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In Obama’s first term, an evolving Christian faith and a more evangelical style
President Obama speaking from the pulpit of a Washington church in 2010.
October 27th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

In Obama’s first term, an evolving Christian faith and a more evangelical style

Editor's note: This is the last in a series about the faith lives of the presidential candidates, which includes a profile of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Washington (CNN) – President Obama’s prayers for a strong first debate may not have been answered, but that doesn’t mean the prayers weren’t happening.

Before he stepped onto a Colorado stage earlier this month to face off with Mitt Romney for the first time, Obama joined a conference call with a small circle of Christian ministers.

“The focus of that prayer was, ‘Oh, Lord, you know precisely what the president needs to say,'” says Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Methodist megachurch pastor from Texas who helped lead the call. “'You know what this country needs during the next four years.’”

“'And so I would pray that your primary will and words that you want the president to say will fall from his lips,'” Caldwell goes on, recalling his prayer.

Obama, for his part, was mostly silent.

“There’s a profound and genuine humility in the presence of Christ himself,” Caldwell says, describing the president on such calls. “I think he recognizes it as a holy moment.”

It was the second time Caldwell and Obama had prayed by phone in as many months. The two had connected in August on a prayer call Obama has hosted on his birthday every year since coming to the White House.

Welcome to the intense, out-of-the-box and widely misunderstood religious life of President Barack Obama.

Though he famously left his controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the year he was elected to the presidency, a handful of spiritual advisers close to Obama say that his time in office has significantly deepened his faith.

The making of a candidate: Mitt Romney’s faith journey

Stephen Mansfield, a former Christian pastor who wrote the book “The Faith of Barack Obama,” goes so far to say that Obama has experienced a spiritual transformation.

“I think we do have at heart a new man, so to speak,” says Mansfield, who worked closely with the White House and with some Obama religious advisers on his book. “He has undergone a pretty significant personal religious change in his first term.”

Methodist minister Kibyjon Caldwell, right, has grown close to President Obama after serving as a spiritual counselor to President George W. Bush. Here, Caldwell and Bush share a stage in 2003.

Obama’s faith advisers say Mansfield goes a step too far, though they acknowledge that when it comes to his faith, Obama has changed.

“There is a deepening development in his relationship with God,” says Joel Hunter, a Florida-based pastor who has been in touch with Obama nearly every week since he took office. “He chooses to stay faithful in daily habits of study and prayer and consistent times of interchange with spiritual leaders.”

“I am not sure he did that before he came to the presidency.”

Whether or not Obama has been spiritually “reborn” in the evangelical sense, his spiritual counselors say the president’s faith has helped shape his first term in ways that haven’t been appreciated by voters or the news media.

And they say the presidency is bringing Obama to a new place in his faith - building on a system of belief and practice that helped bring him to the White House in the first place.

Talking like Billy Graham

These days, when the president talks about his faith, he sounds like a born-again Christian.

Addressing the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington this year, Obama recalled meeting the nation’s most iconic evangelical Christian, Billy Graham, and described his struggle to find the right words as he prayed aloud with the aging evangelist.

“Like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didn’t know quite what to say,” Obama told the gathering, invoking the New Testament.

It was hardly the only part of the speech where Obama was speaking “Christianese” – employing a lexicon familiar to evangelical Christians, who put a premium on quoting Scripture and communing directly with the Holy Spirit.

Understanding Barack Obama’s gospel

At the same breakfast, Obama spoke of spending time every morning in “Scripture and devotion” and dropped the names of “friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes,” both well-known pastors of evangelical megachurches.

“He was talking like Billy Graham” at the breakfast, says Mansfield, who also wrote an admiring spiritual biography of former President George W. Bush.

Even in the more secular setting of the Democratic National Convention, Obama hinted at an intense White House prayer life, along with his need for God’s grace.

Some say President Obama sounds like an evangelical when he speaks about his religion, echoing the famous evangelist Billy Graham. The two men met at Graham's mountaintop home in North Carolina home in 2010.

“While I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings,” Obama said in his acceptance speech, “knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’"

Such pious talk marks a departure from how the president discussed his faith life before his White House years.

Back then, Obama cited his religion more as a basis for social action than for spiritual sustenance. He would temper declarations of belief with affirmations of doubt.

Asked in a 2004 interview whether he prayed often, Obama, then a candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, responded: “Uh, yeah, I guess I do.”

In a 2007 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama voiced skepticism about Scripture.

“There are aspects of the Christian tradition that I’m comfortable with and aspects that I’m not,” he said. “There are passages of the Bible that make perfect sense to me and others that I go ‘Ya know, I’m not sure about that.’”

