going forward.
Instead of providing separate messages to Jews and Christians on the observance of Passover and Easter, President Obama said in this holiday greeting that “while we worship in different ways, we also remember the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all – Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike.”
Obama then went on to say that “on this Easter weekend, let us hold fast to those aspirations we hold in common as brothers and sisters, as members of the same family – the family of man.”
The problem is that when you start to water down what people actually believe in an attempt to construct a religion of the “family of man”, you start to misrepresent fundamentally the nature of the hope that is at the center of lives of believers.
In the case of Christians, Christ is our hope. Our hope is in the risen Christ, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
But if a president wants to water down religious beliefs in an attempt to find a synthesized religion of the ‘family of man’, you end up removing Christ from Easter, which is, strangely, exactly what President Obama did today in his Easter message.
Is this the first American president to dechristianize Easter?
Vince Haley is vice president for policy at American Solutions. The observations made herein are personal