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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. curt

    Treat your neighbor how you would like to be treated...

    Unless your neighbor smoke's marijuana right Fed's? @ssholes

    December 2, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • curt

      Going by that rational the Police have already went against God's word.. Guess it's time to kill them all.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Observer

      The Golden Rule apparently does not apply to gays for many "Christians".

      December 2, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Rocknfire21

      Go figure. There would be a response to the preceding comment by someone who is just as ignorant.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Observer

      Rocknfire21,

      Speaking of ignorance, what was wrong about what I said?

      December 2, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Rocknfire21

      Observer please interpret your comment and then objectively answer your own question. You probably will not be able to do that though, because it is a "subjective" thought of most gay people that christians do not like them. There are a lot of closed minded people who tend to dislike a lot of personalities they encounter. However, it is a mistake to place a "label" on certain individuals and address a GROUP. Therefore, I "think" you are ignorant for making the statement you made.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Observer

      Rocknfire21,
      "However, it is a mistake to place a "label" on certain individuals and address a GROUP. Therefore, I "think" you are ignorant for making the statement you made."

      Speaking again of ignorant, did you see that I said "many Christians" and not "all Christians"?

      December 2, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • April2010

      Actually it's not a generalization about Christians, it's in the Old Testament. Leviticus 20:13

      December 2, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • Observer

      April2010,

      Leviticus (20:9) also says “If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death”

      So what is your point?

      December 2, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • whataworld88

      Observer, you have just figured out why Christ is so necessary in the Christian faith.

      December 2, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Observer

      whataworld88,
      "Observer, you have just figured out why Christ is so necessary in the Christian faith."

      Yes, Jesus is the excuse to ignor so many of the ridiculous commands from God to kill people in the Old Testament.

      December 2, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • whataworld88

      Yes, actually, but I'm guessing you could care less as to why that is?

      December 2, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  2. Carley

    who cares if he is Christian or not? At least he is preaching the truth. The reason for the season.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Berceuse

      The characterization of his actually very nice message as "stark" in this article is interesting. "Stark" is most often defined as extreme or severe with bleak undertones. It has almost exclusively negative connotations. ("Stark madness," a "stark landscape," etc.) Why choose that particular word to describe what was actually a completely approrpriate remark by the president? What was so "stark" about what he said? And what does that choice of words say about the author of this article?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • ndirish1842

      I completely agree. Although most Americans are Christian, it does not matter whether or not the President is. All that matters (from a moral standpoint) is that he has some moral compass which influence his decisions to a reasonable degree.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  3. Qwackers

    So once again it's about the polls.This guy changes his tune quicker than a mall rat with an ipod! Look, this guy is NOT a Muslim like a lot of you yahoo's want to believe...what he is, is a Black Liberation theologist. Even the Pope doesn't think that's a good thing.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • heshe

      No matter what President Obama does, people like you always complain.. I would imagine you would complain if you got hung with a new rope tooo!!!

      December 2, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • truindep

      @heshe-depends on the quality of the rope

      December 2, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • Ben

      To you so call conservative Christians-the blood of Christ is capable of cleansing all-not some, including Obama. That is something that any true Christian should rejoice about.
      If it is left to you conservative Christians, you will make Christianity an exclusive club-just for those of your liking. You pharises(conservative Christians), you partake in the glow of the faith, not in his deed. Christ dead for all-including our president. He does not owe you or any one for that matter proof to show his Christian faith.
      He was not the one who started a war that killed about a million people-that was the former president. You know, some people will call that genocite.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Lin

      If Obama found a cure for cancer you goof balls would find fault with him! Go find a rock and crawl under it.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  4. Jim

    The left would lambast a Republican proclaiming such a message in such a forum, but they'll accept anything that helps their boy Obama hang on to power

    December 2, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Brett

      I'm on the Left, and I completely lambast Obama for this, thank you.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Capercorn

      I'm on the Left, and I have no problem with Religion being in the public sphere, so long as all beliefs are respected.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Brett

      I'm on the Left, and I used to have a feeling of indifference toward Religion being in the public square, until Religion was used to murder thousands of people on 9/11, and I realized I had made a mistake in my policy of appeasement. Religion and Government should NEVER mix.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • dudley0415

      That is the fallacy of this argument.

