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. GSK

    God is a myth...

    December 2, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Sadie

      Sure is! I prefer facts over fantasy, thanks.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Kris

      Righto! ONLY a myth! ALL religions are only mythology.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • VET

      To YOU, gsk, he's a myth. To you. If you don't believe in God, why would you read articles like this? Are you jealous of us believers?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • GSK

      VET, it is a myth to everyone, until evidence is presented that it isn't.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • VET

      Again, GSK, that's in YOUR opinion. Everything you say is your opinion. Funny how you ask for scientific proof on anything religious but don't apply the same conditions to YOUR beliefs. Again, you just sound jealous... Merry Christmas to you and God Bless...

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

      So are the stars, air (you can't see it) and that tree outside my window.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  2. Jerry

    Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the World and to all who believe in Him, was a Jew. I have never seen a picture of a blonde haired Jesus. Anyway, that is not important. The message of Jesus, God in the flesh, coming to earth as a sacrifice to save man-kind, is what Christmas is about. No one is perfect, not even we Christians, we all make mistakes. We just trust in Jesus for the salvation of our souls. When sin came into the world, so did death. One day all things will be made right by God, and His Son Jesus Christ. don't give up on God. There is hope.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • GSK

      you actually believe in this nonsense?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Colin

      Yes, Christianity is the belief that a god impregnated a virgin with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to forgive an original sin only fudamentalists and creation nuts still believe in.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • TheWiz71

      Yes, Jesus came into the world to be the "perfect, sufficient sacrifice and oblation for the sins of the whole world" – but your post makes it seem as if that same sacrifice was the complete and entire point. While it was the primary purpose, there was more to the Incarnation than that. Read the prologue to the Gospel According to John – "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory". He came among us as a human, yes, to redeem the world, but also to bring light into human existence, to teach us in the ultimately tangible way about who God is, and the nature of human existence as God's creatures and his children. And remember, the crucifixion only led the way to the Resurrection – the former was the moment sin was defeated, the latter was when every human was offered eternal life.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • TheWiz71

      And as for GSK and Colin's comments – you only demonstrate your own ignorance about what Christians believe and why they believe it. No-one says that you have to believe it too (although I hope that you will at some point), but you should know about it, and not just parodies of it, as reflected in Colin's remarks, just as people of faith should be aware and understand the beliefs of others. Understanding is the key. Reflected in GSK and Colin's remarks is just prejudice.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      So god had a virgin give birth to himself to sacrifice himself to himself to forgive the "sins" of creatures he created. That makes sense.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  3. longshot

    As Stephen Roberts said: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

    December 2, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • JLS639

      I guess Roberts was not talking to a Unitarian Universalist, then?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  4. Karon

    OMG... how can a left leaning "bleedling heart" liberal who cares more about poor people talk about Christmas when everyone knows its the Republican Right Wing who takes care of the rich people that has the monopoly on all that good about Christianity/Christmas. It just doesn't make any sense.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  5. tw

    I believe in Jesus. I believe he died once for all to be reconciled to God. I believe that God is love, and that Jesus Christ is the ultimate manifestation of that love for us. But more and more I hesitate to call myself a Christian because of the terrible connotations that conservative, fundamentalist and religious people who claim to be Christians have painted it with. Those beliefs are often nothing more than political ideals and individual preferences. So often they are NOT Christian principles, but they are in the Bible – they're Pharisaical beliefs. For the sake of Jesus, we need to be sure that anytime we read or listen to hypocritical and judgemental comments from anyone, whether they claim to be a Christian, a Muslim an Atheist or any other faith, to simply identify them as Pharisees and move on. This will help protect the integrity of all faiths; even the faith of Pharisees...if we could just get those purveyors of such hypocrisy and judgement to admit and own their Pharisaical faith.

    It's tough, isn't it, small-minded, conservative fundamentalist? It's tough being called to the carpet on this one. It's tough seeing a President you've never liked for whatever reason claim to be of the same faith as you. It's got to be frustrating being confronted with love from a faith you've so far defined by hatred and judgement. Take heart, it's going to be the best thing for you. Rather than claiming to be a Christian, but not being sure, now you get to self-search and figure out what you believe. What will win out? Will it be your bleeding-heart political passions? Or, will you really remain faithful to your "faith" (only a more appropriate version of it)? And the irony of someone claiming to be a Christian, judging their neighbors up and down, having to look in the mirror and confront the hypocritical beliefs held so passionately for so long, which are so contrary to Christianity – that's a lot to deal with. Fortunately for you, the Jesus you claim to believe in is nothing like you; doesn't hate for no reason or hold grudges. He'd take you in a heartbeat. And then we could stop having to explain away your behavior.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • GSK

      Christians are just gullible people..

