(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama said today at the National Prayer Breakfast that he has sought God's guidance in leading this nation and then lamented that there is “a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith” and that religious faith is “twisted and misused in the name of evil.”
"I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation,” said Obama.
“Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth," he said. "Our job is to be true to Him, His Word, and His Commandments."
“We are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion--any religion--for their own nihilistic ends,” he said.
At the breakfast, which was held at the Washington Hilton, Obama also called for people to “stand up for the dignity and value” of every child.
“And,” he said, “work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and ‘set the oppressed free.’”
Obama recalled a prayer he said had been a favorite of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
“She said, ‘Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength,’” said Obama. “I’ve wondered at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little too literally. But no matter the challenge, He has been there for all of us. He’s certainly strengthened me ‘with the power through his Spirit,’ as I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.”
Obama then noted that people often use an alleged religious to pursue evil.
“But part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we've seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil,” he said.
“As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another -- to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife,” he said.
“But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge -- or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” Among others, he gave as examples terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Paris, actions by ISIL, “sectarian war in Syria” and “the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.”
He also argued that people have “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” he said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
“There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith,” he said a moment later.
He called for those listening to speak up against those who “misuse His name”—particularly in “the taking of innocent lives."
"And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion--any religion--for their own nihilistic ends.”
Toward the end of his speech, the president repeatedly stressed the importance of protecting freedom of religion.
"And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom--freedom of religion--the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination,” he said.
The Founding Fathers, Obama said, “also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.”
Obama said the United States would protect the “freedom of religion.”
Obama spoke approvingly of “a suspicion of government getting between us and our faiths, or trying to dictate our faiths, or elevate one faith over another.”
“But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required: To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God,” he said.
“I pray that we will,” said Obama.