These days, Obama forgoes such equivocations in favor of a full-throated Christianity.

To Mansfield, the evolution of Obama’s comments on religion bespeak a born-again experience, prompted largely by the president’s break with Wright and his arrival into a circle of spiritual counselors that includes many evangelicals.

The White House declined requests to speak to Obama.

But Hunter, the president’s closest spiritual counselor, says Obama has technically been a born-again Christian for more than 25 years, since accepting Jesus at Wright’s Chicago church in the 1980s.

But it's in the last four years that the president has become more evangelical in his habits.

He now begins each morning reading Christian devotionals on his Blackberry.

And then there’s the circle of pastors Obama has begun praying with before big events like the first presidential debate.

A circle of evangelicals

After landing in Washington following his 2008 election, Obama shopped around for a new church. But he wound up making his spiritual home instead among a circle of far-flung pastors that includes Hunter, Jakes and Caldwell, the minister from Texas.

Conference calls with the group started while Obama was still a presidential candidate, including on the night of his 2008 victory. The president-elect spoke by phone with Hunter and other Christian ministers, rejoicing in victory but also grieving the death of his grandmother, who helped raise him, just a few days earlier.

The migration from Wright – who almost brought down Obama’s campaign with videos that showed him sermonizing about “God damn America” and “the U.S. of KKK A” – to this new group, says Mansfield, has been underappreciated.

“[Obama] went into the Oval Office … questioning the only pastor he’d ever had,” Mansfield says. “Wright left him humiliated.”

“And there were deeper questions about the theology that [Obama] had received,” Mansfield continues. “Some part of Wright’s religious orientation had failed.”

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

Where Wright is a liberal mainline Protestant, emphasizing liberation and social action, Obama’s new circle of pastors includes theologically conservative evangelicals like Hunter and Jakes, who stress God’s grace and personal transformation.

Mansfield notes that the chaplain who has presided for the last few years at Camp David, where Obama spends many Sundays, is also an evangelical.

Some of Obama’s spiritual counselors credit Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, with leading Obama to a more evangelical-flavored Christianity. Caldwell calls him the president’s personal pastor.

A former associate pastor at a Pentecostal church in Boston, DuBois is the one responsible for sending Obama Scriptures and scriptural meditations five days a week; Hunter does it on the other two days.

The evangelical pastor Joel Hunter, center, and White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Executive Director Joshua DuBois, right, are the President’s closest religious counselors. Here they are in February.

DuBois convenes a daily 8:15 a.m. conference call with pastors to pray for the country and the president, who is not on the call. (Lately, those calls have also included prayers for Mitt Romney.)

And it’s DuBois who organized the president’s circle of spiritual advisers. After graduate school at Princeton, DuBois talked his way onto Obama’s staff at the U.S. Senate, repeatedly driving to Washington to make his case after job applications were rejected.

When Obama launched his presidential campaign a few years later, DuBois was plucked as its faith outreach director.

The 30-year-old White House aide plays down his influence on his boss.

“He has always been on a Christian journey,” DuBois says of Obama, “and the challenges of the office, of being leader of the free world, provides a deepening and strengthening of faith, and that’s what you see with the president.”

“I remember working with him around the Scripture he would use at the memorial service for the miners in West Virginia,” DuBois says, referring to the 2010 tragedy that left 29 dead. “These are obviously moments when one's faith is strengthened.”

The unparalleled trials of the Oval Office have been known to deepen the religiosity of presidents ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan.

Hunter says the same thing has happened to this president: “His faith has been growing as the challenges of the presidency have become more naturally the main part of his own everyday life.”

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One of Hunter’s first Oval Office encounters with Obama came shortly after the president took office, at a time when the economy was shedding 750,000 jobs a month.

“He acknowledged at that meeting what many may know but few remember: that by the time issues get to the president, there are no simple or clear answers or they would have been solved by others,” Hunter says. “So we prayed.”

A few months later, Hunter was in the Oval Office again, noticing that “the unremitting heaviness of the office was setting in.”

“I saw something that has been consistent ever since: He cannot just pray for himself and his family,” Hunter says by e-mail. “At least I have never seen it. His faith, his heart, always includes those who are being left out through no fault of their own.”

Despite the changes they’ve seen in Obama, both Hunter and DuBois are uncomfortable with the word “transformation” when it comes to Obama’s White House faith life.

“The president doesn’t deal in labels,” says DuBois. “He knows God’s grace is sufficient for him and beyond that doesn’t get into labels, evangelical or mainline. He’s a proud Christian.”

