Aide Shares the Bible Devotionals He Sent to President Obama Each Morning

Aide Shares the Bible Devotionals He Sent to President Obama Each Morning

c. 2013 Religion News Service

(RNS) President Obama may not attend church most Sundays, but a new book reveals the Bible verses and prayers that he reads every morning.

“The President’s Devotional,” released Tuesday (Oct. 22) by Pentecostal minister turned political aide Joshua DuBois, is a compilation of 365 of the more than 1,500 meditations DuBois has sent the president since he started working for him in the U.S. Senate.

DuBois, who left his White House post in February, spent his weekends reading and praying over what he would send to Obama’s Blackberry the next week. He drew from the words of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the songs of Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, and the activism of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

DuBois, 31, hopes the meditations “written for a Christian president” might appeal to people of diverse faiths.

“I think the ones that have been most useful to the president were those that focused on knowing God’s love for us, knowing how to love our neighbors and knowing how to start each day with peace and joy,” he said in an interview on Monday.

He continues to send devotional messages to Obama every morning, even though he is no longer director of Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In one of the dozen essays that introduce a month’s devotional readings, DuBois recalls how Obama took on a pastoral role as he talked with surviving family members of the 20 elementary schoolchildren killed in Newtown, Conn.

“There’s really no other way to describe his outreach other than ministry,” DuBois said of that day in December 2012. “In those dark times, I think he did his best to share the love of God with people who were just facing just a heart-wrenching tragedy.”

DuBois was on the receiving end of Obama’s personal touch when he learned in 2005 that his own father — who had been involved in an insurance scam — had died in prison.

At the time DuBois was the person who wrote letters to the senator’s Illinois constituents — “the lowest staffer on the totem pole” — but he nevertheless got a call to visit Obama’s office.

“For him to take the time to call me into his office and wrap his arms around me and talk to me about his own dad and give me some words of encouragement in that very difficult moment really showed me President Obama’s character,” DuBois said.

Before DuBois got engaged in May 2012, the president occasionally reminded his then-special assistant that he shouldn’t drag his feet on marriage. Privately and publicly — even in front of the dozen faith leaders gathered in the Oval Office to launch the advisory council to DuBois’ faith-based office — he’d ask, “You engaged yet?” DuBois said it was less badgering and more emphasizing the importance of lasting relationships.

“It took me a while to absorb that point but I finally did,” said DuBois, who married the former Michelle Duff-Mitchell on Sept. 1.

DuBois, who now runs the Values Partnerships consulting firm, also revealed that he disagreed with Obama and others in the administration on the controversial contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. He wrote that he argued “the government just can’t force religious organizations to pay for things they don’t believe in.”

When the White House carved out an exemption for some religious groups, DuBois said it showed the administration heard and understood the criticism.

“I think the White House over time really got it right and struck the right balance between religious liberty and protecting the rights of women,” he said.

Here are three of the meditations in “The President’s Devotional”:

May 25

Being Right

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. – 1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)

We can do anything today — and we’d probably be right.

Our statements are likely backed by unassailable facts and solid figures. Our postures toward those who have wronged us are probably justified. The judgment we cast on others is likely warranted, given their misdeeds.

But is being right . . . worth it? Once we’ve summited the mountain of our own correctness, what great prize will we receive?

Paul, echoed by the poet Maya Angelou, reminds us of what is most important. Not our correctness nor the exercise of our multitude of rights. Rather, what is most important is the impression we leave behind on our brothers and sisters, the edification that is left in our wake, and the echoes of our love.

Dear God, let me put first things first — not my own “rightness” but my love for you and for others. Amen.

November 17

Religion

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

– James 1:22 (NIV)

I would not so dishonour God as to lend my voice to perpetuate all the mad and foolish things which men have dared to say of Him. I believe that we may find in the Bible the highest and purest religion . . . most of all in the history of Him in whose name we all are called. His religion — not the Christian religion, but the religion of Christ — the poor man’s gospel; the message of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of love; and, oh, how gladly would I spend my life, in season and out of season, in preaching this! – James Anthony Froude, “The Nemesis of Faith”

We have to peel back the layers of religion to find Christ. When our churches, our pastors, our leaders point us toward Jesus, toward his word and his love, they deserve our full embrace.

But when we encounter religion and leave feeling less connected with Christ than when we began, we know something’s amiss. That’s when we must return to the basics: reading the Bible for ourselves, experiencing a prayerful communion with God, and engaging in gentle fellowship with other believers.

Religion is either an up-escalator to our Savior or a down-escalator to something else. When it goes up, let’s ride. When it goes down, let’s be sure to get off.

Jesus, be my religion. Help me find the support necessary to grow closer to you. Amen.

