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The Gospel according to Obama
President Obama is not just a racial trailblazer, but some say a religious pioneer as well. No president has ever shared his type of Christianity, historians say. Some say he may revive a form of Christianity that once dominated America.
October 21st, 2012
06:59 AM ET

The Gospel according to Obama

By John Blake, CNN

President Barack Obama was sharing a pulpit one day with a conservative Christian leader when a revealing exchange took place.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Christian who has taken public stands against abortion and same-sex marriage, had joined Obama for an AIDS summit. They were speaking before a conservative megachurch filled with white evangelicals.

When Brownback rose to speak, he joked that he had joined Obama earlier at an NAACP meeting where Obama was treated like Elvis and he was virtually ignored. Turning to Obama, a smiling Brownback said, “Welcome to my house!”

The audience exploded with laughter and applause. Obama rose, walked before the congregation and then declared:

“There is one thing I have to say, Sam. This is my house, too. This is God’s house.”

Historians may remember Obama as the nation’s first black president, but he’s also a religious pioneer. He’s not only changed people’s perception of who can be president, some scholars and pastors say, but he’s also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage.

When Obama invoked Jesus to support same-sex marriage, framed health care as a moral imperative to care for “the least of these,’’ and once urged people to read their Bible but just not literally, he was invoking another Christian tradition that once dominated American public life so much that it gave the nation its first megachurches, historians say.

“Barack Obama has referred to his faith more times than most presidents ever have, but for many it’s the wrong kind of faith,” says Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners, an evangelical activist group based in Washington that focuses on poverty and social justice issues.

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“It is not the faith of the religious right. It’s about things that they don’t talk about. It’s about how the Bible is full of God’s clear instruction to care for the poor.”

Some see a 'different' kind of Christian

Obama is a progressive Christian who blends the emotional fire of the African-American church, the ecumenical outlook of contemporary Protestantism, and the activism of the Social Gospel, a late 19th-century movement whose leaders faulted American churches for focusing too much on personal salvation while ignoring the conditions that led to pervasive poverty.

No other president has shared the hybrid faith that Obama displays, says Diana Butler Bass, a historian and author of “Christianity after Religion.”

“The kind of faith that Obama articulates is not the sort of Christianity that’s understood by the media or by a large swath of Christians in the U.S.,” says Bass, a progressive Christian. “He’s a different kind of Christian, and the media and the public awareness needs to reawaken to that fact.”

Some Christians, however, still see Obama as the “other.” He doesn’t act or talk like other Christians, says the Rev. Gary Cass, a conservative Christian president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.

“I just don’t see or hear in his accounts the kind of things that I’ve heard as a minister for over 25 years coming from the mouths of people who have genuinely converted to Christianity,” says Cass, pastor of Christ Church in San Diego.

Cass says he’s never heard Obama say he’s “born-again.” There’s no emotional conversion story to hang onto.

Obama talks about his faith and attends church, but Cass says that doesn’t mean he’s a Christian.

“Joining a church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. “You can put me in the garage, but that doesn’t turn me into a car.”

The origins of Obama’s faith

The suspicion about Obama’s faith may seem odd at first because he’s written and spoken so much about his spiritual evolution in his two autobiographies, “Dreams of my Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” Other books, like “The Faith of Obama” by Stephen Mansfield, also explore Obama’s beliefs.

The 1925 “Monkey” trial of John Scopes, a high school biology teacher who taught evolution, drove fundamentalists underground, some say.

Mansfield says Obama is the first president who wasn’t raised in a Christian home. Obama’s mother was an atheist and his grandparents were religious skeptics (Obama’s family has challenged the description of his mother as an atheist. Obama called her “the most spiritually awakened” person he’d ever known, and his sister called their mother an agnostic).

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Mansfield called Obama’s boyhood a “religious swirl.  He was exposed to Catholicism, Islam, and strains of Hinduism and Buddhism while growing up in Indonesia during the 1960s.

“In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology,” Obama said in Mansfield’s book. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

Obama became a Christian while he was a community organizer in Chicago. He joined a predominantly black United Church of Christ. The UCC became the first mainline Protestant denomination to officially support same-sex marriage in 2005.

