Churches within just walking distance of the White House are offering a welcome mat to the new incoming presidential family. One of the closest is St. John's Church, an Episcopal church that is often referred to as the "church of the presidents" because so many first families have chosen this church so close to the White House laying just over Lafayette Square right near the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home of the presidents. President James Madison was the first of a long line of presidents to choose this church to worship in and to seek guidance from God in governing the nation.
But also surprisingly, many presidents have also chosen not to attend regular church services as well for either personal or security reasons. Despite his appeal to many Christian conservatives, President George W. Bush is an infrequent churchgoer who has mostly not attended any church services in the eight years since he was president. However, Mr. Obama puts a high priority on his faith where regular church membership and attendance are highly likely. Even his book, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, there were so many references to the importance of faith in the life of Barack Obama, that it is really expected that he will choose to be an active church-member as president.
The Obama family could even choose the predominately African American, Metropolitan AME Church, which is very close to the White House as well. And there are many in the African American faith community that would like to see the Obama family continue their faith in a church with African American community roots.
But there are some such as Randall Balmer, who is a professor of American religious history, that doesn't believe that there is a single obvious church that the Obama family will attend as they seek a place for weekly worship and prayer. However with the strong family values of this incoming first family, this decision where to worship will likely be taken just as seriously as the decision for the school that the two Obama girls will attend, which will be a fine Washington area private school used to the tight security of educating presidential children for many years.
And importantly, none of the churches close to the White House should invite very much controversy compared to some of statements made in the past year by retired Pastor Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church in Chicago that Barack Obama regularly attended for 20 years. Pastor Wright strangely made some very controversial and radical sermons in the last year, giving critics of Obama some political ammunition. Obama finally resigned from this church after some of the statements from his elderly former pastor only seemed to grow worse and worse. The last thing that the Obama family wants is to attend a church that invites controversy, although many churches do take a hard line on the subject of abortion and many other matters of strong moral importance to them.
However, presidents with strong religious faith like to seek some direction from God in their lives because some issues are so complex, and regular prayer and support from a loving congregation and a friendly pastor is an important issue for many presidents. With the Obama family, the public should often see reassuring scenes of this first family in regular church attendance in a local Washington house of worship.
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