December 19

Withdraw and Pray

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  – Luke 5:15–16 (NIV)

We can’t give everyone all of us, all the time. Sometimes, like Jesus, we have to withdraw, and pray.

Leadership is not just physically straining; it taps our spirit too. When the water in the well has drawn low, we must be intentional about pressing pause in our public roles and finding quiet spaces in which we can be replenished. Jesus, after pouring himself out for the crowds, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” If we’re going to continue at maximum capacity and impact, we should regularly do the same.

Dear God, let me know when to engage and when to disconnect. Help me find my own “lonely places,” where I can go and pray. Amen.

Copyright 2013 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

The Fight to End “Stop and Frisk,” Will Bloomberg Win?

The Fight to End “Stop and Frisk,” Will Bloomberg Win?

End “Stop & Frisk” Rally

Even on his way out the door, Michael Bloomberg is still fighting for the right of New York City police to wantonly stop and frisk black and Hispanic youth police suspect may be committing a crime–whether they have independent reason to think so or not.

Recently, the city appealed a lower court judge’s decision to deny the city’s request to continue its controversial practice even though the judge, in August, found the policy unconstitutional. The city wanted to continue on until the case had made it up through the appellate courts.The controversy may also be at the heart of New York City’s upcoming mayoral election as well.

Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio was able to use once front-runner for the Democratic nomination Christine Quinn’s connection to outgoing three-term mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to eventually secure a win.

Furthermore, political watchers pointed out how much of de Blasio’s primary campaign seemed to be against the Bloomberg years. Core to his message was reversing the police Stop and Frisk policy, which Bloomberg has ardently defended and supported.

It all comes down to personal rights and crime.

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects Americans from unlawful search and seizure. However, the US Supreme Court in a 1968 case, Terry v. Ohio, interpreted that police officers have the right to question people they have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe were part of or are about to commit a crime. In the interest of safety of officers, the court said they could pat down a suspect to make sure they are not concealing a weapon that could be used against a questioning office. This became known as a “Terry Stop” or more commonly “ Stop and Frisk.”

During these pat downs, often times, police will usually not discover weapons, but rather illegal drugs or other items which would then form a basis to arrest the suspect. Without some independent evidence or other form of probable cause, officers usually cannot just randomly arrest citizens.

The law is still valid, but has been subject to abuse. Yet, critics of “Stop and Frisk” in New York city have said it was watered down and was being conducted casually, increasingly, and lasciviously without regard to people’s constitutional rights.

Over the past decade, New York Police significantly increased its stop and frisk rate. Between 2004 and 2009 police stopped 2.8 million people and Blacks were among 50% of those stopped. Latinos 30% and whites were merely 10% of that population.

In 2008, on behalf of four individuals, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class action complaint against the city. It argued that the practice violated the Fourth Amendment and officers had been using no independent or separate reasons to stop and frisk people but simply stopping black youth in inner city neighborhoods, wantonly, and without any attempt to follow the standard set up in the Terry case.

In May of 2012, a judge granted class action status. One of the plaintiffs, Lalit Clarkson, a 20-year old charter school teacher’s aid in the Bronx said, in 2006 he was coming from work when two officers stopped and searched him for drugs. “I think many folks in our community feel there is no accountability for when their rights are violated by the police,” Clarkson told the New York Times.

The city admitted that within the first 3 months of 2012 alone, it had stopped and frisked 200,000 people, mainly young black men. Bloomberg credited the substantial and exponential drop in crime in the city and the targeted neighborhoods on the practice and vowed to maintain it. But in August, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin agreed that the law indeed violates the Fourth Amendment, finding the Police Department resorted to a “policy of indirect racial profiling” as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers’ routinely stopping “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.”

The decision also stated that New York police were too quick to deem suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” she wrote.

In the 195-page opinion, (summarized here), the judge called for the federal government to oversee reforms of the system and asked that officers wear body cameras during patrols, noting also that she was not calling an end to the practice.

Bloomberg appealed the decision and said he wouldn’t ask his officers to change the practice overnight. “You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight,” Bloomberg said this August after the decision was handed down, adding that he hoped police would be allowed to continue their practice through the appeal process and the end of his term. “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.”

However, he had a slightly softer stance later when he admitted to a New Yorker reporter that if he had a son who routinely got stopped as young black men do, he may have had a change of heart.

It was another door opener for de Blasio who has a black wife and bi-racial son to connect more with the very diverse and Democratic residents of New York City. In a campaign ad, with his son in it, de Blasio refers to talking to his son about possibly getting stopped and frisked.

Bloomberg’s wish of hoping the practice continues until the end of his term got denied on September 17, when a judge denied his request to retain it until the case exhausts its appeal. He recently appealed it to the court of appeals.