Obama’s faith showed many of the elements of a liberal Protestant church: an emphasis on the separation of church and state, religious tolerance and the refusal to embrace a literal reading of the Bible.

In a 2006 speech before a Sojourners meeting, Obama talked about his approach to the Bible:

“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?”

When many people think of Obama’s religious experience in Chicago, though, they cite his exposure to the angry sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and “black liberation theology,” a movement that emerged in the late 1960s and blended the Social Gospel with the black power movement.

Bass, the church historian, says another black pastor shaped Obama’s theology more: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

He attended liberal Protestant seminaries where he learned about the Social Gospel’s concern for the entire person, soul and body.

Obama has reached out to evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, seen here praying at Obama’s inauguration, but many still doubt his faith.

King once wrote that “any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them …is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”

But King and the black church also fused the Social Gospel with an emotional fervor missing from white Protestant churches, Bass says. Other presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were influenced by the Social Gospel, but they weren’t shaped by the black church.

“This is the first time we’re hearing the Social Gospel from the perspective of the black church from the Oval Office. It makes it warmer, more emotive, more communal," Bass says. "There is less fear of linking the Social Gospel with the stories of the Bible, especially the stories of Exodus and Jesus’ healings.”

The emphasis on community uplift - not individual attainment - may strike some Americans as socialist. But the emphasis on community is part of King’s “Beloved Community,” Bass says.

King once wrote that all people are caught up in an “inescapable network of mutuality… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.”

“When I listen to Obama, I don’t hear communism, I hear the Beloved Community,” Bass says. “But a lot of white Americans don’t hear that because they never sat in those churches and heard it over and over again. It’s the whole theology that motivated MLK and the civil rights movement.”

Obama is not a Christian, some think

For some, Obama’s actions in the Oval Office seem to contradict Christianity.

Jesus was nonviolent. Obama has ramped up drone attacks in Afghanistan that have not only removed terrorists, but killed civilians.

The Bible talks about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Obama invoked Jesus when he came out in support of same-sex marriage. “The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule," Obama told ABC News during his announcement.

Jesus talked about helping the poor. But he never said anything about creating a massive health care law that taxed the rich to help the poor, some Christians argue.

But Wallis of Sojourners says Obama’s push for health care was a supreme example of Christian faith.

A situation where 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance is “a fundamental Christian problem,” Wallis says.

“Health is such a Gospel issue. Jesus was involved in healing all the time, and to have some people excluded from health care because they lack wealth is a fundamental Christian contradiction.”

Wallis has been one of the most persistent defenders of Obama’s faith. But no matter how much Scripture he and others cite, doubts about Obama’s faith have followed him throughout his political career.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson once said that Obama distorted the traditional understanding of the Bible “to fit his own world, his own confused theology.” The Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, publicly questioned Obama’s faith, then later apologized.

Conservative Christian books and websites are filled with stories of Obama allegedly trying to suppress the nation’s Christian heritage.

The Rev. Steven Andrew, author of “Making a Strong Nation,” says Obama is trying to change the national motto from “In God we Trust” to “Out of Many, One,” and he’s ordered the Pentagon to remove biblical verses from its daily report.

“That’s the most serious thing someone can do to a nation, trying to separate a nation from God,” he says. “He seems to be trying to change the Christian laws our Founding Fathers made.”

Andrew says Obama is actually an enemy of Christianity. In his book, Andrew argues that the Founding Fathers were Christians who created a “covenant Christian nation” and calls for a “national repentance.”

“I think he’s an anti-Christ,” Andrew says.  Cass, of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, says Obama’s emphasis on helping the poor through social justice isn’t Christianity.

Christians who talk about “social justice” are often practicing “warmed-over Marxism,” Cass says.

“Do I believe in caring for the poor and oppressed? Yes. But you don’t do it along the lines of communistic redistributing.”

Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and abortion rights also disqualifies him from being a Christian, Cass says.