      The perversion of the loyalty of religion was used to kill the people on 9/11, not the religion.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • Mark from Canada

      I'm on the left, I'm Canadian, and this is the part of America I don't understand. Religion does not belong in the public sphere. It belongs in churches and in peoples homes. Do you know how awkward it is being rational and thinking about the invisible magical almighty that millions are telepathically in communication with and we have to stand around and listen to it? It's like holding a public seance, many of us don't buy into this myth. If people want to believe in it and live peacefully in their homes, treat others with mutual respect, enter into dialogue without trying to convert me – then I have no problem. If these people want to convert me, my family, and want to go to war to die for their country because they believe God instructs them to do so – then we have a problem. Obama is teetering into the second category. He's a corporate capitalist anyway. A dismal disappointment, because the kind of change people were thinking when he got elected is what the Occupy movement is after. Stop with the religious stuff and start substantial bringing change to the nation. There is a relationship between the religious and their economic philosophies. In the same way that Obama is a Christian he prays to the same financial God as the GOP. Modern economic theory is the new religion. It is myth bound. It works outside the laws and limits of nature and budgets on the principle that everything can be commodified, which is a myth. It is easier for the religious to buy into this myth and perpetuate the economy. Why? Well that's their dogma.

      December 2, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • Cyrus

      Jim, just like the rest of your group, you also don't understand what being liberal means. We "lefties" don't care about your faith, or the faith of the president, as long as he keeps it separate from his presidential duties and decisions. You guys on the right make it mandatory for a president to keep his faith in his sleeve. See, we tend to think that faith, any faith, is a very private matter – a sacred relationship between a person and god. Anyone's faith should neither be a criteria for office, nor should it be the only influencing factor while making a decision for all people of faith.

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

      Jim, you have to understand that only the Left can grasp the intricacies and nuances of religion and faith and the mystical, magical fairytales from which they spring...they are our intellectual betters, don't you see, and therefore more equipped to shed enlightenment for the benefit of those of us who are intellectually, morally, and academically deficient. Defer to them, as only they are able to discern the true place of religion in a culture.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Publius Novus

      "[I]n such a forum?" He was lighting the national Chirstimas tree. What should he have talked about–Moses? Or maybe the jobs bill? Assuming that the U.S. should have a national Christmas tree at all, what more appropriate place would there be to talk about the birth of Christ? What is your problem with this man?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  5. curt

    Jesus taught things that the U.S.A has no part of .

    December 2, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • curt

      Nor is the Bilderdberg's or illuminati or one world government a part of..

      O wait I think he said to stay away from the one world government.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Mesa Mick

      Man, you right wing Jerks4Jesus clowns are so out of touch with reality...The multi-national corps with no allegience to ANY sovereign nation are the "one world secular order" you pee your pants and wet your beds about but you never, never ever call them out with the hate and personal vile you do Pres. Obama...Man, am I glad that I'm not "a follower of christ" thay you bleat and bray you are...

      December 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  6. someone

    You don't have to be christian to celebrate Christmas... that's just what it's called.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Brett

      Christmas was set on December 25th by Constantine to drown out the Pagan winter festival that had been observed on that date for centuries before hand, so you would be right. We would still be celebrating a winter Festival on the 25th, had Christ never been born.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Ah C'mon already

      Most evidence points to Jesus being born in July.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  7. christian soldier

    Take this time to reflect on what Jesus did for you. Repent, or you will burn.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Observer

      Another message of love from Christians.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • not a christian soldier

      God is imaginary, deal with it.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • dudley0415

      Dude, that kind of preaching harms, not helps. A guy standing in the back of a pickup screaming hellfire and damnation does not convert, he reverts.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Spike

      The God I pray to is not a vengeful one. Stop using him to spew your own hate.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Joseph

      I wish you have a compasion to talk about accepting Jesus. Jesus taught love and forgiveness and you are not conveying the right message my friend. accept Jesus because He loves us not because we will burn to hell unless we accept Him.

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

      zzzzzzz...intelligent much?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  8. curt

    Muslim Faith / Christian faith... Whatever eh Obama

    December 2, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Dorkus Maximus

      Still a jerk, eh Curt?

      December 2, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Observer

      Obviously Curt can't tell the difference.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Derka Derr

      So its 2011, and you still haven't watched the rest of that interview? haha. Man you guys are as stupid as they come. you really are. But it's ok, I still have compassion for ya there chief.

      December 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Left Coast

    The religious right will never accept Mr. Obama. He's view of the world is too close to reality. What the religious right wants is to impose their version of religion on the rest of us. They would love to turn us back to 1400 or so.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Capercorn

      Don't diss the 15th Century. The 15th Century saw the invention of the printing press, and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which codified religious freedom as the Supreme Law of the land for virtually all of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Zapbranigan

      I am tired of the fact that people think religion actually matters when it comes to government. As long as he isn't something insane like a scientologist or devil worshipper, I don't care what his religion or lack thereof is. Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Ba'hai, ETC.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • Capercorn

      Other nice thing about the 15th Century: They did not have the means to completely wipe all life from this planet in less than an hour.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"What the religious right wants is to impose their version of religion on the rest of us."

