home
RSS
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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

“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. Gina

    Christian Taliban don't tell me or the President how to worship!

    October 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  2. Phil

    Obama is not a christian. He's a muslim.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      That's right, Phil, and he was not born in the US, and at night he sneaks into people's houses and steals their chldren's toys, and he strangles kittens for fun.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Michael Johnson

      See the intelligence of many conservatives?

      October 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • gina

      MITT ROMNEY THE MORMAN HAS BEEN CAUGHT IN SO MANY LIES AND THE BIBLE SAY... Psalm 101:7
      King James Version (KJV)
      7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.... WHAT KIND OF CHRISTIAN ARE YOU?

      October 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • David

      Phil is not a Christian. He is a Satanist.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Rufus, I adore you.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  3. johnalbertini

    Your headline is idiotic. There is nothing wrong with Obama's Christianity. The wrong Christians are those who only care about two issues Jesus NEVER mentions and ignore all his commands to love your neighbor. The article may be acceptable but the headline is totally misleading.
    You call yourselves journalists? NOT!

    October 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • David

      I agree Johnalbertini. Christianity is a nuanced, multifaceted religion. Journalists like this that don't chose the right headline do the true nature of it a disservice...To allow a small group of "worldwide" Christians dictate what is right or wrong about another Christian's faith is crazy. Come on CNN. You know better than to stoop to yellow jounalism, even if in the form of a headline. You are to be the neutral network.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  4. Hugh Mann

    Why is it that children (foetuses too) are not baptised until until the first year has past?

    October 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Scott

      Depends upon the denomination Hugh. Presbyterians baptize shortly after birth. No time constraints either way. Our first daughter was baptized two weeks after she was born. We waited until my parents were able to make it out to Denver. Some denominations feel that a person must make the choice themself on whether or not to be baptized.

      Scott

      October 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • jesusislord

      GOOD WILL FOLLOW GOOD AND EVIL WILL FOLLOW EVIL-ARE YOU GOOD OR EVIL-LOOK INSIDE YOURSELF

      October 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • r h lewis

      Not rrue4, a child may be baptized any time after being born. It is in the hands of the parents to decide.
      Retired Pastor of 50 years

      October 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  5. bmatto

    Why does matter what kind of a Christian he is, or even if he is a christian at all? The United States is and always has been a secular nation with a clear separation of church and state. Even the GOP great Reagan was vocal on this separation. It is impossible to remove western judeo-christian moral systems from the fabric of the culture so WHO CARES! With all the permutations and variations of Christian denominations the very term "right christian" is ridiculous.

    Honestly I don't think Obama is all that religious, he panders with his faith to appease the bible wielding crowd.

    Only a small minority (5%) of the national academy of sciences believes in a personal prayer answering god – the "Born Again" Christian world view is an antiquated backward way of thinking that only serves to hold back the progress of this country and the world. We can extract the moral imperatives of equal treatment, compassion, kindness out of these systems without being tied to misinterpreted over translated scriptures.

    This article is meaningless and anyone who votes based on a candidates professed belief system is an ignoramus – shame on you.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Hugh Mann

      I'm still waiting for the first Buddhist President,,,now that would be an improvement

      October 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Hugh Mann

      " I'm still waiting for the first Buddhist President,,,now that would be an improvement "

      Interesting.

      Peace...

      October 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • i12bphil

      America has never been a secular nation. It is a nation of religious FREEDOM. That does not equate to secular.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @i12bphil (I want to be phil)... got it.

      " America has never been a secular nation. It is a nation of religious FREEDOM. That does not equate to secular. "

      Well... yes and no. 'Because' we are a nation of religious freedom means that in 'one sense' we truly are secular in that our government makes -0- preference for any religion, including christianity.

      Peace...

      October 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  6. debej

    Regardless of who I am voting for I am tired of all the religious talk about the candidates. I think their platforms speak for themselves. Leave what kind of Christian they are, or if they even "are Christians" out of this. They are seeking to serve all Americans not just the church going kind. I am voting for the candidate that speaks for or against the things "I" find important to and would make a change in my life. I am not voting for someone to be president of the "American Church" but for someone I believe will make a better America and wants to improve the country I live in.
    After reading many comments about the election I think what I want most is to have the "United" put back into "United States of America" let's all stop fighting against each other and work together to make this country the best it can be regardless of who gets elected next month!

    October 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  7. Moonyean Smarzinski

    This is exactly why I have dropped CNN like a hot potato. So tell me, what makes CNN the judge of who is the right or the "wrong" Christian for POTUS! I stand back and look at the Bible tumping Right whose actions scream un-Christian and it is interesting how CNN and its ilk just ignore their behavior, I wonder why – in bed with FOX right? What a poor excuse for journalism – for shame. Obama 2012!