“It’s the most pro-abortion administration in the history of America.  On every social issue – the sanctity of life and of marriage between men and women – Obama is on the wrong side of every moral issue,” he says.

He says a progressive Christian is a contradiction.

“No Christian says I believe in Jesus Christ and I reject the Bible,” Cass says. “These progressives who say they’re Christians are liars. They’re using Christianity as a guise to advance their own agenda.”

Cass says he doesn’t know what Obama believes.

“He’s conflicted,” Cass says. “He has Muslim sympathies from his upbringing."

How progressive Christianity lost the public square

There was a time when Obama’s brand of Christianity would have been understood by millions of Americans, historians say.

Obama along with first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha leave church after attending a Sunday prayer service.

The Social Gospel and progressive Protestantism dominated the American religious square from the end of the 19th century up to the 1960s. At times, the traditions blended together so seamlessly that it was hard to tell the difference.

The Social Gospel rose out of the excesses of the Gilded Age in the 1880s, when urban poverty spread across America as immigrants crammed into filthy slums to work long hours in unsafe conditions.

Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor in a New York slum, urged the church to take “social sins” as seriously as they took individual vices. Churches began feeding the poor and fighting against other social ills.

“The notion that religious people should be about feeding the poor and helping the homeless is a carryover of the Social Gospel,” says Charles Kammer, a religion professor at Wooster College in Ohio. The Social Gospel was adopted by many Protestant churches in the late 19th and early 20th century, says Bass, the church historian. Some of the Social Gospel churches grew popular because they provided the poor with everything from English classes to sewing instructions and basketball leagues.

“The first American megachurches were liberal, Social Gospel urban churches,” Bass says.

The Social Gospel, though, sparked a backlash from a group of pastors during World War I. They were called fundamentalists. They published a pamphlet listing the “fundamentals of the faith:” Biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, Adam and Eve.

But the fundamentalists lost the battle for public opinion during the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. John Scopes, a high school science teacher, was tried for violating a Tennessee law that prohibited the teaching of evolution.

Though Scopes lost, fundamentalist Christians were mocked in the press as “anti-intellectual rubes,” and a number of states suspended pending legislation that would have made teaching evolution illegal, says David Felten, author of “Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity.”

The trial drove fundamentalists underground where they created a subculture, their own media networks, seminaries and megachurches, he says.

That subculture thrives today, Felten says, and has infiltrated the political arena. It has created an “alternative intellectual universe” that denies science, rational thought – and any beliefs that violate their definition of being a Christian, Felten says.

“They have millions of adherents who believe in a literal six day creation and a literal Adam and Eve – so it’s not a stretch to believe that President Obama is a Kenyan-born secret Muslim bent on destroying the country,” Felten says.

Progressive Christians eventually lost the messaging wars to this fundamentalist subculture, Bass says. Their nuanced view of faith couldn’t compete with the “spiritual triumphalism” of conservatives.

“If you get up and say we’re right and we have the truth, then you have a powerful public message,” she says. “They have a theological advantage in the public discourse. It’s comforting to have things clear, to have things black and white.”

The result today is that the Protestant tradition that shapes much of Obama’s Christianity is fading from public view.

The share of Protestant Christians in the United States has dropped below 50% of the population, according to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

White mainline Protestants make up only 15% of the nation’s population, the survey revealed. The study also found that the fastest growing "religious group" in the country is people who are not affiliated with any religion.

Another generation of Christians, though, may bring a new version of progressive Christianity back.

The lines between younger conservative Christians and progressives are blurring, says Marcia Pally, author of “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.”

Pally spent six years traveling across America to interview evangelicals. She says her research revealed that more than 60% of young evangelicals support more governmental programs to aid the needy, as well as more emphasis on economic justice and environmental protection issues.

“What’s interesting is that these values, associated with Obama and the black Protestant tradition are now also the values of a growing number of white evangelicals,” she says.

Her perspective suggests that Obama’s faith may be treated by history in two ways:

He could be seen as the last embodiment of a progressive version of Christianity that went obsolete.