Loving God by loving your neighbor

When the Rev. Sharon Watkins and a group of fellow Protestant ministers sat down with Obama at the White House a couple years into the president’s term, she knew the pastors would get wonky about religion.

“You get a bunch of ministers in the room and we’re all church geeks – it’s theological,” says Watkins, who along with the other pastors had come to talk about poverty. “But the president got every biblical allusion and reference. … He’s just a person who is biblically and theologically literate.”

If Obama’s personal theology has grown more conservative, he is inclined to apply it toward liberal political ends.

“I’d be remiss if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends,” Obama said at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. “So instead, I must try - imperfectly, but I must try - to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.”

In signing laws that have increased Wall Street regulations and stopped health insurance companies from rejecting patients with preexisting conditions, Obama said at the breakfast, he wanted to “make the economy stronger for everybody.”

“But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years,” he continued. “And I believe in God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’”

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

Obama went on to frame decisions as disparate as ending tax breaks for the wealthy and defending foreign aid as examples of biblical principles in action, quoting Jesus’ teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required” and invoking the “biblical call to care for the least of these.”

That last biblical reference also loomed large in another 2011 White House meeting between Obama and a group of religious leaders. They’d come to urge the president to protect programs for the poor amid his fight with Congress over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, a progressive activist, recalls the meeting:

In pressing Obama to take cuts to those programs off the table, one Roman Catholic bishop told the president that “the text that we are obliged to obey does not say ‘as you have done to the middle class you have done to me.’”

“It says as you’ve done to the least of these, you have done to me,” the bishop said.
“I know that text,” Obama responded. The passage is from the Matthew 25 in the New Testament.

“So there was this very rigorous conversation,” Wallis says, “and we pressed him on applying Matthew 25 to this decision about protecting those who were the least of these.”

Ultimately, the programs that the religious leaders were lobbying for were protected in the debt ceiling deal, though it’s unclear how big a role the religious leaders played.

For liberal Christians, such victories embody the justice of the social gospel, the idea that believers should do God’s work – even aid the Second Coming - by improving society.

“I do notice that sometimes, like on health care, when [Obama] says it’s the right thing to do, it’s him saying you love God by loving your neighbor,” says Watkins, who leads a mainline denomination called Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “He’s doing the best he can to be guided by God so he can be a faithful follower of Christ.”

Skeptics might write off Obama’s Bible talk as sanctimonious window dressing, aimed at no higher purpose than connecting with churchgoers in the purple and red states. But translating the Good Book into progressive politics has always been a mainstay of Obama’s political biography.

‘An awesome God in the blue states’

When Obama landed on Chicago’s South Side in 1985 as an idealistic 23-year-old, eager to start work as a community organizer, he was already a political liberal.

He was also a man without a religion, the son of a spiritual-but-not-religious mother whom he would later describe as “a lonely witness for secular humanism” and an estranged African father who was born a Muslim but died an atheist.

Obama’s work in Chicago, built around causes like tenants’ rights and job training for laid-off workers, was steeped in religion.

His salary was paid by a coalition of churches. And the job took him into many black churches, among the most influential institutions in the neighborhood he was organizing, including Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ.

After a lifelong struggle to fit in, set in motion by his mixed-race parents, Trinity felt like home.

“I came to realize that without a vessel for beliefs, without an unequivocal commitment to a particular community of faith,” he wrote later, “I would be consigned at some level to always remain apart.”

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who brought Obama to Christianity, ignited controversy that almost brought down Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

The changes that Wright’s church wrought weren’t just personal. Baptism and active membership there equipped Obama with an ability to connect with churchgoers he was trying to organize – and, years later, with religious voters he was trying to win over – in a deeper way.

Wright, who did not respond to interview requests for this story, gave Obama a moral framework for his liberal politics. The pastor espoused a black liberation theology that equates Jesus’ life and death with the plight of those who Wright saw as disenfranchised, from African-Americans to Palestinians.

“Wright is the religious version of almost everything Obama already believed without religion,” says Mansfield, who spent time at Trinity for his book. “It’s a support of oppressed people anywhere in the world.”

When Obama emerged on the national stage, his comfortable religiosity and sensitivity to the concerns of churchgoing Americans helped distinguish him as a Democrat.

“We worship an awesome God in the blue states,” he declared to huge applause in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, catching the attention of young Christians like Joshua DuBois.

But at that same convention, Obama’s party nominated John Kerry, a candidate who eschewed God talk and who lost his own Catholic demographic on Election Day.

