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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. Captn

    i never said i was manipulated by fear. But If you had a life threatening illness and the doctor told you "I am the only one that has the cure" you would want that cure, wouldn't you? You probably value your life and don't want to die, you love life and want to live a long happy life on earth. So fear is not a tactic, fear is something that should come naturally when you are being reasonable. One should be afraid of not knowing where they will spend eternity. Eternity never ends.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Except the doctor in your example is apparently the one causing what needed to be cured and for some reason will punish you for not accepting that he has a cure.
      He is causing the fear where none should exist in the first place.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • BRC

      Captn,
      But as there is no real evidence of the existence of an afterlife, there is no reason to fear it, or even be concerned with it, as it is outside of our control. What does make sense is focusing on living a good life in the life we know we have, which does not require any religion.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Brett

      I haven't seen any statistics showing Christians live longer or happier than any other people.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • yeahalright

      Well, if a doctor told me I had a life threatening illness he would be able to show me, depending on the illness: blood test results, x rays, mri results, cat scans...you know, verifyable symptoms. A real illness diagnosed by real doctors is not the same as "you're going to burn in hell if you don't believe in my god." Can you figure out why or need help?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      So you are a Christian because you fear Hell. That is a coward's choice, an example of Pascal's Wager, and more than likely a sin in the eyes of your God.

      My bet is that a hell of a lot more atheists get into Heaven than Christians.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • General

      Well from what you said, it certainly looks like you're easily manipulated by fear. Calling it anything else is just lying to yourself.

      It's kind of like saying. I'm not a racist, but man those %^&$&^% get on my nerves.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  2. AmericanSam

    As a person who does not describe himself as religious, I have no problem celebrating Christmas. It's a wonderful holiday that is supposed to be about giving and being kind. I also celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving, one of pagan origins that is about fun, and the other that, in the spirit of kinship fostered by the alliance between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, is about remembering to give thanks. Christmas should be for everyone. However, it's not entirely free from pagan origins... Oh well. Love one another!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Brett

      Christmas is of Pagan origins too.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      hanukah is anti-jesus

      December 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  3. mosesj

    Tattulah, founding principles aye!!!!! Excuse me for saying so ,but talllah , YOU ARE A NIT WIT !!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      You express yourself so eloquently! Truly a compelling argument.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Mosesj, I suspect that the reply button malfunctioned or that you neglected to use it. I have no idea what you are referencing or why you are calling me names.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  4. Brett

    Christmas was a Pagan Winter Festival for thousands of years before it was Christmas. Had Christ never been born, we would still be doing the same traditions. Show me in the Bible where it says how Christians should observe the Birth of Christ. You won't find it anywhere. All of your "Christmas" traditions were stolen from other holidays.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Really?

      "All of your "Christmas" traditions were stolen from other holidays."

      Huh and stealing is a SIN. LOL! Plus the bible condemns decorating a tree with ornaments and Jesus wasn't even born in Dec., he was born in September. LMAO!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Brett

      I am an opponent of the profane Christmas, which we celebrate today.

      However, yet the Early Church celebrated Christmas and they replaced a pagan feast by Christian Christmas in order to manifest the victory of Christianity over paganism.

      Thus, let us celebrate Christmas in the right manner. Let us rejoice over the birth of our redeemer.
      It is a mistake to assume that by Christmas a pagan feast is continued. That is not the case, not at all.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • fam69

      AMEN

      December 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  5. Laverne

    The nerve of people to insist that he and his family are not Christians after he has said and confessed on many occasions that he is a Christian. I suppose if she said he was a mormon it would be easier for some Americans to swallow. Anyway regardless of what his faith is, it his business and people need to stop being so damn judgemental when it comes to other people faith. We don't have a heaven or hell to put anyone in!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      the nerve to see his actions instead of just hearing his words

      December 2, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  6. Rob

    I have never been very religious, but love the holidays as a time to spend with friends and families.. and I love to give gifts...I did all my shopping on line last year and got everyone on my list this hilarious, cheap, beginners cookbook .. it's called. well.. I can't tell you the name of it here cause some of you will freak out, but if you google "whipped & bea ten culinary works" you can find it..but seriously, don't go if you can't take a good joke or if you get offended easily...

