Michelle Obama Cites Jesus as Model for Citizenship

Image credit: Donn Jones/AP Photo

First lady Michelle Obama Thursday offered a rare public reflection on her religious faith, telling a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal church that the life of Jesus Christ is a model for democratic organizing.

"It's kind of like church," Obama said. "Our faith journey isn't just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It's about what we do Monday through Saturday as well, especially in those quiet moments, when the spotlight's not on us, and we're making those daily choices about how to live our lives.

"We see that in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't limit his ministry to the four walls of the church," she said. "He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day. He was out there spreading a message of grace and redemption to the least, the last, and the lost. And our charge is to find Him everywhere, every day by how we live our lives."

Obama, who is not a regular churchgoer, said citizenship like the practice of faith is "not a once-a-week kind of deal."

"Democracy is also an everyday activity," she said. "And being an engaged citizen should once again be a daily part of our lives."

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The first lady said such engagement involved "the tireless, the thankless, relentless work of making change, you know, the phone-calling, letter-writing, door-knocking, meeting-planning kind of work."

Her appearance at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tenn., was dubbed an official event by the White House to recognize the history and legacy of the AME church, particularly its role in the civil rights movement.

"Time and again, history has shown us that there is nothing - nothing - more powerful than ordinary citizens coming together for a just cause," Obama said. "And that is particularly true of folks in the AME church."

The first lady concluded her trip to Tennessee with a campaign fundraiser in Memphis.