Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
Presidents wear a lot of hats. They serve as commanders in chief. They nominate Supreme Court justices. They veto congressional legislation. Increasingly, they are also coming to serve as our pastors in chief.
In his remarks Sunday night at an interfaith service at in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama vowed to use “whatever power” he has to prevent more mass shootings, and he all but promised to push for stricter gun control laws in the next U.S. Congress. But policy was not top of mind yesterday for either the president or a grieving nation.
Obama began by quoting from the second letter of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians:
Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away ... inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1).
He then reminded us that, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once put it, we are all “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.” The tragedy that visited Sandy Hook Elementary School could have been visited on any school in any town in America, Obama said. So Newtown’s grief is not its alone: “All across this land of ours, we have wept with you."
As a pastor among pastors at Sunday's interfaith event, Obama spoke of sadness and comfort and evil and inspiration. As a parent among parents, he referred to "caring for our children" as “our first task” as a nation.
Presidents are often tasked with posing difficult questions about foreign or domestic policy. In this speech, Obama asked philosophical and theological questions instead: “Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?” He then spoke, as Lincoln did at Gettysburg, about moving through the darkness, without easy answers, “often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.”
In his famous hymn to love in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote that "the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). For me, the most surprising turn in Obama's speech came when our president did the same.
"Love" is not a word that typically comes flowing off the tongues of our chief executives. But on Sunday, Obama spoke of love nearly a dozen times. In an uncertain world, he said, love is the “one thing we can be sure of."
Then he read the names of the 20 children who died.
Earlier, Obama had spoken the names of the six teachers and administrators who were killed. As he did so, the wailing in the auditorium was audible. When he read this litany of the children, the wailing returned. He read the names slowly. He read them surely, like someone looking out loud for a fallen friend on the black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He then asked for the blessings of the Almighty on those who were killed and his comfort on those who are grieving.
It wasn't a speech. It was a sermon. And it is worthy of the talents of our current pastor in chief.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
As long as we're discussing politics...
USCCB logoTake Action Now!
December 17, 2012
Protect People and Families Striving to Live in Dignity from the "Fiscal Cliff"
Take Action Now!
Tell your senators and representative that programs serving working poor families must be protected from the "fiscal cliff." In discussing the various proposals, programs that help families escape poverty and live in dignity should be strengthened.
Current Situation and Background: Congressional leaders and President Obama continue to discuss a budget package to avoid the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year by replacing automoatic tax increases as well as across the board spending cuts put in place last year. They are dealing with big numbers and important questions, however the record number of people living in poverty, and the millions more looking for decent work, should receive priority consideration.
Last week, Bishop Stephen Blaire, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard Pates Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to Congress calling on Congress to avoid the "fiscal cliff" with a bipartisan and balanced agreement that raises adequate revenue and protects programs that serve families living in poverty.
Read the letter here.
USCCB Position/Church Teaching: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it is the proper role of government to "make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on" (no. 1908).
The bishops' criteria has remained consistent throughout the budget process: protect human life and dignity; the needs of the poor and vulnerable come first; and government and other insti.tutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all.
Not impressed with other wailing children in the corner.
1. The hundreds of millions Barack Obama is no longer spending in school security programs for schools. 800 million CUT.
2. The 1.3 million children aborted every year just in this country. Barack Obama worries we are not doing enough to protect our children? Then why is he the most zealous pro-abortion president in history?
Stay on topic dumba$$
Idiot comment. Neither of those things are true except in your head. Plus, go be a dick somewhere else, there are plenty here already. Faux News maybe?
Please list all substantive steps taken by GOP politicians in the decades since Roe v Wade to halt abortion. Speeches don't count.
What a friggin' bozo. What Jeff doesn't know about school would fill an entire library.
Damm Jeff, its to bad you weren't aborted
It's ok Jeff, either theyre dumb or gays...Obums supporters...
Neither dumb nor gay. You lose, Equ. Thanks for playing. Jeff is a bozo.
We couldn't have had a better man for the presidency of the United States of America. The President has demonstrated time after time that he can walk and chew gun at the same time. What an amazing human being.