    October 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      I don't think you read the article. The article discusses how Obama's Christianity is not in line with modern fundamentalists but is instead a more traditional faith inspired to help the poor. If anything, the article is critical of the evangelicals, not Obama.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Moonyean Smarzinski

      Read my friend, "Rufus T. Firefly's" post.

      Peace...

      October 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      Rufus F: Of course every act a Christian Body does to help the poor, fight disease, help disaster victims...is ignored by the Atheistic Leftist Press...otherwise why would the press equate Obama with the social gospel. The truth is the social gospel has become its own gospel...leaving out Jesus and salvation and becoming a cynical secular movement who believes the end justifies the means...including Obama's work as "community activist".

      October 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • John

      If you dropped CNN, where did you read this article. BTW, the text of the article does not pose which kind of Christian is "right," but rather attempts to show that Christian beliefs are different depending upon what part of the bible you want to believe. I know a fundamentalist that explains the parts he doesn't agree with as being "mistranslated." Amazing how humans use religion to justify their own personal beliefs rather than providing a stage for examining whether your their thoughts are upheld by their religion on not.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  8. kaydevo

    Your headline is not just misleading, but makes it sound like you're questioning his faith. Totally inappropriate. But then, why should I expect less from a network that employs right-wing extremist Erick Erickson as some sort of "expert"? Cooper and O'Brien should get jobs elsewhere so CNN can give up all pretense that they employ real journalists.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  9. Bob

    The "poor" of the Bible were very different from the "poor" of America. The cultures and social structures were entirely different. They did not have the kinds of opportunities for free public education or upward social mobility that we have. There are numerous examples in our society of people who were once poor becoming wealthy through creativity and hard work. This was not possible in the time when the Bible was written. Today people have a lot more control over their own destinies.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      So that's how you rationalize an alliance between evangelical Christians and self-serving Republicans?

      October 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Bob

      O.K... so ?

      October 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • TonDef

      Those numerous examples of poor people becoming wealthy are mostly fairy tales from the past, thanks to the greed of corporate America and the compliance of power hungry politicians. It must be nice to blindly believe in the idea of the American dream, as it dies before the very eyes of anyone with the heart to look. The facts are the middle class is shrinking and families are suffering. Jesus believed the rich had an obligation to help those less fortunate. Too bad so many so called Christians choose to ignore that part of his teachings.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • John

      The ability to move up in society was possible in most civilizations that were not based largely upon slavery. Merchants were common long before Jesus. Carpenters were evidently around at Jesus's time as well. The temples had merchants selling animals for sacrifice and money changers. Things were not as different as you seem to think. Today's "money-changers" are still richer than the general public, but they have laws to protect them, and the followers of Jesus do not seem to be as angry with them as Jesus was with the ones in his time.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • yonix

      Bob,

      First, I don't agree with your assertion that todays poor don't deserver the same kind of help in the bible. Second, as a global community I would think our responsibility extends beyond our borders. Believe me there are places where you can find the kind of poor you seem to want to help... so time to act.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  10. Blood

    Of course Obama isn't the right type of Christian. He's black.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • gina

      MITT ROMNEY ISN'T EITHER AND HE'S WHITE... A LIAR CAN'T GET AUDIENCE WITH GOD....
      16These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

      17A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

      18An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

      19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  11. Fernando

    I’m a staunch advocate for religious diversity and believe in protecting the right of every voting citizen to believe in anything the human imagination is capable of putting into scripture, verse or any holy book.
    The more extreme, bizarre, fragmented, conflicting and discordant these ideologues become, the weaker their influence on politics. Regrettably, they fell just short of cannibalizing each other in this election’s primaries. Odin willing, their influence in this country has peaked.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  12. velli

    Who are we to judge about someone religion. We all fall short of what God intends for us to do. Before judging someone else get your lives together. No one is perfect. This entire political mess has been created because the President is a black man. Let's be real. Bush did not go through anything like this. We need to put the racism aside and focus on what's best for this country.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  13. EJSLIC

    Mr. Blake,
    I realize that the entire predicate of your well-written article
    is to develop a better understanding of the overall dimensions
    of President Obama's religious faith. However, you do yourself and your readers
    a grave disservice by going on, ad nauseum , about those for whom Obama is a secret Muslim,
    the Anti-Christ, etc. Those kind of beliefs, while almost mainstream among Tea Party members and some Evangelical Conservatives in the deep South, are premised upon ignorance, malevolence and racial hatred. Unfortunately, your article gives oxygen to such ideas rather than debunking them. Why not go into the Birther movement as well and give that a nice, scholarly patina as well ? It just seems to me that as a writer/researcher who clearly knows better, it is really your job to attack, debunk and tear these assinine arguments about Obama's religious convictions to pieces rather than giving them some kind of legitimacy. These kinds of ugly theories have existed for far too long now and the people who perpetuate such ideas need to be called out and and seen for what they are; ignorant racists and hate-mongers.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  14. Bill Carson