Four years later, Obama hired religious outreach staffers like DuBois for his presidential campaign and made a point of meeting with Christian Right leaders who’d never before heard from a Democratic presidential nominee.

Obama went on to win in places like Indiana and North Carolina, evangelical-heavy states that a Democratic presidential nominee hadn’t taken in decades.

If the Rev. Wright had almost brought down his presidential campaign, the controversial minister had also long ago laid the groundwork for Obama to connect with the churchgoing voters who had turned their backs on Kerry.

The politics of confusion

As president, the line between Obama’s personal convictions and his political prowess on religious matters can sometimes be hard to discern.

Obama invited the conservative evangelical megapastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his 2009 inauguration, ruffling liberal feathers. He introduced an annual Easter prayer breakfast as a new White House tradition. He gives shout-outs to young evangelical leaders in major speeches.

Obama asked evangelical pastor Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration, riling some of the president's liberal supporters.

All can be seen as genuine reflections of Obama’s faith and his appreciation for the role of religious leaders in public life. And in a nation where more people believe in angels than in evolution - a fact that the president himself has publicly noted - all promise political benefits.

The same could be said for Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, and for presidents as diverse as Jimmy Carter and Reagan: All had deep spiritual streaks that enabled the political art of courting religious Americans, especially evangelicals.

The irony, in Obama’s case, is that despite his orthodox utterances - there’s “something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective,” he said at this year's Easter breakfast - polls continue to show widespread confusion about his faith.

Only half the country can correctly identify Obama as Christian, according to one recent Pew poll, while 17% falsely believe he is a Muslim.

“He’s a Christian and he professes his Christian faith - I don’t know what else this man has to do to get that into folks’ ears,” says Caldwell, who was also close to George W. Bush.

President Obama at the 2011 White House Easter prayer breakfast, an annual tradition that he started.

But Obama’s public piety has helped him bond with young evangelical leaders, who are less tied to the GOP than their parents’ generation.

“I was struck by the specificity of what he described in terms of theology and what it means to him,” says Gabe Lyons, one such leader, describing a White House Easter breakfast he attended. “His message is very specific and very orthodox.”

Where exactly that new orthodoxy comes from – the pressures of the White House, a new circle of religious advisers or, to a certain degree, from political calculation – may become clearer after Obama's presidency, if he opens up about such matters.

Until then, the president is likely to keep speaking "Christianese" - and resisting Christian labels.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (4,988 Responses)
  1. Siggie

    My candidate is more pious than your candidate...

    October 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  2. Nick Gotts

    Ah, so that's why he's been so useless: he's been praying for the Rethuglicans instead of fighting them.

    October 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • TSIndiana

      They worship money, not God.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  3. Chas

    If cameras didn't exist Obama wouldn't need to be a "Christian." His actions are more in step with Islam.

    October 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense. But you already knew that.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • TSIndiana

      Funny because I woulde expect a man under the pressure that Obama has been under... to turn to God. Apparently you are wiser than that.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • TSIndiana

      Charles, do you think that the God of a Muslim is really not the same God as a Christian or Jew ??? thus there is a basis in reality for continuing the religious dominance by force, covert weapons supply and the funding of "rebels" thing for Bibi and crew?

      October 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • sam stone

      chas: be a bit more specific...which of his actions are more in line with islam?

      October 29, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Anna

      TSIndiana, Muslims worship a god called Allah who is the ancient Arab god of the moon. Allah is symbolized by a crescent moon which appears on the flags of Islamic countries and on mosques. Christians and Jews do not worship a moon god.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • sam stone

      anna: arab christians call god "allah" also

      October 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Primewonk

      Anna – The god of the Muslims is the god of Abraham. The god of Christians is the god of Abraham. The god of Jews is the god of Abraham. You all worship the exact same god. Yet you all hate each other, because you think the other's god is evil.

      It's like hating your cousins because you think their grandfather is evil.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  4. dot dot

    te'st te'st

    October 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  5. SkidogUSMC

    Obama's evolving "Christian" faith? The Christian faith does not support abortion, gay marriage, or turning your back on Israel to go on the Letterman Show. This article is complete trash. In America we have freedom of religion, so Obama does not need to pretend to be Christian. So, why is this article pretending he is?

    October 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Damocles

      Damn if I know, I'd want to distance myself from any fairytale.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Reason

      There is no such thing as evolving or progressive Christianity. There are only new cults and heresy. The author apparently doesn't understand Christianity any better than Obama.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  6. Tom Paine

    The irony is that the typical Obama supporter is probably not a reader of the CNN religion blog, hence the vitriol in the comments section. But regardless, the right wing may not like his type of Christianity, but the president is a Christian. And atheists might find Christianity to be something out of a less enlightened age, but atheists need to figure out how to make peace, particularly with more progressive Christians, if they want to see the country move forward.