      December 2, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Bible Clown

      I don't believe you are a Christian, because your post contains no hatred and bigotry.

      December 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Amom

    The demons also believe....and tremble.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  7. JohnQuest

    crazypete, I do not understand what you are trying to say, is it illogical to disbelieve in the Tooth Fairy or Odin or Cloven Bullfoot? You can't disprove the nonexistence of any of them, my your logic you have to "believe" in all of them.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  8. longshot

    I hope all you Christians support the president when he gives a Muslim remark on Ramadan, a Jewish remark on Hanukkah, etc

    December 2, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • GSK

      you're dreaming, if Obama would have done the same on Ramadan , majority of Christians would want to impeach him...

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

    Is Obama a Muslim or a Christian?

    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."


    Possibly, Obama's message was not a Christian message, but a Muslim message.


    The Koran acknowledges Jesus as a religous leader with a servant's heart, whereby, of course, Muhammad thought of Jesus to be an Islamic leader and not a Christian one (in Muhammad's sight Christians are people who don't or didn't obey the Imam Jesus and Muslims are the true followers of Jesus). The Koran even says that Jesus was not so proud to call himself the "Son of God", but he considered himself as servant of the Lord of the World (alleged Allah).

    And, of course, Muhammad teached that Muslims (true believers) should love each other (Christians or infidels are excluded from the Muslim love and shall be slain).

    In contrast a true Christian message about Jesus Christ:

    Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. 2011 years ago the Son of God (one person of the Holy Trinity) incarnated and became a man, who was called Jesus from Nazareth. This was and is the greatest miracle of all ages that God became man. Jesus Christ was and is fully God and fully man at the same time. Jesus Christ had and has two natures: a divine one and a human one. Thus, in Jesus the Godhead and the mankind became perfectly united (but not mixed). By becoming a man God manifested His infinite love for us.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • longshot

      ye, ye, ye, and his birth certificate is fake too, right?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      No one of intelligence gives a hoot which imaginary sky friend he believes in or which book of holy lies he ascribes to.

      Frankly I think the man is too intelligent to be anything but atheist, but as an American politician he knows he has to pay lip service to god.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • FLIndependent

      Wow...that's some twisted logic. Amazing how everything and anything can be spun to feed the narrow minds of those who insist our President is Muslim (and it doesn't really matter if he is!)

      December 2, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Amom

      Amen. Thank you Rainer.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Read the (unholy) Koran and become proficient (I hope you have yet ever read the Holy Bible).

      December 2, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • JohnQuest

      That is one (of many) reasons why I am not a christian. To be a Christian you have to believe something is x and not x at the same time. I think that is an indication of insanity, for example, the red round thing in the corner is both a red round ball and a blue square box. It just does not make sense, I would suggest that it really doesn't make sense to believers either but they just set it aside and believe anyway. What I don't get is, a believer would not use the same type of logical fallacy for any other part of their lives, a believer would never be okay with the following answer "their spouse is both cheating on them and not cheating on them at the same time, but to be consistent a true believer would have to accept that odd situation as true. That's why I think, to be a true believer one has to be either insane or a lair.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Brad


      I will withhold judgment on Obama's faith – perhaps he has publicly confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I've never heard that he has confessed that Mohammed is God's Prophet.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  10. Colin

    Dear President Obama:

    God here.

    First, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was edited over the Centuries, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who withheld all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifth, I would not care who you do or how you “do it”. I really wouldn’t. This would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Oh, the egos.

    Sixth, I would have smited all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. These people drive me nuts. They are so small minded and yet they speak with such false authority. Many of them still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of them for that alone and burn them for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric for me to even contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place. I would like to see the President of the United States take a leadership role and help elevate Christians out of their antiquated beliefs, but let's face it, that would clearly cost you the next election.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as Christians euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.


    December 2, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Frankly Speaking..

      I hope you did not spend too much time writing it, the jobless rate improved tlast month. Maybe try getting a job ?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Zeke2112

      I cannot like this enough. +1 internets to you, good sir.

