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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 • Evangelical • 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. Deborah Hamilton

    As a ten year regular church attender at the Congregational Church in our northern Colorado town, this article is personally offensive to me, period. We are a mainstream Protestant church, in the non-Evangelical tradition. Please do not write off entire segments of the Christian community! With all of the right wing "He's a Muslim!" hatred out there, why would CNN even go toward that kind of extremism this close to the election? I am appalled.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jeff

      CNN is whoring this whole conversation, and patting themselves on the back for setting it off.
      Personally, it makes me think less of CNN as an organization and moves me away from this "old school" media player. I'm not getting any younger and I have little time or patience for CNN.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • spectraprism

      If republicanism is more christ-like, why do they push for wars and on Innocent countries? that's more christ -like? or letting the poor suffer is more so?

      October 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • lee

      Should the media ignore the truth? If you are against helping the poor or sick and think racism, money, and guns are Christian values, you should find another church.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • spectraprism

      My above comment was meant for Charles.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  2. achepotlex

    I think the right question should be "Are the FEMA camps finished yet?"

    October 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  3. charle

    either be a bible based Christian (conservative) or a Christian that pleases themselvesand think they're pleasing God (liberals).

    October 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      You did not read the Sermon on the Mount?

      October 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • charles

      Surthurfurd, be clear and get to your point.

      October 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • visitor

      In your mind, Christianity is the lapdog of the Republican Party. What a sorry and pathetic view of faith.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • charles

      visitor, being a conservative is more Christ-like.Republican is a party. Christ-like is not sitting alongside fighting for abortion. Talking and doing are two different things.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • visitor

      So, was lying to start a war with Iraq OK? Was that not as bad as women getting legal abortions?

      October 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • charles

      visitor, try to divide the idea of being a Christian and politics. The war was politics. Biden, Clinton, Powel etc were for the war. This is politics. Again, Christianity is something else.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • spectraprism

      If republicanism is more christ-like, why do they push for wars and on Innocent countries? that's more christ -like? or letting the poor suffer is more so?

      October 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • visitor

      visitor, try to divide the idea of being a Christian and politics.

      Really? This is from the person who wrote " either be a bible based Christian (conservative) or a Christian that pleases themselves and think they're pleasing God (liberals)

      So deceit to start wars is just political business as usual. But the squishy tissue inside a woman's body is the domain of the Conservative. I get it. Men are responsible for 95% of the violence on this earth, but hey, that's just politics. When women want to govern themselves, HOOOOOOO, stop right there, little ladies. Read your Bible, and Vote Republican. Thank you Charles for straitening me out. I'll tell my daughter to submit to the Conservative, er, Religious, er, Republican state. For her own soul, of course.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  4. spectraprism

    Many christian groups do not emphasize being "born -again" with some conversion story. Catholicism and Luthernism do not, as some examples. and what happened to the whole "pray and worship in private" that was mentioned in the bible? What makes anyone think Obama has to witness out loud to prove he's a christian?

    October 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  5. michaelwj

    With respect to the question, is Obama the "wrong kind of Christian"? It all depends on who you ask. Christianity appears to me to be defined by those who attempt define it, and whose definitions are shaped by their own biases and life experiences. Please spare me the "founding father" definition of Christianity. They, in their "Christian" hearts, believed that slavery was appropriate, and that persons of color were not worthy of the compassion so espoused by Christ. Southern post-reconstruction "Christians" believed in their "Christian" hearts that it was God's plan that a course of destruction be carried out against blacks in this country. Many "Christians" believe that inter-racial marriage is un-Christian, believe that women were simply meant to be docile servants of men, believe that white men are the only beings appointed and anointed by God to lead the world. What I see in my President, Mr. Obama, is that he has a vast life experience that is culminated in him taking the best of what he has learned, possibly from different faiths, in shaping his definition of Christianity. Right-winged Christians keep appropriating the question, "well what would Jesus do, or what would Jesus say" to validate their positions. The answer that they arrive at is always shaped by how they would answer the questions themselves, and not as how Jesus would or might answer the question. There are many things that we don't know or may not know about how Christ might respond to a situation, but we we do know is that he was an all-loving, non-judgmental and compassionate vessel for spreading the love of a merciful and caring God.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  6. Petersam

    Growing up, my chuch taught me to treat others as I would be treated, to care for the poor and needy, and to be tolerant of others. These traits seem to be absent from the modern day Republican Party despite the fact that they seem to think they alone represent Christianity in the U.S. Yet the media seems to be silent on these apparent contradictions and instead questions if President Obama is the "wrong" type of Christian! If making sure that everyone has good health care, that the elderly will be taken care of and that all Americans are afforded basic rights is "wrong" then we've got our values so turned around that I fear for this nation. Reasonable people of all faiths need to stand up against this insanity.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  7. george

    Can we see a CNN article "Is Romney the 'wrong' kind of Christian"?