    October 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Reason

      There is no such thing as "progressive Christians"' there are only new cult leaders and heretics. Liberals are CINOs.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
      • Tom Paine

        It's what makes so many of this blog's readers so similar. No matter their personal beliefs, the world is very black and white to them.

        October 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Reason

      You're right. What's the use if anyone can determine what Christianity means? There is a reason heresy is heresy. It is because certain beliefs do not conform with traditional Christian beliefs. It's about as close to black and white as you can get in this world. Even the different Christian denominations agree more than they disagree.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
      • Tom Paine

        The president would not be considered a heretic in many Christian denominations. Far from it. Of course, you may consider those denominations heretical.

        October 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      I am a Obama supporter and regular reader of the Religion blog. The statement that an Obama supporter would not read this blog is jaw-dropping in its over-simplistic view of who the supporters of the President are.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:12 am |
      • Tom Paine

        Let your jaw drop. Read through these comments and see how many allies you find as the typical commentator on this blog. CNN Religious blogs editors even note that their most frequent commenters to their blogs are atheists and folks of a very conservative mindset. This does not make for the typical supporter of the president. There are always exceptions to what is typical. I don't find myself to fit within that description either. But keep reading and see if the analysis doesn't hold up.

        October 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  7. Kanchan

    CNN. Please publish something that has some material. I can't believe, CNN brings someone's religion in politics. Shame on you

    October 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Primewonk

      Perhaps if the tea baggers and the religious right (oxymoron) were not so fixated on which candidate for secular office could "out Jesus" the other, you would have a point.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  8. O'ver

    CNN-investigate Benghazi!!!!!!!!

    October 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Primewonk

      Another ignorant tea bagger who is too fucking stupid to understand that this is a story on Obama's faith, and not a story on Lybia, or a story on how FAUX news lies to it's minions. Try to stay on topic.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Reason

      Apparently vulgar Prime doesn't understand that the liberal media should be covering Lybia instead of trying to promote Obama's supposed Christianity. How much mor important can you get than Al Qaeda killing a US ambassador on 9/11 and having the president cover it up as if it were the fault of The county he's supposedly leading?! This was the first US ambassador killed since it happened on Democrat Jimmy Carter's watch. Luckily. For our nation, Obama will be a one-termed just like Carter.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Primewonk

      "Apparently vulgar Prime doesn't understand that the liberal media should be covering Lybia instead of trying to promote Obama's supposed Christianity."

      Apparently ignorant Reason is too fucking stupid to understand that there are hundreds of stories on CNN's website. THIS STORY is about Obama's faith. Tell me, Reason, are you ignorant fundiot nutters also on the various sports stories on this website complain that thosse stories are not focusing on Lybia.

      By the way, your puppetmasters at FAUX News are lying to you.

      October 29, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  9. Keith

    Didn't you forget to include, I am Barak Obama and I approve this message ?

    October 29, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Sandy

      It is an election year....of course his faith is changing along with any of his leftist beliefs more toward a centralist...He will let you hear what he wants and then go back to the far left.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  10. Reality

    Saving Christians like Obama and Romney from the Infamous Resurrection Con/-->>>>>

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
    http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

    p.4

    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    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 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • ....

      UNNECESSARY REPEAT BULL SH IT

      October 29, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Reality

      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 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  11. steve

    I am sorry, but when I see a picture of obama with Christian Ministers, or other Christian events, he has the same phony arrogant look on his face as he does when he's reading his teleprompter and blaming Bush, or making claims that Romney's "out of touch" or Romney "doesn't pay tax's", or Romney "personally out sourced jobs to China". He looks phony!
    For obama to claim he is a Christian, then why did he legally change his name to a muslim name, prior to applying for college?
    I'm sorry, obama's puzzle pieces just never quite fit.,,,,Since I grew up in the 1960's I really had high hopes for our first black President, but obama is the most inept President in the history of the US. If it was skin color alone that mandated a black President at this time, I do wish it had been Colon Powell, or Herman Cain, or Congressman West, these men have always been leaders and uniter's, not dividers....The US today is more divided than before the Civil War...With obama, we are in deep trouble!

    October 29, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • JoAnMi

      The reason you want Herman Cain is because your a steve, not a stephany

      October 29, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Primewonk

      What does President Obama's name have to do with him being a Christian?