    December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  7. Janet

    All HAIL the Flying Spaghetti Monster and PRAISE his Almighty Noodliness! As a proud Pastafarian, I'm glad we have 8 "I'd rather you didn'ts" than those silly and potentially fatal by stoning "Thou shalt's and shalt not's" whether 10 or 613, depending on who you ask!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      can your spaghetti monster save your from obama?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • yeahalright

      Spaghetti monster can save any (believer) one from anything. All you non spaghetti believers are going to spend eternity in a sauceless unstrained pot o noodles.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Felix The Navidad

      It is hard to tell which is worse, the fact that Janet's soul is dead and rotting her from within or the fact that in spite of the stench she does not know she is soul dead.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • yeahalright

      Felix, our religion has the same amount of proof going for it as yours. We, you know, take the flying spaghetti monster on faith. Like you do with your evidence-less diety.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  8. Ron

    Refreshing to hear. Merry Christmas Mr. President!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      ah yes refreshing lies

      December 2, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Bob

      I'm trying to figure out if someone can be a troll and still be a Christian. Which "god" do you serve, atheist hunter? I've never seen evidence of any Christian faith from you on this site. You remind me more of the jewish legalists who followed Paul from city to city trying to get him killed. Are you this positive at home?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      and i guess you believe jesus washed your sins away so you can kill babies, be gay or do what ever you want and you will go to heaven. wrong.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Bob

      @atheist hunter. I am pro-life and all the other things that you would probably (maybe) find "acceptable." But I have also seen that whoever confesses Jesus Christ as Lord does so by the Spirit in him. I think I will stick with God's assessment, and avoid yours. If Obama had said that Jesus was "just a man" or a "myth," and that Christianity was "just another religion," I would be in agreement with you. But he has made a more positive affirmation than either Bush I or Reagan (my hero) ever made in public.

      We are not justified by works, but by faith. You have no right to make inferences based on your own political mind set.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    In a way it is better to call Jesus a devil and a heretic, than to call him a prophet.

    Why?

    The fault of the Jews is absolutely obvious even for naive people.

    By the statement of the Muslims, Jesus would be a prophet, some naive people could be seduced and could assume Islam and Christianity could be friends. In fact Islam and Christianity are eternal, absolute enemies, because the Islam rejects the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. The Islam degrades Jesus a prophet or Imam. That is outrageous.

    The truth: Jesus is God and God is three. Christians ascribe a partner to Allah. We are associaters.

    God became a man and died for us on the cross. Thus, you can say that God died for us and Mary is the Mother of God.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  10. Jnc

    Christians are so closed minded, they have a man gushing out Christian faith and they still will not accept that because of a politically driven view, when did religion have politics as a prerequisite? I am secular, and how I view Obama's message is that it is in good taste and respect of many religions, not in your face like Christians would want, they always forget themselves and never consider that they are not the only ones on this planet and Citizens of this Country.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Bob

      Talk about painting with a broad brush. You say "Christians are closed minded," and then seem to separate President Obama from the group. Let me assure you that for every Christian that has made his faith a political agenda, there are three of us or more who have made it a way of life. I've never doubted Mr. Obama's faith. I was raised to accept a person's testimony and leave the final analysis to God Himself. I may not agree with/vote for Barack Obama, but I pray for him and support him as my president. Am I closed minded?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  11. Elizabeth I

    Really? Jesus would be celebrating CHANUKAH!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      no because talmudic joos hate jesus.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  12. Bob

    Whatever our political differences, I applaud the President's openness about his faith, and know that we will both see Christ face to face. May God guide him as he makes decisions that affect billions of people.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      his god is guiding him, but it's not the Father of Jesus Christ!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Bob

      @Atheist Hunter: How in the world do you know that? John said that no one can proclaim that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh except those who have His Spirit. Have you gotten any new revelations that I'm not aware of, maybe a new book of the New Testament that just came out? Please enlighten me.