He IS NOT pastor -in-chief.
Go complain at the person who wrote the article, Cindy
No one cares
Perhaps then our Pastor-in-Chief can convince the pro-gun const!tuency to, at a minimum, do two things:
1. Implement a ban on the public sale of newly manufactured semi-automatic rifles – "assault-style" weapons if you like.
2. Implement a nationally defined background check with a mandatory waiting/research period, and recording of ID and serial numbers for ALL sales of firerams – including any personal sale.
Illegal transaction will occur, but anyone selling weapons without following a monitored process would be open to serious prosecution. While regretably, this requires a national database of felons and people unsuitable for owning firearms, I presume this data exists anyway.
No to number one, although number two has its merits.
why not? Semi-automatic rifles have no purpose in self-defence or sporting applications. They have one purpose – to kill humans.
I agree. Unless someone can provide a good reason why anyone should have semi-automatic weapons other than to kill others human beings, they should not be permitted.
Meanwhile, the families of Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner buried their 6 year old children today. But let's not let that get in the way of the pointless arguments about who is right or wrong here. I mean those little children are secondary and shouldn't be considered in this conversation. We have no obligation to think about the greater good here. We could use this as an opportunity to build each other up, but nah – let's keep arguing about what Obama said at a memorial service for grieving families because that makes all of us look better and solves the problem.
Your sarcasm is duly noted, dimwit. This isn't the place to mourn or hold graveside services you dip.
This is a blog about religion. Are you lost or something? Why don't you go over to Faux Nooz and impress them with your false equivalencies and your fallacies and biases. Maybe some of us would like to accomplish something REAL here and you are just dribbling down your bib and flapping your hands in mock horror. Go die in a fire.
Careful tiger some dumb gay atheist are trolling....
I think we are well past the point of "gun control." This gun culture cancer is out of control, and no amount of Bactine is going to kill the tumor. Just have to look out for number one, and arm yourself to combat these sociopaths. I am not a gun nut, but I do have a handgun in the house just in case some wannabe whacko feels like busting down my front door. There is no point anymore in trying to "cure" these people of their sociopathy, just time to fight them. With 200m guns in America, a gun ban only works if you get back all of them, and that won't happen. We're at the point of no return with guns. All that's left to do is try and protect yourself.
But what would you actually do as he busted down the door and aimed a gun at you? Tell him to wait a minute and run and get yours, or do you sit with it in your lap wherever you are?
I have a minefield surrounding my house. It's pretty horrible for the mailman though.
I don't know how I would react, but I would feel better having a gun than having just a knife. I remember one time the windows in my car were busted out by a thief, and it was in a dimly lit area, as I was brushing away the glass on the seat I saw two mysterious figures walking towards me (It turned out to be just two people walking by), but I was terrified seeing them come towards me like that, and just in case, I would have loved to have been able to have a gun in my pocket, because I felt absolutely helpless in case those two figures would try to make trouble. It's a frightening feeling having nothing to fight back with.
Merton, you are part of the gun culture. You are reasonable, free citizen who chooses to keep a semi-automatic weapon for reasons of self protection. You are exercising your Constiitutional right to keep and bear arms. You don't appear to be a criminal nor have any intent of using your firearm to harm any innocent person. You may even take pride int he accomplishment of learning to handle your firearm safely and responsibly. Congratulations. You're a gun hut.
There is no reason to have a semi-automatic assault type firearm. Not one.
Pastoral? After the first 5 minutes I found it mostly political. He uses religion only when it fits his liberal political agenda.
Could it be that you were looking for something "political" just to feed your own agenda?
"Dave"...what a horrible person you must be. There was nothing partison about his speech. It was very heartfelt and what needed to be said.
Your the one making it political. I heard nothing political in his peech. But raving queens (drama queens) like you can find something political in everything. You should be pitied.