Or he could be seen as a leader who helped resurrect a dying brand of Christianity for a new generation.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Church • Courts • Creationism • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Evolution • evolvution • Faith • Fundamentalism • Gay marriage • Gay rights • God • History • Homosexuality • Interfaith issues • Obama • Protestant • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage • Schools • Science

soundoff (8,626 Responses)
  1. Annie

    It's amazing how many of these comments are filled with hate and lies–from all sides!

    October 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      :-(

      October 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • End Religion

      some love, peace and harmony for annie...

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsoPCxdH4U4&w=640&h=390]

      October 23, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  2. Reality

    Putting the final nail in Christianity's coffin:

    "So where are the bones"?

    As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Annie

      Too bad a tomb was paid for by a rich guy names Joseph.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • End Religion

      Don't forget the most likely explanation is that jesus was eaten by atheists. It is well known they eat babies and are always hungry. If jesus had been lying around unattended for any length of time, atheists would have popped a table up, brought out the fine china and made a banquet of him. Amen.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Reality

      " Professor Crossan [Historical Jesus, 391-94] includes a discussion of Jesus' burial in his treatment of the death tradition. After rehearsing the usual Roman practices (see below) and the occasional exceptions that serve only to validate the norm, Crossan continues:

      The unspoken hope and the unspoken assumption behind the Cross Gospel is that Jesus would have been buried out of piety, by the Jews who had crucified him. It never actually describes that burial, but it presumes that those who executed Jesus are totally in control of death, burial, and tomb. ... Nobody knew what had happened to Jesus' body. ... by Easter morning, those who cared did not know where it was, and those who knew did not care."

      Professor Gerd Luedemann [Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 108-111] notes that the burial tradition may be simply a postulate—derived from the fact of Jesus' death or knowledge of Jewish purity concerns—rather than the memory of an historical event, Luedemann's own preference, influenced in part by John 19:31-37 and Acts 13:20, is that Jesus was buried by Jews who were not his followers. There was no act of affection or devotion involved in the disposal of his remains. His body was simply removed from the cross and buried in some unknown location by Jewish people wishing to protect the imminent festival from the desecration of a dead body remaining on the cross over night (cf. Deut 21:23):"

      p. 111, " ..... from a historical perspective, Joseph of Arimathea would have been the one commissioned to see to the burial of Jesus. It is improbable that he was a disciple or a friend of Jesus. The opposite conclusion, that he was one of the enemies of Jesus, would be just as unlikely, since- from a historical perspective, there are serious doubts about the condemnation of Jesus by the (Jewish) Supreme Council. We can no longer say where he (or the Jews unknown to us) laid the body."

      October 23, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  3. AmesIA

    Thank goodness we have Mr. Andrews, Cass and their ilk to define what a real Christian is and spot the anti-Christ in our midst! And that ability to peer into men's souls and know exactly what is in their heart. Must be a heavy burden to be blessed with such talent wtihin such small, closed minds...

    October 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      Don't forget to get your hunting license early. It's almost ilk season.

      October 23, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  4. froggie

    Mormonism is not Christianity as either. Will Mitt use the Book of Mormon if he wins the presidency??? Does anyone realize if Mitt Romney wins he will be a "God"??? The Mormon God is NOT the Christian God. They believe that "God" our creator was a man? That Jesus was only a man and not our Creator. At least the Muslims and Christians have the same God!! WAKE UP PEOPLE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!! Satan himself will say he is pro-life to be the greatest ruler in the world.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      You bash one set of rediculous beliefs while espousing the virtues of a different set of rediculous beliefs.

      All religions are fairy tales. To think that one as powerful as POTUS would believe any of that crap makes me quake in fear.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "ridiculous", not "rediculous".

      October 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Sergio Roa Prado

      Have you visited a lds chapel in your life ? , because you have a complete lack of knowledge about the Church, all your claims are not official doctrines. I suppose that you are educated so have 2 alternatives: 1 You do not know how to make an investigation. 2 You are a complete illiterate.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  5. TheVocalAtheist

    No God is needed except for the deceitful, the greedy and the weak. Powerful people will seek you out and take the essence of yourself for their financial and religious agenda. It's all a big scam and you will waste a lifetime, the only one you have, sucked into the grasps of harmful and degrading ideologies. Think for yourself, question everything and do not accept shallow magic tricks.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm |

    • All gods are imaginary. Deceitful gods, greedy gods and weak gods have few followers. Why concern yourself with them?