      I feel sorry for Frankly. He seems to think that only the jobless should be able to speak their mind. Must be a Democrat.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • JesusChristISLord

      It seems to me you've missed one point, Colin.
      Just as it would be folly to believe a small child understands the wisdom that comes with experience and age, so is it folly for a man to believe he would know the mind of God.
      I fully accept that you don't believe, as, if you did, you'd likely understand the peril of "bearing false witness" (yes, that's what you are doing), and of taking the name of God in vain.
      I know I, a man, would be very upset if you falsely claimed to "quote" me on my position on various things, particularly if your representation portrayed me in a bad, or untruthful way.
      But, it's OK... you can just believe that I don't exist either, and therefore you can't possibly have offended me or my beliefs either, right?
      Oh and I'm sorry if my critique of your diatribe offends you.
      Oh wait... "I don't believe in Colin" – there! Now you don't exist!
      So I couldn't possibly have offended you either!

      December 2, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  11. silliness

    Where are all of the comments from the left-wing readers who never hesitate to ridicule Christianity? You don't do it now because it's President Obama? Hypocrites. If you're going to speak out against religious nonsense at least do it consistently.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Zeke2112

      I'm a moderate who leans conservative. I'm also an atheist. I know plenty more who vote GOP. All of us rail against this religious nonsense.

      Blanket statements really make you look ignorant.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      Probably because Obama isn't a jesus freak who wears his faith on his sleeve and uses it to judge and demean others who live different lifestyles than he does.

      His stance on foreign policy and military expansionism make it clear he's not a follower of the words of Christ, but then again barely any of you self proclaimed "Christians" are either.

      Frankly the man's too smart to be a Christian, he's probably a closet atheist paying lip service to god in this idiotic country we have.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  12. RD

    That did it for me, I'm voting for him for a second term.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Yeah, who cares if we're so mired in debt that our kids won't be able to afford anything. At least he's a Christian!

      December 2, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      At least he's not a fundie moron like half the GOP candidates. I don't like it, but when confronted with the choice I take the lesser of two evils.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • claybigsby

      "That did it for me, I'm voting for him for a second term."

      this statement right here is why we need to keep people like you from voting.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  13. 21k

    hey thanks for preventing hitler from killing so many innocent people god! oh, what's that? they weren't xtians? oh. but what a cute baby!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • andawg


      December 2, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      The Nazis were Christian.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • ETW

      sorry, can't let this one slide. if you knew the Christian story, you would also know that God allowed several men to kill an innocent Jesus Christ for the sake of those same Germans who committed the atrocities during the holocaust to have the ability to repent of those sins and seek forgiveness. i am sure you have never committed something so egregious as the nazi's in WWII but I'm also sure that you have made multiple mistakes in your life and commit sins daily (ex. denying God's existence). the beauty of it all is that God loved YOU so much that he permitted His Son Jesus Christ to die a brutal death on a cross so that YOU too can have forgiveness for your sins and be reconciled back to God. Never forget that the cute, cuddly, little baby Jesus grew up and did the most amazing, self-less act of public service that was ever done.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • txrj

      Hey, remember Mr fool. There are two sides in your conscience. If you follow the Lord, you will stay away from trouble. If you listen to the other side, you end up like hitler. Unfortunately, too many people don;t listen to the right side

      December 2, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      ETW – Jesus didn't sacrifice anything. He knew during his life that he was the son of God. He knew he was a divine being. Therefore he knew that death would mean nothing to him and that he could return to life whenever he wished.

      If Jesus was human, it was a sacrifice. If he was a god, it was not.

      After all, what is death to God?

      December 2, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • ETW

      ETW – Jesus didn't sacrifice anything. He knew during his life that he was the son of God. He knew he was a divine being. Therefore he knew that death would mean nothing to him and that he could return to life whenever he wished.

      If Jesus was human, it was a sacrifice. If he was a god, it was not.

      After all, what is death to God?

