By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Facing a re-election bid and contending with a bitterly partisan Congress, President Obama spoke Wednesday at a White House Easter prayer breakfast about keeping faith in the face of doubt.
“I am not going to stand up here and give a sermon,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House, addressing an audience thick with Christian leaders. “It’s always a bad idea to give a sermon in front of professionals.”
But Obama proceeded to deliver a minisermon that centered on Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ expressed doubt and anguish on the eve of his crucifixion, appealing to God for a reprieve.
Obama said that Easter is an opportunity to appreciate “all that Christ endured — not just as a son of God, but as a human being,” according to a White House transcript.
“It is only because Jesus conquered his own anguish, conquered his fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection,” Obama said.
“We all have experiences that shake our faith,” Obama said later. “There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us, but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph.”
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion, and Easter, which falls this Sunday, marks his resurrection.
The pastors invited to the White House event include Joel Hunter, an evangelical from Florida; Roman Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who leads the Archdiocese of Washington; and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.