      October 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Look man... I'm just trying to make a dishonest living like everyone else. Peter Popoff is a very close friend of mine, and I'm truly a big fan of his. He ain't hurtin' nobody. Matter of fact, he HEALS people with the power of GAWD! Did you know God once told Robert Tilton to change the gas filter on his car when it wouldn't run? Gods honest truth...

      October 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  6. Luke

    Why the f*&K mix politics with religion?????

    October 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  7. RexT

    Why do religious people keep attacking each other – of the same faith but a different 'something' – (sect) – as though one is superior and all others are inferior, yet claiming association with the same deity? Obama's faith – whatever that is or is not, is Obama's personal CHOICE of faith in his life and a personal/private part of his life. It has become quite appalling in this country, the 'wearing of religion' – so publicly! Obviously, given there is a majority of those who identify as 'christian' (of some sort) – in this country, the 'attacks' (other than ongoing obviously more violent types in various Middle East countries with state enforced muslim citizens) are so angry and vicious. I never realized how many humans have literally come to 'believe' their chosen religious path in life provides them with the superior position on all things to all people based on 'their god' and thousands of years of re-writing their books to suit leaders of various 'interests.' Humanity is so easily manipulated via religious passion, life 'here after' – vs ... wait, oh no ..... Now. Just don't get the cop out of it all. Makes No Sense.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Yeah man... those humans. They stink on ice don't they? So very afraid they create gods to promise them eternal life.
      Bunch of girlie-men if you ask me.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  8. WASP

    what amazes me is "god" is so perfect then how is it he messed up 3 times during creation? seriously!
    first mess up) ANGELS: god created angels and then they turned on him in a vy for power.
    second mess up)ADAM AND LILITH: adams first wife was "taken" during her creation by the devil and wouldn't bow to god and adam in submission.
    third mess up) ADAM AND EVE: god felt bad for adam's first wife running away so he created a second wife from adam's rib, eve ended up getting tricked then seduced adam into eating of a "forbidden fruit."

    how on earth can god mess up that many times and be considered "perfect"? sounds to me he is the "D" level student you keep away from the workbench in woodshop for fear of him hurting himself. ROFLMFAO.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Annie

      I don't get this. First of all, who is Lilith? She's not in any version of the Bible I've ever read! Also, the two other "mess ups" you mention are made by the angels and by humans. You kind of state this yourself. How did you conclude that they were God's fault? God didn't create robots that perfectly do all He commands them to do, and that's pretty obvious.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Annie,

      Lilith is in many of the older translations. The new translations like to leave her out.

      You will find a reference here:

      http://bible.cc/isaiah/34-14.htm

      October 22, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Annie,

      Isaiah 34:14

      In place of Lilith you will see:

      night creatures
      night bird
      night monster
      screech owl
      lamia
      night-owl

      As a creature of the night, Lilith is associated with owls.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      :-) One itty-bitty
      :-) Two itty-bitties
      :-) Three and no more

      October 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      'Sorry! The word "Lilith" doesn't occur in the KJV.'

      October 23, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      '"dung"
      occurs 28 times in 26 verses in the KJV' See Phl 3:8 and the preceding verses.

      October 23, 2012 at 4:19 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Nuthin' but total antichrist doctrine. 'Mat 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren.'

      October 23, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      You can always think of diaper rash when the subject of Midrash comes up.

      October 23, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  9. Right Winger

    Obuma the communist is the anti christ!! His promotion of evolution and climate change are satanic.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      YOU are so right, that Obuma is a bad person, OF COURSE the President, Obama, is NOTHING like what you claim. Stupid child.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • == o ==

      There truly is only one idiot who writes like this. It must be "truth be told" (more like Turrets be Told);
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer's boot camp flunkie.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • nope

      @ o
      nope

      October 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • NoWingNutsAllowed

      And you believe in the 7 day FairyTale, amazing!