      I don't really understand how death by crucifixion is any less painful or a sacrifice if you are the god-man or just a man. Let's just say you are Jesus. You have existed for all eternity, you are God, and you are the second person of the holy trinity (basic Christian orthodoxy). In God the Father's plan to save mankind from being eternally separated from Him because of their sinful actions, He has planned from the beginning for Christ (you) to go down to earth, enter into mankind, take on flesh, and live a sinless life just for the purpose of dying a sacrificial death on the cross so that all of mankind could be reconciled back to Him...this is His plan and it has been this way from the beginning. Now, you are living on earth, doing your thing as Jesus, born of a virgin, not sinning and it comes time for you to die. You're going to go through an excruciatingly painful death, one that was reserved for the least of society. You were going to be beaten physically, spit on, slapped, stripped naked, a crown of thorns (maybe 3 inches long) shoved down on top of your head, and then nailed, literally, to a tree to die by suffocation. This is going to happen, no way around it, it's real. Are you really going to say that this was painless or any less of a sacrifice? Even if you knew that you were divine and three days later you would come back? I don't see it man, there's no way you could tell me that you, being pre-existent, knowing God and knowing His plan, would not understand this moment in your life as a sacrificial death...You don't see it as sacrificial because you don't have access to God's mind or know His ways...

      Please read the Bible. God has the power to drastically change you, from a state of unbelief, enslaved to sin that is creating havoc in your life, to new life, a new mind, the mind of Christ and a heart that seeks to please Him. It starts though with recognizing Christ's death for what it really is...a sacrifice. A sacrifice for you, for me, for all mankind. So that we may have forgiveness of our sins and a relationship with God.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      ETW – I have read most of the Bible and it is a major reason that I am an atheist. The Bible is patently ridiculous and modern science has proven much of it completely false. The Exodus, the Flood, the existence of Jesus and Moses...none of it is substantiated anywhere, historically or archaeologically.

      Further, the word "sacrifice" means that you willingly give something up. Jesus gave nothing. He got tortured for three days, big whup. He knew he was God, he knew he'd be fully healed and resurrected, he gave not his life, health, sanity or divinity. He just suffered a little bit for 72 hours, knowing full well there would be no permanent damage. Not a sacrifice.

      Basically, your holy book disproves your entire religion. Freaking satire at its finest.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  14. Zaphod2000

    @Colin, great post. You know why I don't believe this fantasy about a god, i don't care which religion it is but mostly the christian, so-called religion? How did Jesus end up a blue eyed blond in the midst of dark skinned people in the region where he was supposedly born?
    Yeah, right!!! Religion was invented to scare people into being "civilized" and we know how miserably that has failed!!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Colin

      Had to repost mr Beeblebox. The Christians don't like hearing the truth, so they pull it down. No worries, I will just keep re-posting it.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Jerry

      Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the World and to all who believe in Him, was a Jew. I have never seen a picture of a blonde haired Jesus. Anyway, that is not important. The message of Jesus, God in the flesh, coming to earth as a sacrifice to save man-kind, is what Christmas is about. No one is perfect, not even we Christians, we all make mistakes. We just trust in Jesus for the salvation of our souls. When sin came into the world, so did death. One day all things will be made right by God, and His Son Jesus Christ. don't give up on God. There is hope.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  15. GSK

    Embarrassing that in this age people still take myths seriously...

    December 2, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Yep.

      I am mortified that our nation is led by someone who would give voice to such primitive fantasy.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Lacking Evidence since 14 Billion BCE

      No kidding.

      December 2, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  16. hippypoet

    whats wrong with sending a message? does it have to be a christian one? for that matter, does it have to be @ssociated with any religion? Whats wrong with having a message that appeals to everyone and not just a select group?!?!?!? god is a wishie washie stance, one that ALWAYS changes...like eggs, when i was a kid, they were healthy one week and the next it was the yolks that were good, then the egg whites – its sad how easily people can be mislead and give messages based on the misleading messages of others!

    December 2, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  17. sisi

    The muslim delivered a christian message.

    December 2, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  18. Tammy

    The relationship between man, woman, and child with God is a very personal bond and relationship. Who are we to question their relationship?

    December 2, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  19. tuskusmaster

    Imagine that...a Christian message at Christmas. I mean, if you can't accept that...come on. If you don't want to hear about Christ at Christmas, put in your earplugs and don't celebrate. I'm glad that President Obama had the courage to state the obvious knowing that it will result in hits from fanatics on both sides that don't want to hear it (fundamenatlists that are impossible to please and atheists that are afraid that if someone hears any religious terminology, they'll immediately convert).

    December 2, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  20. Sagebrush Shorty

    "The problem with born-again Christians is that they are a bigger pain in the neck the second time around."

    December 2, 2011 at 9:03 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.