Since 1953 members of the U.S. House and Senate have organized a "National Prayer Breakfast" for politicians and believers from many different denominations and faiths to set aside their differences in a testament to the power of prayer.
For the 2013 event, more than 3,000 guests from all over the United States and from around the world came together for fellowship, prayer, and the reading of scriptures as a reminder that we are all one people, equal in the eyes of the creator who made us all. The stated purpose of the breakfast, "to embrace and enhance the moral and spiritual fabric of our lives," is a noble one indeed, worthy of the attention of all the powerful and influential people who attended.
President Barack Obama had, of course his own thoughts on the subject. It was deeply moving to hear him speak so many times of humility, and the role it should play in the political life of the nation. At the risk of overlooking the log in my own eye in an effort to draw attention to the cinder in the president's, it was humbling indeed to hear him mention so many times the need for humility among the political class as the lack of it has been a hallmark of his presidency and of the congressional leadership of the members of his party.
Obama invited criticism in his remarks and, for his trouble he received it. It is unfortunate though that the principal takeaway for those who attended the breakfast or watched it on television is that the main speaker, Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the world famous Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions "schooled" the president on the issues of the day.
It is true that Dr. Carson made his views on a number of subjects, including healthcare, education, and the state of the nation known in his remarks but he spoke clearly as a man of faith with a strong record of accomplishments in service to his fellow man. Far more interesting, far more important than any differences he may have with the president on public policy matters—and again, it was clear from his remarks that some differences exist—is that an accomplished man of science, a healer who has studied the workings of the human body intently and has used the knowledge he has acquired to improve, even save the lives of children, is a believer in a just and merciful God.
It is hard to be a Christian in the public square. The conventional culture has made a popular pastime out of poking of fun at Christians, especially those who call themselves "evangelicals." The so-called "smart set," with apologies to H.L. Mencken, delights in finding hypocrisies, mistakes, and inconsistencies it can point out in its effort to prove that the faithful are misguided, that their works are misdirected, and that the whole matter of faith in God is both antiquated and ridiculous.
For Christians this is to be expected. The writer of the Gospel according to the Apostle John cites Jesus as saying on more than one occasion that those who believe in Him will be persecuted for His sake. Nevertheless it has become quite popular in the dominant American culture to assert that the relationship between science—based upon demonstrable, provable, testable fact—and faith as defined as the belief that the universe in fact has an author and a creator who remains sovereign and who knows us and interacts with us on a daily, even hourly basis—is an inharmonious one. The two cannot exist, say those who purport to know best, side by side; one is based in fact, the other on fantasy.
It is therefore refreshing to see, in a national forum attended by leaders from around the world including the president of the United States that a man clearly defined as being "of science" is also a man of faith. This may be the true takeaway from the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, the thing that people should really be talking about. That science and faith can exist together in harmony and, to believers, indeed must.