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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prayer, the Presidency, and American Politics

Previous posts have looked at White House aide Joshua DuBois, the role of prayer in the White House and presidential references to the Bible. At National Journal, George Condon reports on an interview with DuBois:
By 6:30 most mornings, Joshua DuBois, the 28-year-old minister who is director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, has sent a devotional to President Obama’s BlackBerry to help Obama start his day. DuBois staunchly protects the privacy of what he includes in those messages and is reluctant to talk about praying by speakerphone with Obama or arranging for pastors to pray with the president. But he fills a void for Obama, who hasn’t had a personal pastor in the three years since the campaign controversy that engulfed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago. DuBois is clearly someone the president is comfortable with; he has been in Obama’s orbit since he joined the then-senator’s staff six years ago.


NJ The burdens of the office tend to drive every president to prayer. With your up-close view, how essential do you think spirituality is to a president?

DuBOIS I can say without hesitation that the president’s Christian walk is one of the most important parts of his life. It’s a sustaining force for him, and I imagine personal faith was a critical aspect of the lives of previous presidents, as well. I would suggest [that] folks read the remarks he gave at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast—he talked in great detail about this issue there.

Skeptics might dismiss the remark as a subordinate's lavish praise of his boss. But what's significant here is that the White House even employs such a person and that he feels the need to stress the president's religious faith. It would be hard to find comparable examples in other large industrial democracies. In Canada, for instance, one recent article refers to "the taboo subject of religion in Canadian politics."