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Obama delivers very Christian message at Christmas tree lighting
President Obama and his family at the Thursday night tree lighting.
December 1st, 2011
10:12 PM ET

Obama delivers very Christian message at Christmas tree lighting

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - President Barack Obama delivered an unusually stark Christian message at the White House Christmas tree lighting Thursday night, saying Christ's message "lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans."

"More than 2,000 years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among the cattle and the sheep," Obama said at the tree lighting ceremony, a longstanding White House tradition.


"But this was not just any child," Obama continued. "Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us."

Obama has been more public and specific about his religious beliefs since polls last year showed that only a minority of Americans know he is Christian. Last Easter, Obama got unusually specific about his beliefs on Christ's resurrection at a White House prayer breakfast.

Some conservative Christian leaders have questioned Obama's Christian faith, even though Obama got his start in politics through church-based political organizing and has written about accepting Jesus in his 20s.

Last month, South Carolina Christian conservative leader Bob Jones III told a reporter “I’ve no reason to think (Obama is) Christian."

“Some people will say whatever they think the politically helpful thing would be,” Jones said. “I say, ‘Where is the evidence that he is a Christian?’ ”

In his remarks at Thursday's tree lighting, Obama said that Jesus "grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves."

"So long as the gifts and the parties are happening, it’s important for us to keep in mind the central message of this season," he said, "and keep Christ’s words not only in our thoughts, but also in our deeds."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Christmas

soundoff (2,184 Responses)
  1. AshJr

    TheWiz71 that was well said. Everyone must remember with anything man-made there will be flaws e.g. "Religion" All non-believers and believers must realize that. I believe that God does not see religion. He looks at your heart (from the Bible). If people would teach that more often I
    think everyone would have more compassion fo each other. I think President Obama was just stating what he believes the reason for the season was. As a people we have to respect one anothers opinions whether we believe it or not. As the President said we must love one another. I dont see an fault in that. One major point to love is loving your enemy. The only way to loving your enemy is to have a love that comes from God. (Enemy – meaning anyone that does you wrong)

    December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    White House Iftar dinner updated August 11, 2011

    President Obama hosted an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan on Wednesday night in the State Dining Room of the White House. The Iftar tradition was started by President Clinton and continued for eight years by Presi...

    http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/10/white-house-iftar-dinner/

    If Obama would be a true Christian, he would never host an Iftar dinner, which is a rite of the Muslim supersti-tion (of course, in contrast it would be very good, if any Christian would invite a Muslim neighbour for any dinner; we shall love our enemies, but not their supersti-tion).

    December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Like it was previously stated. If Christ was here he would not only take place in the tradition but would wash their feet too.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Nonimus

      I think that's called diplomacy.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  3. J

    It doesn't matter what the President says, some people are just not going to believe him, (some still think he was born in Africa; and that he's a Muslim, Socialist, Communist, Nazi!). I guess there's still people out there that think the world is flat, and that the Americas are actually a part of India! In anycase, sure, he's got his flaws as a man and as President, but overall I think this goes to show even more how good a man, and how good a President Barack Obama is. He's definitely got my support! OBAMA/BIDEN...2012!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  4. Smalltowner

    I believe there is good and evil in the world. Am I a true Christen....No....I'am a sinner..but I believe in God because the Devil runs rampant. The presidential Christmas message did no harm or injury too anyone.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Wrong, killing innocent unborn children and then saying your a Christian hurts the Christian message. Christians don't kill babies.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Jason Kreegal

      I don't know what people have against Jesus. True or not, the New Testament is a story about love and acceptance (and if you think otherwise you haven't read it and should keep your trap shut). Anybody who takes issue with a message like that has real problems.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Snc735

      you need to read your bible again Mr. Kreegal.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Yes the creator of this vast universe with billions of galaxies with billions of stars has an arch enemy that he fights with over for the ghosts of pink monkeys

      December 2, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • BRC

      @Jason,
      I for one have no issue with most of the messages attributed to Jesus. Being peaceful and accepting of one another is a great idea, and something that we could all benefit from. BUT, I have no reason to believe that any part of the NT is true, and I am adamently against any religion that tries to use it as grounds for their autority (part because there is no reason to believe it, but more important because religions don't actually follow it, and are really just grabbing for power).

