The head of the Southern Baptist Convention is asking President Barack Obama to reconsider attending a September 11 commemorative event at Washington National Cathedral. Why, you ask?
The planned observance of the 10th anniversary of America's worst terror attack will include the Bishop of Washington, a Hindu priest, a Buddhist nun, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician -- but not an evangelical Christian. This exclusion has caused SBC President Frank Page to call upon the president to reconsider his presence at the event.
Obama is slated to speak at a "secular" program on Sunday night. According to reports, five faith leaders are scheduled to deliver prayers, but these individuals have not yet been publicly identified.
Considering evangelical Christianity's influence in America, it's interesting that the event, entitled "A Call to Compassion," will exclude this large subset of the faith. According to Fox News, Page has voiced his frustrations:
“It’s not surprising. There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.
I think it would send a very strong and very positive signal to the left wing extremists in our country that the president ought not show up."
Christian leader Tony Perkins (head of the Family Research Council) reiterated these statements, also claiming that the exclusion is unacceptable:
“Three quarters of the American people identify as Christian and nearly a third of them are evangelical Christian. And yet, there is not a single evangelical on the program.
There’s no doubt that this is clearly politically correct. It is historically inaccurate that in times of need or mourning that Americans pray to the Hindu or Buddhist Gods or the God of Islam. America is overtly a Christian nation that prays to the Judeo-Christian God – and specifically to Jesus Christ.”
But the Cathedral claims that there is nothing sinister in its exclusion of evangelicals. Richard Weinberg, the director of communications for the Cathedral, claims that the goal was to have interfaith representation and that the church's own involvement balances the need for Christian representation:
“The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives.
We certainly aim to appeal to as many in the country as possible and feel that our events are not any one slice that could ever represent the entire country -- but that we are doing our best commemorate the events as it fits with our mission."
So far, no official response has come from the White House and all signs point to the president ignoring Page's plea. Regardless of intentions, this could create -- or further perpetuate -- the perception that the president is not sympathetic to evangelical causes and concerns.
That said, this event is private in nature and Obama has been invited as a guest. Considering that his administration doesn't have control over the guest list, perhaps most will simply blame the Cathedral (and not the president) for refusing -- at least until this point -- to include evangelical Christians in the commemorative mix.
(h/t Fox News)