Please dont insult the clergy. It was his speach writers. I could take the comparison if it was Jimmy Carter
The election is over. But I sense your hatred is overcomming you. Please, don't get your gun and shoot elderly people because you 'hate' Obama; Instead, visit your Church and ask for forgiveness. If you were not affected by this act of evil, you are Satan himself.
If BO and Prothero are going to "thu-mp" pa-ssages from Corinthians, let us continue the "thu-mping":
Saving Christians like BO (Prothero claims to love all the gods and no one is sure what religion he belongs to) 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.
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."
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,
"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.
What does this have to do with the article?
Mumble, wha ,wha ,wha, waaa.......try to keep it short and to the point....
By "thum-ping Corinthians BO and Prothero have involved the Christian god in the Newtown tragedy. Said rebuttal is to counter the existence of this Christian god.
For those who are reading challenged, from a PowerPoint presentation:
SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:
THERE WERE NEVER ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS AND THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY.
SAVING 15.5 MILLION FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:
ABRAHAM AND MOSES AS BEST AS ONE CAN TELL NEVER EXISTED.
Where are the mods on this board? Some of these comments are extremely disrespectful, off topic and hate-filled. 26 people were murdered, and all you can post is that the President is a hereti and his comments off topic? OFF TOPIC? And even though appreciating his "sympathy", still have to stick one in him? Good God, can't you say or add something compassionate here, instead of spreading the hate and dysfunction even further? Cnn's boards are the worst. Again: Where are you, Mods?
Sorry Vickster but I get the feeling Pyongyang is your kinda town.
The site does not have mods.
The mods were murdered by religious nuts. Ironic, isn't it?
The mods have all been crucified.
And, speaking of religion, this mother with a "heart of gold" and a stash of home-WMD takes her disturbed kid to the shooting range and teaches him how to shoot. What a piece of Karma!
Karma. Goes around. Come's around. This lady who had all these WMD's in their house KNEW exactly what would likely eventually happen. You would have to be a fool otherwise.
No different that teenagers playing with matches at a fireworks factory.
Rest in peace lady, but this is kinda another example of Darwin's theories.
How m any millions of folks in our country have firearms in their homes and teach their children to shoot them, take them hunting etc?? Do all of these kids turn around and use them to go on a shooting spree? His mother was murdered too, do you really think if she has seen this coming she would have ignored it? In my opinion if you are going to own firearms you should learn how to use them to avoid accidents.
I could have sworn that everyone kept saying during the election that we "weren't electing a pastor in chief"!?!?!?
I don't even know what a 'pastor' is ... although I'm sure they are pretty much like priests, ministers, rabbi's and all that other religious stuff.
Totally irrelevant to this mass murder.
President Obama is acting like a President. Period. We used to call it 'Presidential'.
Only some religious writer wouldn't know what 'Presidential' is, and tries to tie this to being a 'pastor'. A sports fan might just call Obama our 'Quarterback in Chief', while a restaurant owner calls him our 'Chef in Chief'.
President Obama – you are doing a great job, and we all recognize that. Just continue being 'Presidential'.
I don't recognize it.
I'm a Canadian and really liked his address. All the negative and bigoted posts make me think that nothing he said would have made some people happy. Sad.
Not mentioning imaginary characters would have certainly made me more happy.
Hey, I like that he was trying to help and comfort those people, but he's been drinking too much of the religitard koolaide.
He could easily have said a bunch of that stuff without any overt religious overtones and still help those people.
He is legally barred from using his office as a vehicle from which to promote his personal religion or any other particular religion here in the USA, yet so many people are willing to overlook that violation of his Oath of Office because they are still in shock and shock makes people stupid. Just look at the way things were done right after 9-11-01 – everybody stupid with shock doing and saying stupid things.
Hey, I'm just leaving comments on this blog, not stomping through Connecticut telling them their god doesn't exist. Get a grip.
You need to realize that America has a large percentage of former KKK and John Bircher's who prefer hanging black people and raping their daughters.
That will never change. Today there is a group called the Tea Party that has a lot in common with the German Nazi's.