      It's not that atheists are against the good parts of the messages from "Jess", but many are against all the bad stuff in the bible, and recognize that there are plenty of other places to get those same good messages that don't requiring believing in proofless supernatural forces or accepting biblicly sponsored attrocities.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Bryan

      Mr. Kreegal, have you ever opened a Bible to see what it really says in the New Testament? Jesus/God does not tolerate sin or sinful behaviour partially because it is bad for us.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Hey atheist hunter, guess your IQ is less then the mean of Mississippi.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  5. uriel2013

    1.) Whether or not one is an atheist or Christian doesn't affect Christmas. My wife is an atheist but loves that hell out of Christmas and Easter.
    2.) I don't give a flying you-know-what what religion Obama is as long as he keeps it to himself and doesn't mouth off about people different from him.
    3.) If local, state and the Federal governments are so broke, why are they spending time and wasting money on Christmas decorations? If citizens want decorations in public spaces, they can start up a collection and pay for it themselves.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Does she go around praising Jesus at Christmas? She don't have a clue what Christmas means. It's not about Santa and the reindeer. It's a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. CHRISTmas!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Claire

      The issue Christians have is not that atheists celebrate their holidays, its that they celebrate them and make a ton of noise about how we shouldn't mention God. They're feast days in our Church! Nobody tells the Jews to secularize Hanukkah, nobody tells the Muslims Ramadan isn't about their religion.

      So yes, celebrate with us great! Enjoy it, but don't be offended when we treat it the way it was intended.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Tevii

      Well considering neither Christmas nor Easter are actually Christian holidays its ok. These days are stolen from other religions by the church... or co-opted as the church likes to say since they themselves admit this. Christmas is not the birth of Christ, its a Pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice, the church renamed as the birth of christ in order to gain converts. If Christ was even a real man, the evidence suggests a fall birth.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  6. Atheist Hunter

    Obama is about as Christian as Aliester Crowley. He needs to save it!

    December 2, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      He's too intelligent to be a Christian, he just knows to stay elected he has to pay lip service to the big G.

      Closet atheist would be my guess.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Tony Baloney

      Monkey is as monkey does...As Obama would say, "Ooo oo ahh ahh"!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Look at the state of the nation, real intelligent!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hunter, the correct phrase is "really intelligent" not "real intelligent."

      Keep in mind that President Obama inherited a nation pushed into economic free fall by the actions of the previous administration, and that the majority of the practical solutions proposed by the current administration have been obstructed or shot down by politicians less interested in the health of than nation than in serving their private-industry owners.

      I suspect our President is not as religious has he pretends, but in order to reach those Americans who refuse to embrace the secular nature of the United States, he has to speak in language they can understand.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  7. Bryan

    I haven't seen anything that would convince me that he's a Christian either. If somebody is a Christian, then their life, actions and decisions should for the most part mimic Jesus's. If anything, his statement above proves my point. "a manifestation of God's love" ??? Come one. It sounds like mindless drool spouted by CNN. Jesus wasn't "a manifestation", he is/was "the manifestation". Anyone out there who thinks otherwise is greatfully and frightenly mistaken!

    December 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Aware

      Bryan, you should read the bible more often. Jesus was God in human form. He humbled himself and came into this world to die for our sins, which shows us how much God love us. Remember, Jesus said "love one another as I love you". Therefore, the President was right that Jesus was a manifestation of God's love for us.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • tallulah13

      Yes, Bryan, because trying to provide health care for the poor is something Jesus NEVER would have done. Jesus was much more interested in creating huge tax breaks for the wealthy.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • DarthWoo

      Indeed, having to come down in corporeal form to atone for arbitrary sins that he himself made up, because he was somehow forced to send his creations to an eternity of suffering otherwise. Sounds like some petty child with an ant farm.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Aware

      Also, who are you to determine if he is a Christian or not. The bible said that you will know them by their good deeds. I think the President has done a lot for his community and the country. I also did not know you were present when the President told God that Jesus was his savior and he should forgive him for his sins. (You know salvation-by God's grace, you are saved).

      December 2, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Hunter of Atheist Hunters

      So it's mindless drool to say Jesus is "a manifestation", but totally rational and cogent to say that Jesus is "the manifestation?" One participle is all it takes? You really don't see the insanity of that statement?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  8. Colin

    It is high time for an openly atheist President. I suspect Obama is atheist, or its functional equivalent, a disinterested agnostic, but admitting it would be political suicide.

