Obama: 'When I've Listened to Less Than Loving Expressions by Christians, I Get Concerned'

By Susan Jones | April 8, 2015 | 6:01am EDT

President Barack Obama speaks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) - "I am no preacher," President Barack Obama told an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House on Tuesday. "I can't tell anything to this crowd about Easter that you don't already know. I can offer just a couple of reflections very quickly before we begin the program."

Obama's final "reflection" was this: "On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I've listen to less-than-loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that's a topic for another day," he said.

"Where there is injustice -- I was about to veer off," he joked. (Laughter.) I'm pulling it back," he smiled.

"Where there is injustice, we defend the oppressed," he continued -- without mentioning the oppression and extermination of Christians in the Middle East, and most recently, in Kenya.

"Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God."

Immediately preceding his latest criticism of Christians, Obama quoted Pope Francis, saying the pope "encourages us to seek peace, serve the marginalized, and be good stewards of God's creation."

"I want to quote him," Obama said: "He says that we should strive 'to see the Lord in every excluded person who is thirsty, hungry, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith... imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper -- whether in body or soul -- who encounters discrimination.'

"Isn't that how Jesus lived?" Obama asked. "Isn't that how He loved? Embracing those who were different; serving the marginalized; humbling Himself to the last. This is the example that we are called to follow -- to love Him with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors -- all of our neighbors -- as ourselves."

President Obama is careful to avoid linking Islam with "radical extremism." But two months ago, he reminded people attending the National Prayer Breakfast that Christians also have committed atrocities.

"And lest we get on our high horse and think this (attacks in the name of Islam) is unique to some other place, remember that during the crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," the president said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about Obama's "less than loving" comment at Tuesday's White House briefing.

"Do you know what he was referring to, what he gets upset about?" a reporter asked Earnest.

"I don't," Earnest replied.

Later, another reporter asked what Obama was talking about -- "whether he meant the Religious Freedom Restoration Act."

"I did have the benefit of attending the breakfast today, too, and I don't think it was a big question that was hanging in the air," Earnest said. "I think it was something that drew a lot of laughter in the room, principally because people understand that, you know, in a room full of believers, there's still going to be people with pretty starkly different views.

"And in some cases, it means that those differences may provoke some people to fall short of even the expectations that they set for themselves, so they try to set a high standard for the way that they live their life, and the president acknowledged in his remarks that he was somebody who himself felt -- acknowledged that he fell short of that every day, too."

A reporter noted that Obama also "made some sort of controversial remarks about Christianity" at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.

"I'm not sure they were particularly -- I don't think I'd stipulate that they were controversial," Earnest said. "But just because people disagree with them doesn't mean that they're controversial inherently."

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