President offers prayers, thoughts to tornado victims
The President held an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House Tuesday
April 19th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

President offers prayers, thoughts to tornado victims

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama offered his thoughts and prayers Tuesday to victims of weekend storms that spawned dozens of tornadoes that cut a swath through the South, killing more than 40 people.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that have been affected down there," the president said during an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.

The twisters hit 12 states in the South, cutting a path of destruction from Oklahoma to Maryland between Thursday and Saturday. At least 45 people were killed, including 22 from hard-hit North Carolina.

Politics were not on the menu during the prayer breakfast. It was the second year the president has held such an Easter prayer event.

The president used the breakfast to call for prayer and reflection to mark the start of the Easter season. He was joined by about 130 clergy and faith leaders from a wide range of backgrounds including Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox clergy.

He said Easter served as a reminder that during "these national critical debates" that "we must always make sure we are keeping things in perspective."

"I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us both individually as believers and as Americans," the president said.

Among the clergy in attendance were Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter's House in Dallas, Texas; Joel Hunter pastor of Northland Church outside of Orlando, Florida; and Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.

For Keller, a prominent Presbyterian pastor and author, it was his first trip to the Obama White House, his office said.

"It's a time of great togetherness where we can focus on the one person we have in common," Hunter told CNN before the breakfast. "That's Jesus Christ, not the president," he clarified with a chuckle.

Hunter said he always enjoys getting together with other Christian leaders and wanted to be supportive of the president's event.

Hunter said he is still sending a weekly devotion via email to the president through Joshua DuBois, the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

"We're going through the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke." Hunter said. "I call it reading the red," he said referring to the red text which some biblical translations mark the words of Jesus.

Hunter said politics were not a topic he and the president have discussed often during their time together.

"My role with him is as a pastor," he said. While some policy issues arise like care for the poor, he said, "we don't discuss politics or policy per se. My role is to help him get closer to God."

The Easter prayer event was held Tuesday so pastors can return to their home parishes and churches to conduct their own Holy Week celebrations.

The president has struggled to convince some segments of the American public he is a Christian. He has repeatedly affirmed his faith and speaks of it often in public.

A survey by the Pew Forum found nearly one in five Americans believe the president is a Muslim while just 34% correctly identified him as a Christian.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church • DC • Food • Leaders • Pastors • Politics • Protestant • United States

soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. tiabear

    I don't care what religion you follow if you are not Catholic you are only following a man made religion. It is not a Jesus made religion. The real body and blood of Jesus Christ is in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    April 19, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • A Mom

      Do you really believe that Billy Graham is not going to join you in heaven?

      April 19, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • SadieSadie

      Hmm, I am positive that it was Jesus that was crucified and raised again not the catholic church.
      I will stick with Jesus as the one true way to God and have absolute faith that I am saved by His blood.
      God Bless you.

      April 19, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  2. HeavenSent

    I'm glad all you non-believers have never been hired, have no jobs, that's why you can blog all day spewing your babble on this site.

    God Bless all the bosses in the world that keep the heathens that despise Jesus at bay so they can't just collect a paycheck for forcing their chaos on the workplace.


    April 19, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      erm, what?

      April 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • HeavenSent

      That's why I can sit around all day giving insult after insults because I was tortured at my job and hate anyone who is better than me. I am a yellow belly coward that believes Jesus loves me. I am not capable of following his law of not judging others and not treating others how I would like to be treated. I am such a hypocrite. Everyone please forgive me!


      April 19, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  3. get real

    Hey – The White House is his home and he is free to invite whomever to breakfast, just like you. Prayer breakfasts have been held there by previous presidents. Carter & Clinton come to mind.

    April 19, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  4. Reality

    Easter Breakfast? Why prolong the myth? Cancel said breakfast. Stop wasting taxpayers money on such foolishness!!

    To wit:

    Saving Christians from the Great Easter Con: (the summary, Heaven if it exists at all is a spirit state i.e. no bodies i.e. no physical resurrection, no second coming)

    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 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's Gospel records it. The Assumption 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.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

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

    o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
    o p.4
    o "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."
    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    1. 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. "

    o 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, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    April 19, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • A Mom

      @Reality Suggest that you read the Bible. Start in the Old Testament. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old. You can chose to follow the teachings of man or you can allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you. He has a "still, small" voice.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Reality

      A Mom,

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      April 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  5. DWYO

    Since Obama did away with National prayer day, he should not be allowed to hold his Easter prayer breakfast in OUR white house!!!