      October 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      I checked with Jay-C (we're browz ya know) about Obama being the anti-christ, and he said no. Not Obama. Word has it Paul Ryan might be. Apparently, the Big Guy (who is jesus AT THE SAME TIME!) can do that Matrix "change a person into a different person" shtick whenever he wants. Its how Bruce Jenner became a woman. Dude can work miracles I swear.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  10. JCG-NYC

    The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark

    The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark

    "The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark" is designed to initiate the reader into a meditation on what it means to be human, what it means to be a manifestation of God, and how Barack Obama is a unique and important manifestation of God’s desire for human flourishing. In a blend of words from his public speeches, imagined conversation, and fictional situations, the book highlights Obama’s real stance on social justice and, in particular, economic and political empowerment. It juxtaposes ancient Biblical form and contemporary reality, challenging the reader to see and seek God in all persons. “Our life-defining texts must be porous and we must be imaginative in our engagement with them. Let this book be a reminder not to so credit sacred texts or cultural icons that they lead us to hatred and violence in the name of God. When we see the Divine in another, we must name it. We must respect it. The practice demands nothing less than Love.”

    October 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Is it like watching Obama read a tele-prompter?

      October 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  11. cr

    The gop has been using the church for years. Now that the religious right has taken over the gop, they will destroy Christianity in this country. President Obama is the right kind of Christian. Fundamentalist and extremist are not good for any religion. Real Christians need to speak up for what is right and that is not what the crazies in the relgious right is spewing.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      It seems to me that Catholics voting Republican is the difference this election. How can Mormon be the religious right and still be accused by the religious right of not being Christians?

      October 22, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      Religion is a manmade club like any other, with rules and perks to make the club feel special from other clubs. The club gets together periodically to reinforce the delusions of members. Many branches of this club have dues which most call a tithe.

      You've chosen the club that aligns best with your own fantasy concerning how to minimize your fears in life. You and others in the club are afraid so you've made up a god that soothes you by making decisions for you, helping you feel less alone in the universe, and promising you life everlasting. The various club gods offer perks to induce membership such as seeing dead relatives, virginal sex partners, planets to rule or even one's own god status.

      The Jesus you believe in never existed, was and is king of nothing. The bible is a collection of stolen, modified, pre-fabricated myth and forgeries about a non-existent deity. You don't have to be afraid. You do not need religion.

      Deal with the lack of afterlife by celebrating life and family in the here and now. Be responsible for your own decisions. Be kind to the earth and others on it. Forge a path with determination, or "go with the flow" and let life determine the course if you're the lazy type. Either way, you don't need a god or a club for any of that.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Freedom OF and Freedom FROM are wordsmithing... one can not assure freedom of religion without the assumption of freedom from said religion.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  12. DD

    When do I get to meaningfully vote for an atheist?

    October 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The notion that a man needs a spiritual side is a part of Freemason ideaology. It is an interesting coincidence that the Mormon religion began as a mix of Freemason Ideas (ie the bill of rights) and Christianity. Perhaps as an athiest you are doomed to tolerate religion as long as the American Republic exists.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • kevin

      John Tarver, yeah, but "mix" is rather general. Something fishy happened there to cause Joseph Smith to get two families to sign onto the cult lie. They were either in trouble already with the law, or they need some quick cash and some quick followers.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Kevin-There were a lot of single women left behind at the river with no other way to get across. Our Mormon ex-sheriff sold his soul to a shunned by the Mormon stake in Mexico for a 30 year old wife.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • mama k

      John P. Tarver wrote: "The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

      While it is true that the primary purpose of the 1st Amendment is to guarantee freedom of religion, it does, in some very important ways, provide for freedom of religion within the Establishment Clause. An example of where a ruling was applied using this was in 1963, where the reading of the Lord's Prayer or of the Bible in the classroom of a public school by the teacher was ruled unconstitutional.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • mama k

      (more clearly – where I should have used the word from – see the bold)