    October 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jonah

      We already know Romney's the "wrong" kind of Christian because he belongs to the cult of Mormon.

      October 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Tony

      @Jonah – But Mitt carries the Religious Right; even though he's a Mormon. It's because the surface features allows the RR to identify with Mitt more closely than they can with Obama. Factor in Obama's name, his skin color, his liberal ideas on abortion, marriage, family, and suddenly you have the RR saying that Obama isn't the "right kind" of Christian.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • visitor

      Mormonism is getting a "Christian" whitewash. It is NOT Christianity any more than Islam is Christianity.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  8. jo slattery

    Shameful to try to hawk the idea that Obama is not the "right kind of Christian". It is not within your area of expertise to even attempt to do so.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  9. lee

    if you think it is "Christian" to pander to the ultra wealthy, vote romney/ryan

    October 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  10. oldslowjim

    Wow! Is CNN "The Wong Kind" of News Network?

    October 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Tony

      You should actually read the article, and not just the headline. Yes, the headline is attention-grabbing, but the article details how some people see Obama as the "wrong" kind of Christian due to his varied upbringing and exposure to other religions. In this sense, he is not "like other Christians" that were only exposed to one viewpoint. If anything, this is not a slur against Obama, it is a slur against "most Christians". Obama is represented here as a multi-faceted Christian that doesn't align with the big Religious Right. When you factor in the "different" ideas as well as his name and skin color, it's easy for Religious Righty to say Mr. Obama is the "other kind" rather than embracing him as a Christian. Opposite, you see Mitt Romney, the "right" kind of Christian, even though he's Mormon. He's white, upper-class (rich), espouses faith, and keeps to the Religious Right ideals of marriage, abortion, family, etc. If anything, the article paints Mr. Obama as the more enlightened version of the two.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Allen A. Smith

    There have always been two Christianities: one based on the Gospel of Matthew and another based on the Gospel of John. The gulf between them is so wide that most Christians feel compelled choose one or the other. Only saints like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maximilian Kolbe have been able to bridge that gulf.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • cahrles

      this is the simple answer. Bible based Christians are "the salt of the earth" in otherwords it is a personal responsibility to care for the poor etc. Liberals or non-bible based Christians pass the buck to the government. Yes, it's that simple.

      October 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jonah

      To cahrles: "Bible based Christians are "the salt of the earth" in otherwords it is a personal responsibility to care for the poor etc. Liberals or non-bible based Christians pass the buck to the government. Yes, it's that simple."

      You know what's funny about that? All the "salt of the earth" living in red states who get far more in government money than do the "non-bible based Christians" living in the blue states. Why's that?

      October 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • charles

      Jonah, everyone has they're hand out when you've given your money in.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • lee

      The government is we the people and it is our responsibility to take care of the poor and sick.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  12. William Benson

    " he’s also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage."

    I believe the defintion of a true Christian is clearly set out in the Scriptures. How can any human add to, or subtract from, the defintion? Calling oneself a Christian doesn't make one a Christian, one's actions show whether one is or not. The President evidently is not.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      What is the error of Obama? It is any worse than the error of those who ignore Jesus' sermon on the mount? Or those who bear false witness to further their political cause?

      October 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • William Benson

      I'm not taking sides. Neither candidate is a true Christian. Take a look at the first century Christian congreagtion to see how Christians should conduct themselves e.g. neutral, peaceful.
      The Sermon on the Mount contains much to determine if a person is a true Christian, but we also need to pay attention to everything else Jesus said and then look at the whole picture. For example, it is evident that Jesus subscribed (and promoted) the view of marriage being between one man and one woman because he clearly stated it. His comments about "lesser ones" and "love" do not override his support for the Scriptural definition of marriage. If anyone opposes (or adds to or subtracts from) Jesus' support for that definition can he really be called a footstep-follower of Christ!?

      October 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • visitor

      Scriptures contradict themselves. Translations contradict themselves. Cultural differences create different interpretations. Catholicism has a number of different Catholic Churches. Orthodox has a number of different Churches. Protestantism is all over the map. There is a huge difference between the Unitarians, a Christian group that dates back to the beginnings of this country, and Bible Belt Bible Prayer Warriors, and Haitian Catholicism. To not know otherwise is to be either very ignorant or very dogmatic and stubborn.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Mel Haun Sr

      With respect, I have to disagree, IMNSHEO, Obama is much closer to my judgment of one living the Personal Christian life than most of those who rail against him. A good and honorable man. I don't believe in Abortion, but remember girls in High school going off the "see an Aunt", and all too many never came back, or died later from complications. I don't want to see us go back to that. The rich will always have abortions if they want. My personal belief is that it is not a good idea to become the US taliban, Not the place of Government to inject such on a multi-religious country. If the Church and parents did a better job, and schools were allowed to teach a decent health program, it would be much simpler.. abstinence don't work all that well in ignorance. As for gay marriage.. That I have problem with, but try to remember the Bible is about Love, not hate. Bottom line, to judge Obama not being a Christian may be the work of the other guy. I trey not to judge on anything but the new Testament. God Bless

      October 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • visitor

      "If anyone opposes (or adds to or subtracts from) Jesus' support for that definition can he really be called a footstep-follower of Christ!?"