      As for your suggestion of Cain or West being POTUS – I doubt you could find 2 worse tea baggers. Cain came out and said he would apply a religious means test to folks he appointed. This violates Article VI, Section 3 of the constîtution. West is the ignorant cretin who accused 70 congressmen of being communists.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  12. Anything for Votes

    Along with completely bumbling the handling of the Libya consulate attack, let's not forget that Obama also made sure Major Hassan, the muslim that killed numerous Americans at Fort Hood, was charged with "Work Place Violence" and not "Terrorism". Even though Hassan was yelling "Allah Akbar!" the whole time he was shooting our troops.

    Why would he do this? He doesn't want to upset his Muslim followers.

    October 29, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Primewonk

      Is there an specific reason you ignorant fuching tea baggers are unable to understand this is a story about the President's faith and not a diatribe about Lybia?

      October 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Reason

      Methinks, Prime, you must have missed the point that Lybia is a bigger issue that should be in the headlines over the above nonsense. This was the first US ambassador killed since Jimmy Carter was in office, and this ambassador was killed by Al Qaeda on 9/11! The president tried to cover it up because it looks so bad. Now, he's going to go the way of Jimmy Carter!

      October 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Primewonk

      No Reason, I did not miss the point. The point is, that this website has hundreds of stories on hundreds of topics. This story is about Obama's faith. This story is not aboutt Lybia, or about how FAUX lies to its minions.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Reason

      Sorry if you don't like it because of your prejudices, but the word needs to get out about Lybia no matter where it comes out. Obama blaming the killing of the ambassador on the very county he's supposed to be leading rather than blaming it on Al Qaeda even though that would make him look bad in an election year was completely obvious without the need for FOX news. Where were you?

      October 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You think you have some "special knowledge" about LIBYA? Then go to the website where it's being discussed, moron. What part of topicality do you not grasp?

      October 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  13. Rebecca Kinworthy

    You are kidding me right? This ridiculous piece of so called "journalism" just underscores the cowardice of a so-called news organization that is so enamored with Obama that they will run this and not even question the events in Libya and the mounting evidence that our president acted irresponsibly and is now engaged in a cover-up deserving of impeachment? CNN you are a sham!

    October 29, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Primewonk

      You ignorant fundiot talibangelical tea bagger nutters are amazing. You realize this is a story about the President's faith, right? It isn't meant, designed, or intended to be a story on Lybia, right? Tell me, are you nutters also commenting on the Sandy stories complaining they those stories don't include condemnation of the President for Lybia?

      Perhaps your time would be better spent turning off FAUX News. You do know they are lying to you nutters, don't you?

      October 29, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Tim

      You can't blame obama for muslims going insane whenever someone insults their messiah

      October 29, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • TSIndiana

      Your insane Rebecca. I'm very pleased with the way he has handeld it, since there is the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, that makes going in with our guns blazin an international crime itself.

      The journalist that interviewed attackers followed up and found that at best, the incident was like a "flash mob", organized over about three hours. And there ARE laws about secrecy that affect the Office of the President. Why is vowing to find those responsible and bring them to justice not a proper action? What would you do differently, specifically?

      I'm sure the issue of being shot with our own or Isreals weapons supplied to REBELS is of no concern to you. Perhaps the Bibi policy of making religious war, destabilizing the entire middle east aggressively should be overlooked.

      Then again we know the Jewish God is NOT the same as the Muslim God (satire)....so endless war can be justified.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  14. Anything for Votes

    Wow, Obama is a rock solid Christian now! Amazing! Seeming he supports abortion, supports gays, blows off Israel, changes his stances with the wind, makes a stand and then denys it. Oh, then totally lied about what happened in the Libya consulate attack.

    Yeah, he is a Christian alright. About as Christian as any other Imam...

    October 29, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • sam stone

      wow....

      he "supports gays"? apparently equal rights bother you.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Anything for Votes

      I have no problem with equal rights. But why should people get special rights for lifestyle choices?

      October 29, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Truth

      We can't have equal rights in America, simply because everyone in America is about as far from "equal" as we could ever be.
      Just look at n1gger behaviors, in the streets, in the schools, even in the White House itself.
      So many people have been brainwashed by the Government and the media into thinking that these n1gger chimps are human beings, and are "just like us"..... and we ALL know damn well that we are not. We know it, the n1ggers know it.
      Why else do you think that n1ggers are so mad at the world, mad at everyone? It is because they know, deep down, that regardless of what they steal, who they r@pe, rob, or murder, there's one thing they can NEVER take away from us: humanity.
      N1ggers will never admit it though, of course. But it sure does infuriate the chimps.
      "The ones always screaming the loudest for equality, tend to be the most inferior".
      Now, as far as Hispanics, Asians, and Europeans, and everyone else, they are human beings, some moreso than others I guess, but all human beings nonetheless.
      N1ggers are not human. Not in any sense of the term.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • dave