    April 19, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Since Obama did away with National prayer day,'
      He did no such damn thing. i cannot believe that nonsense is still being spread around.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • A Mom

      The first year he was in office he dissed it. Only when his popularity began to wan did he find religion.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  6. Ryan in Michigan

    Remember, most of you Atheists, this guy is a Christian – one you voted into the Whitehouse.

    April 19, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Colin

      He's also a Leo, but that does not make astrology valid, nor the Lion King a true story.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      I'm not saying that he's right, or that I conform to his beliefs (I'm not sure which branch of Christianity he follows, just that he's not Catholic or Mormon). I'm just stating that he's Christian, which he says he is, not Atheist, like a few people in this blog are claiming he is in their comments. Just trying to set facts straight.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  7. Jal

    This man will try anything for a vote. What a hypocrite!

    April 19, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  8. Wayshower

    If some of you so called "atheists" are actually atheists, then why are you so angry about this? If you have your belief then why don't you let others have theirs? If you honestly don't have a belief in God then it shouldn't "infuriate" you that others don't think like you do. I think you are becoming that which you hate the most which is "fanatical" in your belief and condemning others that don't believe the way you do.

    April 19, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • highspeedCU

      boom. atheist roasted.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Mainly because people dont keep personal belief personal. And when people use their faith to determine politics then that is when issues start.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  9. Lawrence

    Mathew 6:5-8 Why don't they read this 'red' aloud at their staged dog and pony show? (Thank 'Gawd' i am an atheist.)

    April 19, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • highspeedCU

      Just because private prayer is encouraged doesn't mean that public celebration should be discouraged.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  10. Maya

    Since when did it become the job of the President to host religious events? Is this what we are paying him to do?

    April 19, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  11. There are no gods!

    what a waste, why not just sit around a table and stare at each other has the same affect as praying. There are no gods and praying does nothing for anyone, such a silly nonsense this religion garbage is.

    April 19, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • ken

      I totally agree, god is fiction

      April 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  12. TreeTop

    This had better be coming completely from his own pocket. I don't want any of my tax dollars paying for this.

    April 19, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • highspeedCU

      but you're fine with your money supporting abortions at Planned Parenthood?

      He does this for every religion anyway.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  13. Colin

    I guess at some point, the separation of church and state stops being a const-itutional mandate and becomes an inconvenient barrier for the god nuts to prance over.

    I personally find it very disturbing when a group of people who believe in Iron Age myths from the Middle East are so close to the seat of power in this country. Some of them are so drunk in their dark supersti-tions that they believe in, and look forward to a coming rapture. Imagine one of those Dr strangelove types next to "the button."

    April 19, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Your current President believes in these "Iron Age myths". Obviously he's smarter than you if he's president, and you're not.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  14. First Last

    Disgusting-Prayer over someone named Jesus Christ in my White House???? Doesn't Obama read English-"Separation of Church and State" And I voted for him.

    April 19, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • A Mom

      Separate this, "In God We Trust". Or consider these words..."certain inalienable rights". Where do we derive inalienable rights? If from the state, then those rights can be taken from us by the state. We enjoy the blessings and the freedoms that we have because the founding fathers recognised and honored God.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Separate this, "In God We Trust".
      That old chestnut. added in the 1950s during the communist scares. means jack.
      'Or consider these words..."certain inalienable rights". Where do we derive inalienable rights? If from the state, then those rights can be taken from us by the state'
      correct, scary isnt it?

      April 19, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • A Mom

      @ Cedar Rapids Inalienable Rights. The American Revolution was fought over this. The early patriots believed so strongly that England had violated our "inalienable rights" that they were willing to lay down their lives. You would have us simply lay down. The early patriots did not lay down their lives so that power could be transferred from those ruling in England to a new set of rulers in America. Our whole system of government is made up of checks and balances and only works when it is recognised that there is a higher authority than that of man.

      Do you see the difference between "I will lay my life down to defend my inalienable rights" and "yeah, the state can take them away-oooo-scary".

      April 19, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Nonimus

      While I fully support the wall of separation, the White House is still a residence. I don't think this impact's the separation, especially since, as someone else pointed out, he has held seders and iftars as well. (sorry for any spelling mistakes.)

      April 19, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Nonimus

      @A Mom,
      "...only works when it is recognised that there is a higher authority than that of man."
      The revolution and what people laid their lives on the line for was freedom and the concept that governmental authority was not handed down from something above man, like it was with the 'divine right of kings', but that the authority to govern was given by the consent of the governed, or from the Consti.tution, "We the people..." not 'By the authority of God Almighty...'.

      April 19, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Magic

      A Mom,
      "Our whole system of government is made up of checks and balances and only works when it is recognised that there is a higher authority than that of man."