150 years we almost exterminated those white vermin, but, unfortunately, some of them survived the Civil War to Keep Slaves, and unfortunately, some of them actually had white sperm ... thus ... until we conduct another extermination campaign (the sooner the better), we have to deal with them on here.
What BO should have said:
The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(References used are available upon request.)
So the point is??????????????????????? Charles Bowen Solomon Stone
Tell me, Reality, are you for or against universal healthcare?
So your creation myth (as a rational, nothing-but-the-facts atheist) is the following: Your deity, the Big Nothing (street names Biggie Nuttin', B. Nuttin', Biggie Nutt) created and designed all that exists from his Nuttin' brain. His Nuttin'ness could even violate the law of convservation of energy by creating Everything from Himself, that is from Nuttin'. In spite of His Nuttin'ness violating the laws of science, His followers (His "Nutt Jobs") view themselves as the apex of scientific thought and feel obliged to spread the Nothing to others. Incredible faith you guys have. Let us now join in the ancient Nuttin' Hymn, Dust in the Wind (and ignore its author's heresy in converting to Christianity).
Where does universal healthcare fit into Reality's post?
It's more rational than Jeebus.
Rational? Biggie Nutt can't think. He's just pure Cosmic Spontaneous Generation.
Thank you Mr. President.
When we stop making these killers into national headliners will they keep trying to out do eachother?
So what do you want the media to do, ignore major storylines and focus on kittens and unicorns? This isn't Pyongyang.
Obama's the right kind of Christian, except I guess for the drone attacks and assassination kill lists..
But I like his faith, because it's not of the intollerant literalist conservative fundamentalist zealotry shown by the bulk of American Christendom.
I almost drowned on my coffee. Obama as pastor in chief....what a joke.
Why? Can you refute any of what Prothero said?
Oh, RL, I'm sure DO fancies himself a better choice.
Thanks, but no thanks...
Next time you have a thought... let it GO.
I am pleased that we have a president that has compassion. To say however, that he is our "Pastor in Chief" is simply wrong. His morals, ethics, and overall religious position in no way reflect my personal beliefs or values. His quoting of Scripture was actually out of context and heretical.
As I said...I appreciate his compassion and sympathy for those that have died, but it ends there.
Heretical? The 15th century called, they want their oppressive terminology back.
Heretical? Seriously? Heretical? His morals do not reflect yours, so I guess that means that you are the pastor in chief and we all must agree with you. Your morals trump all others. I guess you only read select passages of scripture that reaffirm your own beliefs. Wow, what a hypocrite.
I lol'd. The "out of context" and "heretical" give you away. We have another Catholic in the room. Go suck a priest, fool.
Actually being an ordanied Minister his remarks were entirely in context, perhaps your personal viewes skew your biblical principals. my question is what would/could he have said that would please you?, from the dawning of our country Presidents have taken this role, what in the context of his remarks or that of the moniker the journalist gave for the article displeases you?. In the old slave community there was a saying in between the light skinned slave and the dark skinned slave, the lighter one thought that if he would rat on for running away he would gain favor and be more acceptable in the masters eyes but it took the darkert one to tell the lighter one that "if he comes in the morning for me and kills everyone who looks like me at 9am he will run out of people to kill by 5pm then who do you think he is going to be looking for?, simply puyt your still a slave". And so contextiually we are all Americans if we don't protect the "least among" us who is justified to be protected? and if the President did not say what he did as the leader of the country who else was qualified?.
Nah, not heretical; that's too strong. He was inclusive to a fault which is not a bad thing at a memorial service or funeral. People NEED to be together at that time so you say whatever helps to make that happen. I was actually impressed at the content and delivery of what he had to say. He's not anyone's pastor .. sorry .. but he understands the human heart and he spoke to it (well, them) last night. Not too shabby.
He was inclusive excluding non-Christians.
Oh aren't we the pious one. Judge not lest he be judged. I guess you have chosen your own form of Christianity. The like the other nut jobs that twist religion to fit them.
Oh aren't we the pious one. Judge not lest he be judged. I guess you have chosen your own form of Christianity. Just like the other nut jobs that twist religion to fit them.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.