      Who a person falls in love with and chooses to spend their life with is not a lifestyle choice. It is the very core of their emotional being. To be denied the equality that other couples have is cruel and emotionally crippling.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • JoAnMi

      Amen.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      I guess the idea that he is President of the United States has escaped your notice: that includes everyone, even a small, petty little person like yourself. He has a responsibility as president that goes beyond satisfying a narrow sliver of the population that see everything in apocolyptic terms, yet are ready to endorse a man who belongs to an organization that most people still rightly regard as an outlier in American society. The president's faith is his own busisness, but I am thankful he has the grace and dignity to deal with the outrageous and disrespectful attacks from people who would destroy this country to defeat him: in other worlds, people like you.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Primewonk

      "Obama is President of the United States of America. A secular position for a secular nation. He did run to be Pastor-in-Chief. He is the President of ALL Americans, not just the ignorant fundiot nutters.

      You stated, " I have no problem with equal rights. But why should people get special rights for lifestyle choices?"

      Being born gay is an orientation, not a choice. People do not choose their orientation any more than they choose their handedness or eye color.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • sam stone

      "But why should people get special rights for lifestyle choices?"

      If you consider orientation a lifestyle choice, please tell us at what age you mad the choice of your orientation.

      it is not special rights, it is equal rights

      October 29, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  15. Truth

    I wonder how On1gger's religious beliefs will shift when we fire him in November?
    Actually I'm lying, I don't really care and I hope he dies a slow, painful death for what he's done to our country.

    October 29, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Reason

      I can't believe CNN allows this inbred to keep posting in spite of many reports of abuse. Is CNN allowing this for some reason? If so, then they seem pretty racist.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • kelly51

      @ NO TRUTH WHATSOEVER! I am a Conservative and I do not believe in Obama's policies. However, I do not believe in yours either. You give a bad name to those of us that have conviction and belief in the Lord that His will be done. We don't need your hate discrediting the right. You need help if you can say that about any human being.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Truth

      It's not a human being, it's a n1gger. N1ggers are NOT human beings.
      And you believe in magical, imaginary men in the sky, which speaks volumes or your own mental status.
      Freedom of speech, remember that one? Yeah....

      October 29, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Truth

      This is exactly WHY these comments are allowed, and not taken down. This is exactly what CNN wants.
      You think they want bunch of posts about how the commander in chimp let four U.S. Ambassadors die, or how he tanked our economy, or how he's giving a free pass to n1gger kids to misbehave in schools across the country?
      Of course not, everyone already knows about it all.
      They want shock value. They want strife. They want unrest.
      And I'm going to give it to them, and all of you. Just because I can.
      Trollintrollintrollintrollin Yeaboi.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • yaw

      Well, then Bush should have now been dead and burried for all he did to America

      October 29, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Truth

      Bush made his mistakes, no one can deny.
      But at least Bush was a human being. A fool, yes, but at least a human.
      Obama, not so much. More along the lines of a simian primate chimp.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Dante

      Hey truth where do you live so we can hang out, address would be nice =)

      October 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Part of Freedom of Speech is the assumption of personal responsibility, which is really hard to do when posting anonymously on the net. You're a perfect example of the sort of coward that wraps himself/herself in the flag and psuedo-scientific garbage to justify the fact you hate that you're a failure. Now run along to pick up your welfare and disablity checks you scammed from the system, so we can keep paying for your interent access. Worthless white trash.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • JoAnMi

      It's just to bad a n1gger is about to beat a man I suspect you feel is "human."

      October 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Truth

      Y'all n1ggers maaaaaaaddddddd? HAHAHAHAHAHA :)
      About the address, that a threat, boy? Better bring your guns Toby!

      October 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      We don't need guns, Cletus. I'm sure you'll manage to die in an accident, probably something involving a Palin blow-up doll and a motor. We'll be more than happy to crack open a brew when the obit notice gets sent out by your white trash grandmother who was waiting for you in the next room.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  16. James Rank

    obama is not a Christian. Christians do not send people to their deaths, and then cover for the murderers with executive privilege. Christians do not continually attack others, Obama has shown through his actions that he thinks he is a god, not that he believes in the one true GOD.

    October 29, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Can you name a single president since WWII that fits your criteria of "Christian"?

      October 29, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Sara

      Isn't that what Mitt Romney believes, that he's going to be elevated to godhood?