    December 2, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Yeah, then we could live like a third world country. Great idea! Fun!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Bryan

      Tony Baloney. That was an uncalled for remark and quite racist too. I can't stand Obama either, but your remark was sickening.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • DarthWoo

      Funny how most third world countries are the most religiously ingrained of all.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Snc735

      what a loving name you have there Atheist Hunter.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Darthwoo. there's a big difference in being religious and being a born again Christian who has a relationship with Jesus Christ the savior of the world. Religion won't get you to Heaven!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • DarthWoo

      And being born again will? What evidence do you have of such preposterous claims? I'd imagine there are a billion or so people who (or more if you count the cousin religions), despite the irrationality of their own so-called evidence, would argue with you.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • BRC

      @Atheist Hunter,
      And you can't prove that being born again will either. Or that it even exists. So, how about we let people believe whatever they want, and just focus on people's actions, doesn't that make more sense?

      December 2, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Alyssa

      I agree that Obama is probably an atheist, but couldn't admit it and still serve in office. But I'm an atheist, so the only problem I see with this is that there is so much discrimination against people of no religion.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  9. The message

    The message of Christmas is Christ!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Prada

      Glad that the President did exactly that.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • DarthWoo

      Actually, it's the message of a fracturing Roman Empire trying to unify itself under one state religion and overwriting a series of preexisting winter solstice festivals with a new holiday completely unrelated to any supposed births of deities in corporeal form. If Christmas was about Christ, it would be in the spring or summer.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Down under

      Don't steal the thunder, down under it is summer! Who cares spring/summer, the fact remains-Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior , Jesus Christ.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • DarthWoo

      Ah yes, do completely gloss over the fact that it was a completely manufactured holiday.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Seuss

      Don't be a grinch- enjoy this very special time of Christmas with your family!

      December 2, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  10. Jean Luc Picard

    Life is all about peace and love.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Truefax

      Resistance is futile.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      If the natural world has shown us anything its that life is about struggle, sacrifice and brutality. We as sentient beings can rise above our animalistic tendencies, but only so far.

      I like your message, I just don't agree with it, because if it were true this world would be a much better place.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Life is about making more life

      December 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Jean Luc Picard
      If life is all about peace and love, why does your phaser have a "kill" setting?

      December 2, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Alyssa

      @Doc, very witty!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  11. NikiV

    It confounds me how some just can't accept that Obama is Christian. The line above by Bob Jones: ‘Where is the evidence that he is a Christian?’. I wonder... where's the evidence that Gingrich, Bachman, Cain or Santorum, the Mormans (still Christian) Romney and Huntsman are Christian? Even if they're registered, go to church etc... how can you know they're Christian in their hearts and not just doing so for political gain?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Bryan

      You can't. Only God knows for sure; however, their actions should give some good insights though.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  12. Dave

    It is so ironic that the DEMS will overlook this statement by President Obama. Had it been a republican, they would have attacked the person for no keeping church and state separate. The liberal media has proven time and again over the past 3 years that they cannot be trusted.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • DarthWoo

      Eh? I'm pretty much a DEM and I'm rather perturbed by Obama's open pandering to the irrational crowd.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  13. JCMars

    I think we have a lot better things to argue about than the lighting of a Christmas Tree and Whether or not Obama is a Christian.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  14. Marc

    Of course he made an overture to the Christians, he's running for office!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Snc735

      That's exactly what i thought too. Just imagine a politician running for office who openly admits he's an Atheist. He/she will not get many votes. Obama is just pimping himself for votes.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  15. Snc735

    I think Obama should give a blasphemous speech on September 30, 2012. National Blasphemy day.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  16. Rainer Braendlein

    From the above article:

    In his remarks at Thursday's tree lighting, Obama said that Jesus "grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves."

    Unquote.

    Regretably Obama didn't tell us, how we can gain the ability to love our neighbours. Obame concealed the most important point of the Christian message or of the gospel:

    It is not only that God demands love from us, but he even wants to give us the ability to love. God acknowledges the sad fact that we are lousy egoists by nature. By our own natural will or strength we cannot escape this state. God will release us, if we believe in Jesus Christ. If we believe that all our depravity has perished together with Jesus on the cross, we get delivered from our old man of sin, and if we believe that Jesus has resurrected, God gives us His powerful Spirit of love. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore we should believe that the sacramental baptism is the locus in space in time, where and when the salvation in Christ is dedicated to us.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      I love the narcissism and arrogance of theists. You honestly believe you "know" the mind of the Creator?