      To be fair, isn't that what this democracy often all about? The imposition of various values on some that might seek it. From anti-cigarettes to anti-firearms, no Trans-fats into trying everything to convince people to give up driving and take public transportation.

      You cry that you feel that the Religious Right is trying to impose their views and values on you.... are you equally upset when other groups do the same to others? I have friends who might not wish to wear a helmet when they ride their motorcycles. Now some group is pushing the state to outlaw this because they feel that their view, that everyone should be forced to wear a helmet, should over ride another's view that they should not.

      If you are going whine about one political group or movement, then you should be mindful that there are many out there in society whose view for "change" they feel is a positive step for the society but it won't be hard to find that the "change" they are looking at is not in them but their desire for someone else to "change".

      December 2, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Capercorn

      Trying to draw a comparison between a state establishment of religion, and mandating basic safety equipment is ludicrous at best.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • MCR

      The 15th Century also had the Spanish Inquisition, where millions of non-believers were killed in the name of Jesus Christ.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  10. Capercorn

    Well, at least he isn't trying to have conflicting worldviews; like the Tea Bags, who think that Jesus and Ayn Rand would have gotten along well with each other.

    December 2, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Paolo

      agreed

      December 2, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Geez

      I think god and jesus are a joke... but are more inclined to support the political side of the tea party... You greatly show the ignorance of this country. People just want to hate and throw your monkey feces around.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Capercorn

      Classical economics only works if all participants in the market behave in a rational matter.
      People are not rational when participating in the market.
      :. Classical economics is false.

      Personally, I believe in the God of Mathematics; the Absolute Infinite, as Georg Cantor would have described it.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Mesa Mick

      Religion is a narcotic, churches are its dealers and praying is its delivery system.

      Religion is the mother ship of dolts, control freaks, predators and perverts all proclaiming to be "doin' gawd's work"...

      December 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  11. ron

    What proof would Bob Jones III need to believe Obama (or anyone) is a Christian? Does anyone have reason to think Bob Jones III is a Christian? Just asking....

    December 2, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Observer

      Proof and FACTS are irrelevent to morons like the "Birthers" and "Deathers".

      December 2, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Left Coast

      Bob Jones might be happy if Mr. Obama conducted daily, live, televised, Bible studies from the Oval Office. But then again it might not satisfy him, especially if he didn't give Bob Jones' interpretation of the Bible.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  12. Definitely Real

    Well, there goes my faith in Obama

    December 2, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  13. Brett

    I wonder if Obama read from this passage of the Bible, and if the audience found any irony in it:

    "Thus sayeth the Lord, Learne not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signes of heaven, for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customes of the people are vaine: for one cutteth a tree out of the forrest (the worke of the handes of the workeman) with the axe. They decke it with silver and with golde, they fasten it with nayles, and with hammers that it moove not." Jeremiah 10:2-4 KJV

    December 2, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Peter

      Brett, the context of those verses makes it clear that Jeremiah is referring to the crafting and worship of idols...not to Christmas trees.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Brett

      No, actually Peter, he was referring to the well established winter Roman Pagan tradition at the time of decorating trees with pieces of Gold and Silver to honor the god of Agriculture, Saturnus. This tradition was later carried north by the expansion of the Roman Empire into Northern Europe, where it was picked up by Scandinavian people's there and incorporated into the winter celebration of Yule. It wasn't until centuries after that, when North German Christians began using the Pagan symbol in their observance of the birth of Christ.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • dudley0415

      What about European monks decorating with bulbs to represent the sky, planets and stars, which is how we see it. You can do many things for many reasons. I can hit a golf ball for the joy of it, or I can hit it through a window 'cause I'm pi$$ed. Same activity for different reasons. A vacuous attempt to make Christmas sound twisted because you are not a believer. Transparent.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Lisa P

      Christmas *is* twisted. So is Christianity. So is any religion, for that matter. Faith is about somehow believing that there really is a straight, clear and righteous path through all the self-serving lies, distortions, deluded fantasies and evil acts that make up the history of every religion ever created. Not to mention accepting how ridiculous you look to all non-believers. If you don't think there is a little something wrong with Christmas then you aren't celebrating the right holiday.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  14. Atheist 1#

    Just give me something like Halloween.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  15. Agent Smith

    A Christian message at a Christmas tree lighting? How odd. Thank you, CNN!