    Obama's a Christian? That's a laugh. No one who encourages women to kill their own children in their womb is a true Christian. So yes, he is a different kind of Christian, the kind who doesn't care about children murdered in the womb.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Hugh Mann

      ...and you are the Spanish Inquisition kind of Christian

      October 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      Except, of course, in the early days of the Church, there was a time before a fetus was "ensouled" when abortion was not a big deal.

      Except, of course, that many Christians believe personally that abortion is wrong and wouldn't have one, but don't believe that they have the right to tell those women who who believe differently what to do with their bodies.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Bill Carson,

      The Bible NEVER mentions abortion, but isn't it fun to pretend it does?

      October 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Chad

      Murder "The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another."

      October 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Scott

      LivingInVA,

      Being a Presbyterian I have to make the assumption that you are referring to the early Roman Catholic Church. Regardless, ANYONE that has read the Bible knows that an unborn baby has its soul from the moment of conception. As an example:

      Jeremiah 1:5
      “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

      Note that I am not asking you to believe in Christianity or am I trying to "convert" you. I'm just pointing out that those that claim to be Christian, but do not believe that an unborn baby has a soul are wrong.

      Scott

      October 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Wanda Lockhart

      I do not think you understand the scriptures... You sound like the jews that were about to stone Mary...

      And Jesus said ... Thee without sin cast for the first stone...

      October 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Observer

      Chad,

      Murder: illegal

      Abortion: legal

      See the difference?

      October 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Chad

      @Observer "The Bible NEVER mentions abortion, but isn't it fun to pretend it does?"

      @Chad "Murder "The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another."

      @Observer "Murder: illegal, Abortion: legal"

      @Chad "not according to the bible it isnt. See Exodus 20"

      October 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      Scott: Two things

      First – the entire verse you are quoting: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you'..." (Jeremiah 1:4-5) "...'and I appointed you a prophet to the nations.'"
      So, he is not talking generically about human life.

      Second:

      "As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

      No bones at conception.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      Communism thrived as it redefined important terms: like freedom, liberty, democracy. Satan has helped liberal redefine Christian. It is not judgemental: there is a check list, just as a check list for any other kind of belief system or ideology. An animal rights/vegan would NOT believe in slaughtering a deer and eating it. If I joined PETA and hunted animals for food..they would call me a hypocrite. LIBERALS is this logic beyond your drugged brains...It is possible to judge a PSEUDO Christian from a real Christian. There is a difference. If Bill Maher called himself a Christian, you would be shocked. Why??????????? What standard to you use to judge his statement. A fundamental Christian can use the same Biblical standards to examine the belief systems of an individual and say...there is something wrong. Either that person is a hypocrite, deceived, or ignorant and would be willing to change.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Chad, people run around killing babies right and left in the Bible. God himself promises to curse the children of the unfaithful, and their children's children for generations. As Sam Harris points out, when you consider all of the failed conceptions, miscarriages and stillborn births, God is the most prolific abortionist of all.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • gina

      AND IF YOU HATE YOUR BROTHER JUST BECAUSE HE'S A MURDERER YOU ARE A MURDERER TOO..,,1 JOHN 3:15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.... AND A MITT ROMNEY HAS TOLD MAY LIES... AND THE WORD SAYS...Psalm 101:7
      King James Version (KJV)
      7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE... BEFORE YOU SPEAK... LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR...... THOU SHALL NOT KILL... THAT APPLIES TO YOU TOO ... FILLED WITH HATE...

      October 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Scott, your quote of Jeremiah 1:5...

      “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

      ...says nothing of conception (the writers of the bible had no concept whatsoever of sperm and eggs). It says "before" you were formed, that might be 10,000 years before, or it might be before the complete body is formed (3rd trimester). Either way, it remains that you are interpreting the verse to suit a preconceived agenda.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Bob Boise, you should sue the school system you attended for malpractice.

      Why are all fvcking fundies so fvcking stupid and uneducated?

      October 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Scoottie sez: ANYONE that has read the Bible knows that an unborn baby has its soul from the moment of conception.

      Prove there's any such thing as a 'soul'.

      Go ahead.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Tom Tom TPS: "Why are all fvcking fundies so fvcking stupid and uneducated?"