      What a crock of sh!te.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Brad

      Rainer:

      Excellent post – but let's not judge Obama on the basis of what he is not saying. "Concealed" is provocative and overreaching.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • NikiV

      Yes, because every speech that Obama makes must include every detail of gospel scripture from beginning to end.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  17. Valerie

    Yes, we Christians believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Yes we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Yes we celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Yes, we strive to be 'Jesus Impersonators' every day. Yes we believe in eternal life with Jesus. If you don't that's ok, too. We will pray for you even if you don't want our prayers.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      You pray for us. We'll think for you.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Henry

      fair is fair

      December 2, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • BRC

      @Valerie,
      And you don't see how informing someone that will pray for them when they truly don't want you too might be insulting and irritiating? The intent of wanting good things for those you disagre with is noble, the forced reminder to people who want nothing to do with it is disrespectful.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • DarthWoo

      Heh, prayer. We've seen how well that worked out for Texas. There have even been empirical studies that show that prayer did absolutely nothing for critical care patients being prayed for versus those who were not, and in fact tended to cause those who knew they were being prayed for to fare worse from complications. I guess God was punishing them for testing him.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Tevii

      Its great that you are christian and Im glad you found your faith, but at least get the facts straight... Like I said above neither Christmas nor Easter are actually Christian holidays. These days are stolen from other religions by the church... or co-opted as the church likes to say since they themselves admit this. Christmas is not the birth of Christ, its a Pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice, the church renamed as the birth of christ in order to gain converts. If Christ was even a real man, the evidence suggests a fall birth.. which is one of my problems with religions, how much of what you believe is all based on lies such as these.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  18. sandcastle

    There is no doubt in my mind that President Obama is a christian...it amazes me how he confesses Jesus Christ as the son of God, and yet so call Christians (conservatives) would nominate Mitt Romney as President and his faith recognizes Jesus as only a prophet...Double standards ...

    December 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • You are wrong

      You are clearly misinformed about what the Mormon religion believes about Jesus Christ. Or are you just trolling?

      December 2, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  19. GSK

    You have to understand that majority of people out there are nuts. They believe in magic underwear, or that God sent himself as a son to earth to die on the cross , or that there is a god who rules waters, or that god forbids shaving your beard.. lol.. insanity everywhere..

    December 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Felix The Navidad

      When a soul is dead , the mind and body are not far behind GSK shows a dead soul and rotted mind.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      There are no such things as ghosts/souls. All you are is in your brain. Welcome to the 21st century.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • GSK

      Felix The Navidad, first prove to me that souls exist.. without that all you are speaking of is a bunch of made up nonsense...

      December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Henry

      Fact of the matter is nobody knows what's true an what isn't. So for you to be hateful and spiteful of others' beliefs.. just makes you an ugly person.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Henry, its called neuroscience and yes it tells us (to the best of our current ability) what is true and what is false.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • GSK

      Henry, until these people prove that their beliefs are accurate they can simply be dismissed. As Carl Sagan used to say.. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. "

      December 2, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Felix The Navidad

      Your comments emit the stench of death, no proof is required, you and those defending you are all slowly rotting into eternity and you do not even know it.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @henry
      Nobody knows what is true.
      I guess that means you give as much credibility to myths about the Galactic Overlord Xenu and Thetans as you do the zombification of jewish carpenters.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      For at least our concept of eternity in this universe we are not rotting but spreading out into nothingness.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Felix The Navidad

      Doc Vestibule emits a disgusting odor of death that permeates not only the writings but probably everything and everyone his dead soul comes in contact with.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Felix The Navidad

      Doc Vestibule emits a disgusting odor of death that permeates not only the writings but probably everything and everyone his dead soul comes in contact with. How is it that one person can produce such disease.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That's not death, it's Old Spi.ce
      I guess it's time to change my cologne.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  20. Troybeam

    Its election time, of course Obama will show "his Christian side", not that its been apparent the last 3 years with his bowing in submission to the Islamic Nations all the while spending and sending our tax dollars to Islamic Nations to help them build defenses to use against our troops and they will use any and all means against America. They make such grand showings of how they love the generosity of our Nation.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • OverThere

      Patience... the Mother Ship is due any moment now to bring you home.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Justin

      This is quite possibly the most ignorant thing I've read in a long time. If Christ were in Obama's position do you think he would not bow to the leaders of Islamic Nations? Have you read the New Testament... if so I think it's clear that Christ would not just bow to the leaders of Islamic Nations but that he would also go so far as to wash their feet. Secondly, assuming you are a Christian it bothers me (as a Christian) that politcal boundaries seem to be so important to you. Do you think God sees us as Americans, Iranians, Iraqis, French, British, Chinese or Afghani? Absolutely not. Political boundaries are a creation of humanity as a result of the fall. When God looks at us he sees us as his broken creation that he dearly loves, and he expects us, his followers, to see all peole the same way. God doesn't give two rips about who Obama bows to and neither should we, in fact we should encourage our president and leaders to be more respectful rather than less if we want to display the image of Christ.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:05 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.