      The royalty of England thought that they had "God" on their side too - ever hear of the "Divine Right of Kings". They still officially do think this, although perhaps reality may set in one day.

      April 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • A Mom

      Addressing the "divine right of kings". Yes, we are to honor governmental authority but then what do you do w/ a Hitler? The Bible is a book of balance. Psalm 149 vs. 6-9 reads, "May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the Lord."

      To think that we can govern ourselves because of our own high-mindedness will be our downfall. We are a blessed nation not because of man's works but because of God's grace.

      April 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'To think that we can govern ourselves because of our own high-mindedness will be our downfall. We are a blessed nation not because of man's works but because of God's grace.'
      so when was god blessing the country? during slavery? jim crow? removal of the native americans?

      April 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @A Mom,
      "We are a blessed nation not because of man's works but because of God's grace."
      So Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Adams, and Franklin had nothing to do with it? The 200+ years of sweat and blood of Americans (citizens or not, white, black, red, yellow, etc.) had no hand in building this country into the most powerful and most successful democratic country in the history of the world?


      April 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @A Mom,
      I don't usually directly ridicule people's beliefs, their logic certainly, but, since you brought up Hitler as well, if you ever face Nazi-like stormtroopers ready to harm you or your loved ones, be sure to pray at them, I'm sure God will step right in and protect you.

      April 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Don

      Really? Your White House? Jesus is disgusting? What? Look, if you don't believe that's your problem and your right. But smashing up people who do is both un-American and very good evidence of the need for Jesus now more than ever.

      April 20, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  15. tewrobert

    Is everyone invited or just his supporters?

    April 19, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • religion

      Isn't everyone a supporter? It IS the President.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  16. NoExcuses

    Willie12345....i didn't know God gave you the authority to make that determination. Just make sure your own soul is right with God just like everyone has to...

    have a blessed day

    April 19, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  17. tewrobert

    Obama is merely a front man, he aint running anything.........Is he taking his prayer mat?

    April 19, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  18. Tyler

    Obama is an atheist and should be able to let it be known. It's sad that he has to hide it and hold lame prayer breakfasts so he won't face criticism from morons who believe in fairy tales.

    April 19, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Well he doesnt just hold Christian breakfasts, as president he has also hosted Jewish Seder and Mulsim Iftar dinners so I am not sure you could claim he is hosting this one just to claim he is Christian but I do agree that its sad that an atheist would never be able to claim he was if he wanted to get elected to the highest office in the US.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • religion

      weird. Seems like he gets to decide what he is... unless... wait... are you God? Is this judgment day? Wow. Can you put that off just a little longer?

      April 19, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Colin

      Based on his intelligence and background, I suspect you are right. He started attending black churches in Chicago when advised that it was politically expedient to do so. It is sad that politicians still have to dumb themselves down to get elected, but it is changing. Just look at Australia where they elected an openly atheist Prime Minister.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • A Mom

      Obama is a liberal democrat who wants desperately to be re-elected. He courts every group and does not consider himself tarnished by them because he is above all of them.

      April 19, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Actually, President Obama claims to be a Christian, not an Atheist. He's a member of his church back in Chicago, and is apparently not afraid to show his faith. According to the article, he started this whole "Easter Prayer Breakfast" event last year.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Jason M

      Why is being intelligent associated with atheism and dumb religious? Maybe some you genius atheists should look up people like philosopher Charles Taylor or Terry Eagleton or geneticist Dr Francis Collins or Princeton professor Robert George. All of these people are very intelligent and defend religious belief. Obama says he's a Christian, unorthodox perhaps, as I am, and I believe him. In the end it is God who will judge.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • W247

      CNN placed this reply in the wrong place...

      So Judgmental. Some of these "Christian Morons" are actually quite intelligent people with educational backgrounds that would be the envy of most people.

      April 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  19. Willie12345

    And now, for your viewing pleasure, we present you with another really big show..................

    April 19, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • W247

      So Judgmental. Some of these "Christian Morons" are actually quite intelligent people with educational backgrounds that would be the envy of most people.

      April 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  20. Nicole

    Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

    April 19, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • religion


      April 19, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • RAWoD

      I would like to know why anyone in the 21st century clings to these fairy tales.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Jason M

      ROWoD...in a materialistic positivistic sense the idea of self is a fairy tale...YOU are an illusion.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Magic

      (Philippians 2:9-11)

      Why do you believe Paul of Tarsus?

      Truly, that knee bowing, tongue confessing, worship and glory demand, yea edict, sounds much more like something that your evil, egotistical 'Satan' would say.

      April 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.