      All he has ever said is that he accepted Christ as his savior. He believes in Christ's pre-existence, His deity, and His salvation. What more do you want?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • BRC

      @Atheist Hunter,
      are you saying there's another god? Perfectly okay by OT standards, but that's a big old nono in the NT.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      He supports abortion. Thou shalt not kill. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26,27)

      December 2, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Bob

      @Atheist Hunter. I missed the part in I John about being politically correct. Obama apparently is pro-life in his own family. He is faithful to his wife and daughters (name me some Republicans that are right now, beyond Ron Paul). Of course he did order the hit on Osama bin Ladin, but I'll bet you had no problem with that. If killing bin Ladin was a sin, then yes, I guess our president is going to hell. He will have good company if he does.

      By his own testimony Obama says he has received Christ as Savior. I never heard Reagan say that, and I think he is the greatest president we ever had. But I don't have any confirmation of his own personal experience with Christ.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  13. Elaine

    to Phil:

    "Phil

    Please stop accusing atheists of "spreading their religion". We don't believe in religion. That's why we're called atheists."

    Amen Brotha!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      you don't have to believe in the devil to be his servant.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      fence riding don't exist!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  14. Soosi

    Thanks once again to a public official making those of us NOT Christian feel like unwanted window displays in the United States of America

    December 2, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Atheist Hunter

      It's a Christian Holiday. Get over it!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Brett

      No actually, it was a Pagan Winter Festival for thousands of years before it was Christmas. Had Christ never been born, we would still be doing the same traditions. Show me in the Bible where it says how Christians should observe the Birth of Christ. You won't find it anywhere. All of your "Christmas" traditions were stolen from other holidays.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • mandy

      god bless you and merry christmas

      December 2, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  15. Gregson1

    Folks, as a moderate-to-conservative Christian I am ashamed of how many of my peers tend to demonize Obama. Even though I didn't vote for him and don't agree with him on a number of issues, I believe he is truly a sincere, decent person who is doing his best to lead this country. And, he is putting his faith on display right now precisely because so many have erroneously accused him of either being a Muslim or having no faith at all. If you are a Christian and really want to do some good, stop hurling mean-spirited accusations at the man and pray that God would bless him and help him to wisely lead this country (as we are commanded to pray for our leaders in Scripture). After all, it's Christmas, for Heaven's sake!

    December 2, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Really?

      "After all, it's Christmas, for Heaven's sake!"

      No, it's not.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Bob

      I agree with you 100% and am ashamed of those who confuse Christian faith with a political ideology. I home my marriage more resembles the Obama family than the Gingrich family - whichever one we refer to.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  16. Brett

    If Jesus came back to Earth, the Conservatives would have him arrested for being an illegal alien.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Snc735

      LOL!

      December 2, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      They would label him socialist and condem him.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • mandy

      i love it and you are so right brett

      December 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Merry Christmas

      Shut up racist

      December 2, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  17. Captn

    why, what has he done to you?

    December 2, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  18. hawaiiduude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSmohHTVoZg&w=640&h=360]

    December 2, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwpkcIRrckY&w=640&h=360]

      December 2, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  19. Alger Heights Dave

    Ooops. Bob Jones needs to read his Bible a bit more often apparently. President Obama has given plenty of evidence of his belief in Christ, even if he's been a bit inconsistent at times. Rev. Jones is probably pointing to some disagreements most evangelical Christians would have with Pres. Obama's policies (there are a number of these disagreements), but that obviously doesn't preclude Obama from being a Christian. As a conservative Republican myself I can point to Obama's concern for the poor and disenfranchised in our society; to his concern for war and armed conflict; and his pursuit of justice as 'fruit' of his beliefs. He has also professed his belief in Christ publicly over time, and does attend church (if not as often as many Christians would like to see). I may not agree with how his policies affect the poor or those seeking justice, but it doesn't mean he's not a Christian man. I certainly believe he is, and have few reasons to believe otherwise.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • DaughteroftheMostHigh

      I totally agree, and when a person has totally made up in their mind and heart they do not like you and never will no matter what you do (as Bob Jones has shown), that's when you have to look past them and stay focused on the Father's business.