      John P. Tarver wrote: "The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

      While it is true that the primary purpose of the 1st Amendment is to guarantee freedom of religion, it does, in some very important ways, provide for freedom from religion within the Establishment Clause. An example of where a ruling was applied using this was in 1963, where the reading of the Lord's Prayer or of the Bible in the classroom of a public school by the teacher was ruled unconstitutional.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Mama-The classroom was wholely controlled by the States in 1863 and the true notion of seperation of church and state was not applied to the states until the 1880s; under the Fourteenth Amendment. There were State religions until that time and these theocracies made their own rules.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • mama k

      JT: Yes, so I'm very glad that the issue came to a head in the early 1960's so that the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment could finally be properly enforced, as it has been since.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      mama-Today public schools teach evolution as a means to species as fact, even though science knows from the Global geological record and Dr. Gould's work that species occur rapidly followin a mass extinction; in violation of the same seperation claus. Inside academia a religion has grown up aroung the big bang and evolution as a means to species, even though these notional hypothesis are false as science.

      October 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • mama k

      JT: Well while that debate goes on, and unless the law changes, we're going to keep Bible readings out of public schools.

      October 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @JT, are you saying that the earth might be younger than thought by science? Come on man, sure some evolutions may well speed up after mass extinctions, but there is overwhelming evidence of an old earth.

      October 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      JT: don't be shy. How old is the earth?

      October 23, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The day John the Tard figures out how to spell "separation" is the day he has anything to say about education, public OR private. What a friggin' moron.

      October 23, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  13. mama k

    If we could trust our elected officials to keep religion out of their public service, then we wouldn't need the 1st Amendment. "Paul Ryan" says that he doesn't think he can separate his faith from his public service. That's a dangerous notion, considering some of the hotly contested issues of the day are embedded in religion. It's difficult to understand Mr. Romney's stance on separation or just about any other issue, since the little insight he does give changes as fast as a 3-month old's diaper.

    Different Christian sects were feuding and persecuting each other over various issues around around the time that our government was being founded in several states (or soon-to-be states). Because this feuding between these sects annoyed our key founders so greatly, they made it a top priority to establish the separation of church and state (and to make it Amendment #1 of our Constitution). This is also reflected in what they had to say on the matter:

    James Madison (our 4th President, was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 1785)

    and then ten years later:

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795)

    Thomas Jefferson (our 3rd President, was the key author of the Declaration of Independence)

    Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    (Letter (as POTUS) to the Virginia Baptists (1808))

    and then of course we have clarifying moments in history such as:

    President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    (from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)

    Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

    October 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  14. Mark Bozzuti-Jones

    I encourage all of you to read the book, "The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark" in this book the author shows the deep belief of the President and how in many ways he is a manifestation of gospel principles. President Obama is a man of profound faith and his policies show a love for the poor and the marginalized. Read the book, The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark

    October 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Obama is very good at making people believe, but that is the message from 4 years ago and Obama has not delivered.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      Congress has not delivered, JT.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Reid has blocked the enitre Republican and bipartisan House Agenda this Congress, but he is a Democratic Senator. Also a Mormon, by the way. Reid's stake in Clark County NV provided the desert traveler with many a vice.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Robert

      "but that is the message from 4 years ago and Obama has not delivered."

      Huh? That's why the economy is recovering and unemployment is going down, he actually killed Osama, he supports equal rights, he's trying to get health care for the millions who don't have it and are causing a huge strain on our health system.

