Acknowledging the deep divisions within Congress, President Biden spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday and urged Democrats and Republicans to get to know one another personally, saying faith can bring people of different beliefs together to unify for the common good.
"Rather than driving us apart, faith can move us together," Biden, who is Catholic, told members of both parties gathered for the annual event in Washington, D.C. Different faiths, he said, have the "same fundamental basic beliefs" to treat one another with kindness.
Biden said he wants Democrats and Republicans to have "faith to see each other as we should – not as enemies but as neighbors, not as adversaries but as fellow Americans."
"I pray that we follow what Jesus taught us – to serve rather than be served," Biden said. "I don't always do it. [But] I try."
As a member of the Senate, Biden said, he would have lunch with fellow members of Congress and learn about others' personal struggles. Biden said he still considers Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – a Republican – a friend.
"It's hard to really dislike someone when you know that they're going through the same thing you have gone through," Biden said. "... As leaders of this nation who work and pray together, there's an oath to God and country to uphold, and a charge to keep to stand in the breach, and to protect our democracy, to work together to right wrongs. … If a house divided cannot stand, surely a house united can do anything."
Unity, he said, "doesn't mean we have to agree on everything."
"But unity is where enough of us – enough of us – believe in a core of basic things, the common good, the general welfare," he said. "... The rest of the world is looking to us."
Quoting former President Dwight Eisenhower, Biden said, "There's a need we all have in these days and times for some help which comes from outside ourselves."
"I am humbled by the prayers of so many of you – and it means everything to us," Biden said.
Biden closed by telling a personal story about his childhood.
"Every time I'd walk out of my Grandpa Finnegan's house up in Scranton ... He yelled 'Joey, keep the faith.' My grandma would yell, 'No Joey, spread it.'
"Let's go spread the faith," Biden said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
Video courtesy: ©PBS NewsHour
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.