      If some of our christian brothers and sisters would be honest with themselves, they do not look forward to Jesus return because they know His way is not their way.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  20. Phil

    Please stop accusing atheists of "spreading their religion". We don't believe in religion. That's why we're called atheists.

    Meanwhile, I'll continue my personal relationship with reality.

    December 2, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      your own personal reality.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Alger Heights Dave

      Phil, to clarify, religion is a set of beliefs held by any person or group of persons. Atheists have a strongly held set up beliefs that: God does not exist, and that religion should not influence society in any way (among other strongly held beliefs). That's why your statement is inconsistent – Atheism is it's own religion (although you may not have a gathering place like a church, etc.). You don't need a 'god' to be religious (Buddism has no 'god' and certainly would be considered a major world religion). Hope that explains it.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Buddhism does have a full definition for the universe. Atheism simply states all we know is what we currently know and we shouldnt make stuff up or worse believe something that someone else made up... there is a difference. I am sorry that your mind is hindered by the concept of monotheism.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • BRC

      @Alger Heights Dave,
      It helps when clarifications are right. Atheism is NOT a religion. It can be called a belief, but really it is just a thought. the thought is that there are no gods. That's it, that's all, nothing more. There are atheists that have other beliefs, and there are common philosophies that can be found in many atheist's principles, but they are not a requirement of atheism. Atheist = no gods.

      Want more evidence, Theism, is not a religion (quiet Deists, noone's talking to you right now). Theism simply means, yes you believe gods (or one god) exist. It doesn't become a religion until there are structured beliefs, and commonly (though not definitionally required) rituals/dogma.

      Hope this helps, open for discussion if anyone has trouble with the conept.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Dave, atheists generally agree on those things you mentioned: there is no proof of god and religion has no place in government. There is no common bond beyond that. To say that atheism is a religion is the same thing as saying a strongly held opinion is a religion. Is that what you are implying?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "religion is a set of beliefs held by any person or group of persons"

      That is too simple a definition of religion, using that version suggests that believing the earth goes around the sun makes it a religion.
      Buddhism has no god but still claim a belief in higher realms and other beings.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • TooClose2DC

      Aethiesim is a religion in itself. Just because you deny established religions does not mean that you are correct and have a hold on reality. In fact your skewed views with a lack of moral compass handed down form thousands of generations of humans, may indicate your reality is fantasy.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • BRC

      @TooClose2DC,
      1) Do you have any proof or reasonable definition to support your assertion that Atheism is a religion?
      2) Morality and reality have nothing to do with another. One is a concept created by and applicable to only those with the cognisence to understand/care about it. the other is the ever moving observable universe in which everything we know of exists.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      why do you think atheists lack a moral compass?
      And how is saying magic doesnt exist a 'skewed view'?

      and by the way, 'thousands of generations of human beings' have not handed down anything. If we look back that far we are looking at our ancestors barely standing upright.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Adam

      They just don't get it! Nothing scares me more than a person walking this earth that thinks they know God's plan, and I do not care what religion you profess. Most athiests are not afraid of being proven wrong about their beliefs. I would be pleasantly surprised and welcome to discover the existence of an all loving God. If he is all loving, as so many claim him to be, ( the ones that know him so well ) what is there to worry about. This makes me more of an agnostic and a humanist. I choose to spend my time thinking about my fellow man, and events I may actually be apple to effect, rather than the affect of an all powerful, omnipotent being. Humanity has its plate full of problems. The last thing humanity needs are foot soldiers of God with there eyes glued to the book of revelation hoping for and wishing to participate in the end of days. And by the way, Jesus was Jewish. He lived as a Jew and he died as one. That's right people. He was a liberal, rebelious man, who wanted to change the world for the better, and he was killed for it. Just like JFK, MLK, and a whole string of others that wanted something better for humanity. As it pertains to Obama, all I see is a man trying to do his best, concerned with the poor, and the struggling masses. He seems like a Christian to me. I know... I know... I am a deluded agnostic that hasn't seen the light yet.... Guess you can go waste your time and say a prayer for me or something...

      December 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
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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.