      If anyone marries to begin with, can that person be called a footstep follower of Christ? I don't think so. John also said that anyone who does not follow the Commandments does not know Christ. Thou shall not kill is a Commandment. By that measure, NO PRESIDENT, nor anyone who has ever killed (war included, I don't remember Jesus making an exception for politics) does not know Christ.

      I think Christians really pick and choose what they want, to accommodate their politics. That to me, is a gross disrespect of Jesus. That is no worse than any other religious people who think they know better than everyone else. But certainly no better.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  13. kait1159

    I'm sorry to say that many of those who believe the lies about President Obama's faith will not and would not read an article so lengthy or scholarly. They seem to want their information and their faith given to them in short, easy-to-comprehend epithets. They can get that from Fox news as well as some pulpits in America. I say that those who are quick to judge have forgotten the essence of Christian teachings. Regardless of President Obama's religious beliefs (I really don't care - morality and goodness are not owned by those of faith, regardless of what they want us to believe) BO is a good man who reacts to situations with calmness and who responds to others in fairness. I'm much prouder to have him as President than I am to have Sam Brownback as the Governor of my state. I've already voted for a man who deserves another term and I hope the democrats win again in part because the Republicans have become more thuggish and dense than I can stand. The more sane members of that party need to reclaim responsible governing.

    And CNN, you are losing this viewer. I remember a time when you were the station I trusted. Not so of late. Sad.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  14. Claire

    I am amazed that the reporter thinks that the born-again religious-right type of Christianity is in any way the majority or mainstream Christianity. I remember the rise of the Religious right, and at the time thought it bizarre that this sect, that seemed to be more a cult than any form of Christianity I was ever exposed to growing up in New England, was gaining political power. Now it is powerful, yes, and growing, but still does not reflect the views or beliefs of the majority of the Christian denominations in this area. To me, the fundamentalists are the anomaly.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  15. Liz the First

    It's the 'conservative christians' who are the wrong kind of Christian! Jesus was a liberal! every issue He preached about, the conservatives are on the opposite side. if they would spend less time focused on His death, and more time working to understand His teachings, they would know that. 'conservative christian' is an oxymoron. you cannot be both. Obama isn't just a Christian, he attempts to act in a Christlike manner, which is more than i can say for the folks trying to defeat him by spreading lies and hate.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  16. cindy

    romney the so called morman...is willing to wage a 10,000 dollar bet during a debate to prove he's right....
    he is so filthy rich he's like a two year old...you wanna bet....how bout 10,000 bucks...
    real christian like
    where is your outrage cnn

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  17. lily

    I think the appropriate question is not whether Romney or Obama are Christians, but which of these two men would Christ recommend you vote for. I believe that Jesus would leave abortion up to the individual (as in do I sin or not–individual choice) and would help the poor with food and medical care. He healed the leper and the unclean woman, he shared the loaves and fishes, he raised Lazarus from the dead. While Obama is no saint, he's worked to improve the lives of others. Somehow Romney just doesn't measure up if you think about it. Romney with all his millions could easily help the poor, ill and hungry in America–he doesn't need to be president to do so. But instead he hides his money in the Caymans. He doesn't believe enough in America to even invest his money here, let alone use it to help anyone but fellow Mormons. And he is obviously ashamed of what he's done with the money or he'd release his taxes. If you have nothing to hide, why not.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  18. Marc

    So, will you be posting an article asking the same questions about ROMNEY!!!!
    Is ROMNEY the wrong kind of Christian?

    It is shocking that he gets a free pass on this one while Obama's belief gets nit picked and speculated constantly.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  19. Surthurfurd

    Sadly most "Christians" worship wealth and power...MAMMON and do not follow Jesus' teachings. When attacking those who are different from them they focus on ancient Jewish Tribal law and turn away when someone quotes Christ.

    October 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  20. onestarman

    Wrong COLOR of Christian? Jimmy Carter was Never accused of being a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist. Mitt Romney follows a Faith that is Nominally christian; but more removed from Mainline Protestant beliefs than Coptic or Antioch Orthodox beliefs are. The DIFFERENCE is the Same Reason THIS President is accused of NOT being a BORN American but a Kenyan BORN Muslim – It is More Acceptable than Using the 'N' Word (at least in Public) The REASON is simply RACISM

    October 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Peter

      Racism has absolutely, positively nothing to do with being president today. What the people are looking for is someone, anyone to tighten the belts of the politicians and STOP SPENDING us to death.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.