      October 29, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Can you name a single Canadian that minded its own F'n business? Who will you be voting for Doc ? Oh that's right its not your country so your opinion isn't worth a crap to US.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Sarah

      I will. Ronald Reagan is one. Another, is Abraham Lincoln. Both, were God-fearing Presidents, whose faith showed in their policies, and our nation was blessed while they served.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Sarah
      And yet, Ronald Reagan "sent people to their deaths, and then covered for the murderers with executive privilege".
      Under his policy of "low intensity conflict", designed to avoid another Vietnam-esque debacle, the US dramatically increased military expenditures in order to fund anti-government rebels in Nicaragua, Angola, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Afghanistan (including Bin Laden). Sales of American weapons to despotic, right wing regimes such as those in El Salvador, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Pakistan went through the roof.
      Under the Reagan administration, the United States did so much damage to Nicaragua that the United States was condemned by the World Court, by two supporting Security Council Resolutions that the U.S. had to veto, after which, of course, they rejected the court judgment and then escalated the war.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • David

      David sent Uriah to his death because he'd made Bathsheba pregnant, and wanted to cover up what he'd done. Yet David was one of God's favorites.

      October 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  17. Robin

    Obama did NOT start the White House Prayer Breakfast. It began in 1953. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Prayer_Breakfast

    October 29, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • JoAnMi

      I'm not saying what you're saying isn't true, it's just that Wikipedia isn't too reliable.

      October 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    October 29, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian.

      October 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  19. Al

    It's changed to what ever Rev. Jeremiah Wright told him it should be at the time, so that the people would continue to be fooled and more accepting of him.

    October 29, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Ted

      If you hold Romney just as accountable for his "evolving positions" on everything from health care to abortion to Iran, then Obama must be a rock by your standards.

      October 29, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • Vic

      Al. Did you read what AvdBerg wrote? Or was is just too much for you to comprehend?

      October 29, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • ed

      Ted – The article is NOT about political positions, it's about RELIGION. Romney is a Mormon, always has been, never claimed anything else. obama is a muslim, always has been, PERIOD!

      October 29, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  20. AvdBerg

    The above article by Dan Gilgoff is misleading as he himself is spiritually blind and his article is a good example how distorted things have become in society with the media as the main culprit. For a better understanding we invite you to read the article ‘The Natural Body vs the Spiritual Body’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Also, for a better understanding of the role of the media we invite you to read the articles ‘Influence of the Media’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’, listed on our website.

    Dan Gilgoff's reference and use of the word ‘Christianity’ is also very misleading as so-called Christians are followers of an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8). Please read the article ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’ listed on our website.

    The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).

    There is a natural body and a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).

    Why is there so much division amongst the religions of this world? Please read on.

    It is articles like the one above and that are so readily displayed by CNN that is the cause of so much hatred and division. Just take a minute and reflect on some of the entries on this Blog and the hatred and immorality that are being conveyed.

    The local media, including CNN, Fox and your local TV stations and newspapers are a very important element of social and political behavior, as society is shaped by what it sees, hears and reads and it is conditioned by the events that influence the mind of every person. You reap what you sow.

    To allow anyone to be directed by public opinion is dangerous because most public opinion is the view of the media. If the media does not like something, their bias taints information getting to the public, and this forms public opinion. Public opinion is never based on research and facts. The public uses the media for its sole source of information and for this reason social behavior will continue to deteriorate and wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).

    The media does not provide accurate information on ‘Religion’ as it continues to ignore the truth and the history of deceptions (John 14:17). They only report how they want you to hear things. They have created the big chasm that now exists without offering any solutions.

    Consider the truth about Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, Evangelicals and Christianity and all other religions and ask yourself the following question.

    Are so-called Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Israelites and Evangelicals and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?

    For a better understanding of the history of Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Christianity, and Judaism and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    The media also makes references to religion as it relates to political issues without any understanding. For example: Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s faith does not stand in the teachings of Christ but rather in an image of the spirit and the god of this world and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8).

    For a better understanding of the history of the Mormon Church and Mitt Romney’s quest for the Presidency of the USA, we invite you to read the articles ‘Mormon Church – Cult and Spiritual Harlot’ and ‘Barack Obama – President of the United States of America’, listed on our website.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor 2:15).

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    October 29, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Hubley

      You were warned. Post on this site again and we will follow through with the final part of our ultimatum regarding your not so secret secret.

      Andy van den Berg
      29 Silver Birch Drive
      Hubley NS B3Z 1A9 Canada
      902-876-2751
      fsmi@ns.sympatico.ca

      October 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.