President Joe Biden delivered remarks at the 2021 National Prayer Breakfast, using the occasion to condemn "political extremism" and call on Americans to unite as the country grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Biden, the first Roman Catholic to serve as President of the United States since John F. Kennedy, delivered a speech at the annual breakfast Thursday, which took place virtually this year because of COVID-19. He began the speech by thanking Americans for praying for himself and first lady Jill Biden. "I'm honored to continue this tradition of reflection and fellowship that started with President Eisenhower," he said.
The president used his first address to the National Prayer Breakfast of his presidency to weigh in on the "violent assault on the U.S. Capitol ... an assault on our democracy, on our Capitol, a violent attack that threatened lives and took lives." According to Biden, "We know now we must confront and defeat political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism."
While Biden singled out the fringe Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, he did not mention the violence perpetrated by Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots that engulfed major American cities last summer that resulted in over 20 people being killed and over $2 billion in destruction to small businesses and homes burned while children inside, including an apartment building where residents were trapped on the second floor.
The president spent the bulk of his speech addressing the volatile political climate the United States finds itself in, specifically referencing the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, the "call for racial justice," and "the existential threat" of climate change.
"For so many in our nation, this is a dark, dark time. So, where do we turn?" he asked.
"Faith," he responded. Quoting from Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, Biden proclaimed that "faith sees best in the dark."
"I believe that to be true. For me, in the darkest moments, faith provides hope and solace. It provides clarity and purpose as well. It shows the way forward as one nation in a common purpose to respect one another, to care for one another, to leave no one behind."
"These aren't Democrats and Republicans going hungry in our nation; they're our fellow Americans, fellow human beings. There aren't Democrats and Republicans going without healthcare in America; they're our fellow Americans, fellow human beings. There aren't Democrats and Republicans being evicted from their homes; they're fellow Americans, fellow human beings," he continued.
"This is not a nation that can or will simply stand by and watch this. It's not who we are," Biden asserted. "It's not who faith calls us to be. In this moment, we cannot be timid or tired. We have too much work to do."
Biden concluded his speech by predicting that "we're going to get through all of this," adding, "the Bible tells us 'weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.'"
Acknowledging that "we still have in front of us many difficult nights to endure," he maintained that "we'll get through them together."
"We need one another. We need to lean on one another, lift one another up, and with faith guide us through the darkness into the light."
Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, a national faith-based advocacy organization, issued a statement following Biden's address. Burch criticized the president for ignoring "the aggressive and hostile steps taken by his administration against people of faith, including the anti-science transgender mandate and the deeply unpopular decision to fund abortion around the world."
While Biden has repeatedly touted his Catholic faith, he has faced criticism from some Catholic officials over his support for abortion, which contradicts church teaching.
"It's important to also remember that President Biden does not speak for Catholics or the church. In fact, he explicitly departs from many of the church's non-negotiable beliefs and teachings. For this reason, the Catholic Bishops of the United States have rightly pointed to deep concerns about Biden's policies that would 'advance moral evils' on issues such as marriage, family, religious liberty, and the defense of vulnerable children in the womb,'" Burch added.
"Our country is desperately in need of healing and unity. Throughout our history, our leaders have called the country to prayer and obedience to the truths of our Judeo-Christian heritage. President Biden's words this morning were both underwhelming and disappointing."
While four of the five living former presidents also participated in this year's National Prayer Breakfast in some form, Biden's immediate predecessor, former President Donald Trump, did not.