      Passed Health Care Reform
      Passed the Stimulus
      Passed Wall Street Reform
      Ended the War in Iraq
      Began Drawdown of War in Afghanistan
      Eliminated Osama bin laden
      Turned Around U.S. Auto Industry
      Recapitalized Banks
      Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
      Toppled Moammar Gaddafi11. Told Mubarak to Go
      Reversed Bush Torture Policies
      Improved America’s Image Abroad
      Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program, Expanded Pell Grant Spending
      Created Race to the Top.
      Boosted Fuel Efficiency Standards
      Coordinated International Response to Financial Crisis
      Passed Mini Stimuli
      Began Asia “Pivot
      Increased Support for Veterans
      Tightened Sanctions on Iran
      Created Conditions to Begin Closing Dirtiest Power Plants
      Passed Credit Card Reforms
      Eliminated Catch-22 in Pay Equality Laws
      Improved Food Safety System
      Expanded National Service
      Expanded Wilderness and Watershed Protection
      Gave the FDA Power to Regulate Tobacco
      Pushed Federal Agencies to Be Green Leaders
      Let Space Shuttle Die and Killed Planned Moon Mission
      Improved School Nutrition
      Expanded Hate Crimes Protections
      Brokered Agreement for Speedy Compensation to Victims of Gulf Oil Spill
      Pushed Broadband Coverage
      Expanded Health Coverage for Children
      Helped South Sudan Declare Independence
      Killed the F-22

      October 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • NoWingNutsAllowed

      I encourage you all to see the following. Its what were up againsthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q6brMrFw0E

      October 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  15. Sam Stoner

    Obama is not a christian in any sense of the word....and after watching the doc on his upbringing – you can see why there is such confusion. He has a chip on his shoulder, and this is scarey in his position. HE has brought on all of this speculation, because he speaks with a triple forked tongue

    October 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • .

      You must be stoned to write such a stupid comment.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      No Christian is a Christian in any sense of the word. Did you miss the memo? Built right into the religion of Christianity is the insane capability for an individual to take any side of any argument and support it with some from their precious Bible. Of course their argument may not line up with the simple teachings of JC, but who cares when there's a war to fight.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • just sayin

      ( . . something from . .)

      October 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      so you thought 2016 was a serious film huh? you crack me up.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      I know someone who was brought up Catholic, went to Catholic school, and is now Buddhist. I know several people brought up Protestant who are now Jewish, Hindu and Catholic. I don't understand why the notion that Obama must be Muslim because of anything that might have happened in his childhood is so ingrained in some folks.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      I was raised catholic. But it never made sense to me. Even as a child.

      October 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • NoWingNutsAllowed

      Let me guess, you want a planet of your own too.

      October 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  16. Gio

    Obama and Jeremiah Wright were a good pair, its a shame they had to break up their bromance – so Obama could be president

    October 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  17. JesusSezWhat

    Obama is NOT a real Christian, he's not even a real ......black person

    October 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • .

      It's no wonder that Americans are known to be stupid throughout the world.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      But we all know you are a REAL IDIOT... so it's a wash..

      October 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  18. JesusSezWhat

    Obama is a lying, godamned Muslim end of discussion.

    October 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      yes dear, now run along and play.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • just sayin

      I'll tell you when the end of discussion is you pompous fvcktard.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      I believe Jesus has left the building, it's time for his meds.....

      October 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      Right, I always assume that people who don't attend mosques, are married in Christian churches and attend Christian services are Muslim. Guess that makes my entire family Muslim rather than Protestant and we never suspected.......

      October 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • NoWingNutsAllowed

      If I become a Christian Mormon can I have my own Planet too?

      October 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  19. Mecuso

    He is obviously a satanist. Those spiritually uninformed notions about christianity that u guys have will only lead to hell. Obama has a job to herald d coming of d antichrist. There is no stopping him. Romney has lost d election already.

    October 22, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      If Obama is the anti-christ, Romney does not have a chance.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • pets

      Obama is a puppet for the Bildiberg Society, who plans to microchip every person in America....its in the Obamacare package!!! He is not the antiChrist, but he is definitely the test case

      October 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      scary that there are people that seriously think that is true.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • End Religion

      Here's hoping Obama is the anti-christ and that I receive a microchip. I'm getting older and that chip might help someone return me to my home if I get lost.

      October 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  20. Just call me Lucifer

    John P. Tarver

    Bilial-Your power ended at Calvary. Now you are only a dusty old loser fallen angel.

    Just keep cowering in fear of the non-existent invisible sky-god, as you say your useless prayers little man. Whats that smell?

    October 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Fear the one who destroys your soul ...

      October 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • End Religion

      Fear the one who can't distinguish delusion from reality....

      October 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
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About this blog

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.