Easter Sunday, the Obama family worshipped at St. John’s Church , across Lafayette Square from the White House. The audio recording of the sermon is not yet available on the church’s website, but you can read the press summary here . It seems in some way to be addressed to those who attend worship services only on major holidays, offering solace to those who have doubts and explaining why they shouldn’t long for the “good old days” of simple faith. The priest’s text was the resurrection narrative in John 20:1-18, and he makes much of Jesus telling Mary Magdalene not to cling to him. But instead of having his listeners look forward to the Ascension, the priest seems to have turned the passage into an admonition not to live in the past. And from this point, there’s a segue to the following:

“It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back . . . for blacks to be back in the back of the bus . . . for women to be back in the kitchen . . . for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.”

The Washington Post story includes gays and lesbians in this list of things conservatives apparently wish to restore to some imagined status quo ante .

I get it. Easter changes everything, assuring us of an ultimate triumph over all our earthly ills:

“Easter vision” will allow you to see the whole world in a different way. “There is no injustice so insidious that there can be no truth . . . no war so deep that there can be no peace . . . no enemy so bitter that they can’t become a friend.”

But the priest here seems to focus on the future of the here and now, on a “new and improved” here and now, not on eternity. His “Easter vision” is emphatically this-worldly and political.

If President Obama wanted that, he could have stayed at home and read the Sunday papers. Indeed, perhaps sermons like this one are why increasing numbers of people are doing just that.

Articles by Joseph Knippenberg

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