    December 1, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Brett

      It's actually a Yule Tree Lighting, since the tradition was stolen from the pagan festival.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  16. Brett

    On December 25th, I will be celebrating the ORIGINAL holidays of the Winter Solstice and Yule, which are traditions thousands of years older than Christmas. I'll also be decorating my house with Evergreen wreaths and trees, which are Pagan symbols of life and fertility. So Happy Winter Solstice to you all! Yuletide Greetings! In the spirit of the season, I forgive any Christians for thinking they have a patent on the Holiday, and I hope their God forgives them for the blasphemy of bringing Heathen symbols into their homes.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Calendars are fun

      Have fun with that – especially since Winter solstice is on December 21st and not the 25th...

      December 2, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Brett

      @Calendars are Fun You should have fun with a history book, as you would learn that the ceremonial Winter Solstice was set on December 25th by Julius Caesar in the Julian Calendar, and has been the traditional date of the festival ever since. Just as in Christ wasn't really born on the 25th but Christians celebrate his birth on that day anyway...because Christmas was born out of the pagan tradition celebrated on that day.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • 2cents4free

      Brett you got a point there.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  17. Hal

    @tallulah13

    I'm sorry, but the idea that no one should be able to express religious believes on public property goes a little too far in protecting against separation of church and state. My money goes to the maintenance and upkeep of public property just as much as yours. Doesn't limiting the freedom to speak about religion on public land conflict with the idea of freedom of speech in general? Why should limiting freedom of expression of religion be allowed, but not freedom of expression against religion? I've seen my share of protests and many are against what I believe but I don't think they should be banned from doing it.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • cdc

      Religion is only for stupid turds.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Hal

      Good one, cdc.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • tallulah13

      As a Muslim myself, I will not allow any religion their freedom of speech. This country was founded on Islamic principles.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Nick

      There is but a fine line between supporting no religion and supporting having no religion.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Hal

      @tallulah13

      I'm sorry, I guess I didn't realize that. I for one completely disagree.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Frank Bund

      Keep religion out of all public places. Period.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Hal

      Frank

      I don't see how you can support a notion of a "public place" without also supporting freedom of expression in that public place – including religion. Why do you draw such a sharp conclusion that religion shouldn't be allowed in a public place? Are there other things that shouldn't be allowed? Who makes the decision as to what is allowed and what isn't? The public? And what if the public supports freedom of expression – including religious expression?

      December 2, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Frank Bund

      Religion isn't expression. It's a life of fear. Keep that trash out of public. Being a streetwalker is more expressive than religion. Religion is nothing more than a bunch of idiots telling you you're going to burn.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hal, that wasn't me. I'm not a muslim. I have never made a secret of the fact that I am an atheist. The person the responded in my name was just a silly troll, probably the same person who thinks I'm a guy because he doesn't know that Tallulah is a female name.

      Anyway, as an American I believe in equality. That's why I believe that public property and public funds should never go to elevate one religion over another. Would you be so happy about a religious display on public property if it wasn't your religion?

      December 2, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  18. xab

    Yes, knowing that my President believes in imaginary sky wizards and their reanimated children makes me feel very comfortable about his ability to lead this country.

    December 1, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Clint

      Ditto. I'll never intentionally vote for an outwordly overly religious presidiential candidate.

      Religion, or lack thereof, is a private thing. Th epresident needs to focus more on the real world.

      December 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • dave836

      Yes because every single president before him was not some sort of Christian >_>

      December 2, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • Frank Bund

      If it were a private thing, there wouldn't be an article about this political figure publicly touting this stupid garbage. It needs to be kept private, in the basement.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Paolo

      The problem with the basement in this case is that you can fire missiles from there. But hey I agree with you for the most part.

      December 2, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  19. Ian

    @Tom – Larry Sinclair has zero credibility and his claims were examined and quickly dismissed. Public records and court filings reveal that he has a 27-year criminal record, with a specialty in crimes involving deceit. The record includes forgery charges in two states, one of which drew Sinclair a 16-year jail sentence. The Pueblo County, Colo., Sheriff's Office also has an outstanding warrant for Sinclair's arrest for forging an acquaintance's signature and stealing her tax refunds. You trust men like this?

    December 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  20. Pablo

    Why does this merit news attention? I don't give a flying **** what he believes as long as it doesn't interfere with his ability to govern the nation. JFK had it right when he said "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute..."

    December 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Paolo

      Hey bro! They are just trolling us. They could put up a blank page and we'd still post comments.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:02 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.