      Because if they weren't, they wouldn't be susceptible to fundamentalism in the first place.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Chad

      @Rufus " people run around killing babies right and left in the Bible"
      @chad "that isnt an argument that abortion isnt murder"

      @Rufus "God himself promises to curse the children of the unfaithful , and their children's children for generations"
      @Chat "Chapter/verse?

      @Rufus "As Sam Harris points out, when you consider all of the failed conceptions, miscarriages and stillborn births, God is the most prolific abortionist of all."
      @Chad "so you acknowledging abortion is wrong?
      In any case, the bible says that the earth is the way it is because of that first sin, and the fall from Eden. This world that we live in, where death, sickness and tragedy reign is a result of that fall.
      God created Eden.
      The state of earth is the result of the fall.

      That's what the bible says. If you are going to attempt to criticize God, it must be in the context of what the bible says God is, and what it says He does.

      The problem with both you and Harris,,, is you arent familiar with the bible.

      October 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  15. Choc Thunder

    I can't believe CNN is actually asking this question. Why does it matter is he's the right type of Christian? A real Christian is non-judgemental, who are we as a Christian to judge another Christian and their faith. It's real interesting of people always trying to label our President. People get real and wake up. Mitt is a candidate that was running for a party that did not want him as a candidate now all of a sudden they are behind him for President. WOW!!!!!!!!!

    October 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      God requires you to be discerning and judge folks according to their fruit and doctrine. Otherwise anyone can claim to be a Christian. Be lovers and hearers of the Word. Salvation is not inclusive...you must be born again.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Bill Carson

      "A real Christian is non-judgmental."

      Sorry, Christians don't know the eternal destiny of anyone and cannot judge in that sense, but are called to speak of horrors committed by other, especially the killing of children in the womb. Obama has aligned himself with this culture of death that Christian must speak against because the babies cannot speak for themselves. By your logic, no one could say anything against Hitler.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      Well, non discerning person. What does the bible say about those who will not inherit the kingdom..... Would you say that a devoted Muslim is candidate for Heaven? How about an atheist? How about Satan?....God has final say...however to refuse to acknowledge the requirements of salvation is evil.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      By the way, which is the greater sin...to 'murder' a baby...(which can be forgiven) or to refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord (which cannot be forgiven)? Get your priorities straight.

      October 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  16. Scott

    It isn't that Obama is the "wrong kind of Christian". It's that Obama isn't a Christian, Muslim or anything else for that matter. It's nothing more than a Chicago/Lawyer/Politician which means that it will CLAIM to be whatever it needs to be to get a vote. Honest people call that a hypocrite.

    Scott

    October 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Scott

      ... and I should have added. If BoBo thought that it could gain votes by claiming to be a Mormon, it would. It is THAT slimy.

      Scott

      October 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Scott,

      Speaking of changing to get votes, guess you have heard that Romney is now caring about 100% of Americans and not just 53% like a couple weeks ago.

      lol.

      October 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Nancy

      Scott – I think you have your politicans confused. Mitt is the candidate that will say whatever it takes to get elected. Remember 47% are victims vs. I care for 100%. Or I am pro life vs. I am pro choice. Or I will get tough on China vs. I invest in companys that ship jobs to China. Should I continue?? Knowledge is Power my friend – you might what to try to get some!

      October 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Scott

      Observer,
      Elections are about voting for the lesser of two evils. Romney is the lesser of the two evils by a LONG shot.

      Scott

      October 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Goldberry

      "It put's the lotion on its skin" – Your use, Scott, of the incorrect pronoun for our country's president is rather creepy. Please, please stay in the hole you live in!

      October 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  17. Hugh Mann

    Obama is Christian.... Jesus is not

    October 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Bob Boise

      Hugh. You jest: If JesusnChrist is not Christian then who can be?

      October 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  18. Chad

    There is only one thing that makes one a Christian: belief in the atoning sacrifice of Gods Son Jesus Christ on our behalf.

    If Pres. Obama believes that, he is a Christian.
    If he doesnt believe that, he isnt a Christian.

    What Obama does in terms of social programs is completely irrelevant.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Hugh Mann

      go ask him,,,not a blogger, not your Preacher....Do not Judge others, lest you be judged yourself

      October 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  19. Nathan Boniske

    This headline is just idiotic! The idea of a religious litmus test is blurring the line between theocracy and democracy! Do objective journalism for crying out loud and do not continue down the road to infotainment!

    October 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  20. karenlieneke

    Proof that Americans know very little about religion, even about a Christianity. Tenets of Christianity provide a big tent, with many different ideas and practices. Why promote the small-minded, fear-inducing bigotry of "right vs. wrong Christian" ? Why now? Very disappointing.

    October 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.