June 28th, 2012
04:36 PM ET

First lady implores black churchgoers to get political

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned pitch for black churchgoers to embrace political action on Thursday in a speech to the country’s oldest black religious denomination.

“To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better,” Obama said at a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Because ultimately, these are not just political issues,” she said. “They are moral issues.”

With Election Day a little more than four months away, the first lady decried what she suggested was voter apathy in the black community.

“How many of us have asked someone whether they’re going to vote, and (they) tell us, ‘No, I voted last time,’ or ‘Is there really an election going on?’ ”

“After so many folks sacrificed so much so that we could make our voices heard, so many of us just can’t be bothered,” she said.

Obama said that while some voters were “tuning out” and “staying home,” powerful interests are busy raising money to influence Washington.

Barack Obama took 96% of the black vote in 2008, and strong turnout among African-Americans and other minorities will be crucial if he hopes to win a second term, analysts say.

Surveys show that African-Americans attend church in higher numbers than white Americans do, and Democratic politicians have long made a habit of speaking from black pulpits in the leadup to Election Day. The AME Church has a general convention every four years.

The first lady also spoke of her husband on Thursday, telling the story of a photo hanging in the Oval Office that shows the president meeting a 5-year-old African-American boy at the White House three years ago.

White House photographers change the photos hanging in the West Wing ever couple of weeks, Michelle Obama said, except for that one.

“If you ever wonder whether change is possible in this country, I want you to think about that little black boy in the Oval Office of the White House touching the head of the first black president.”

She said blacks had to actively make good on their centuries-old legacy of political activism, mentioning names like Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks.

“Today, the connection between our laws and our lives isn’t always as clear as it was 50 years or 150 years ago,” she said. “And as a result, it’s sometimes easy to assume that the battles in our courts and legislatures have all been won.”

In her speech, Obama promoted causes like investing in roads and schools, creating jobs and taking care of veterans.

“Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal,” she said. “It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (671 Responses)
  1. Dallas

    Separation of church and state, anyone.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    It's the beginning of the end for religion. Any day now, our government is going to turn on religion. So don't be surprised when it happens, or think it can't happen. Just look at the headlines and bylines. Government is getting sued left and right by religious activists. And likewise, government is noticing more and more the corruption in religious organizations, and the greed. And the fact that religion is behind every war ever fought...yes her hand is stained ith the blood of countless souls. Not to mention all the children that have been abused. But then again, the government also sees all the tax money they are getting jipped on. Yah, they have NO reason NOT, to turn on religion.....you'll see....yup...any day....soon!

    July 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  3. katherine_w

    To Michelle Obama: Your health care bill is laden with abortion, and other democrat toxins.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  4. Travis

    For someone so visibly connected to the presidency, Mrs. Obama shouldn't be advocating that a place of religious worship is an appropriate place for discussing current affairs. She used to be a lawyer, so she knows perfectly well that the separation of church and state is a cornerstone of American democracy. I realize that churches have always been used to discuss social issues, especially in the black community, but I tend to believe that mixing faith and politics isn't such a good idea. She really should know that by now considering that the religious right are the ones most likely to put her husband out of a job this November.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  5. old gaffer

    I sincerely hope that every church in America gets political, and overtly so. Then the IRS can swoop in and revoke their tax-exempt status and end their centuries-old free ride on state and municipal services.

    By all means, let churches become a place where like-minded individuals can strategize and hear to politicians of their choice stump for votes – just don't do it on my dime.

    Let churches pay property tax, income tax, and eliminate the tax-deduction individuals receive for their church-related giving, and see just how long long they survive, and how much they're REALLY valued by their parishioners.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  6. Jack

    Hello everyone. You are all cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    July 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Even though I am a christian, I admit that I don't really believe in prayer but my therapist told me that if I keep posting anti-atheism posts on all of these chat boards, I would be able to work out my anger and hatred for God. God doesn't love me or anyone else, and I know that. In fact I hate god!

    July 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  8. topgunairspace

    Reblogged this on topgunairspace.

    July 1, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  9. Flamespeak

    I do not support the idea of someone imploring politicans to become religious, so I cannot in good conciousness, support the idea of a politician imploring the religious to become political.

    July 1, 2012 at 4:28 am |
  10. looks like

    the first lady is a Christian

    June 30, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  11. Reality

    WHAT SHE SHOULD HAVE SAID: (of course she was making a political speech to get her husband votes and was not able to take the moral high ground by telling the truth)

    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 descent into Hell, 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)

    June 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • .....

      Bull sh it alert

      June 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  12. SoldierOfConscience

    She should go back to her kenyan muslim hubby. I for one am not fooled.

    June 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Commenter


      You, for one, ARE a fool.... except for the part where she can go home and refrain from politicking to churchgoers.

      June 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • bismarket

      Thanx so much, i wasn't expecting to do much laughing today but your comments really got my endorphins going. While the "keep 'em dumb f'Jesus brigade" have been hampering EVERYTHING Obama's been trying to get done, he must be happy knowing he has such an eloquent & intelligent wife standing at his side. Maybe, just maybe we could be seeing the future first Black WOMAN president? That thought must scare you to death, billy joe jim bob (or whatever your name is).

      July 1, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Wraith

      With all this Obama's a muslim nonsense, or this birther nonsense, why doesn't the GOP just come out and say to their base what they really want to? "Aww noes, Obama gon' take my Jesus and NASCAR away!" That ought to get them mobilized.

      July 1, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  13. kay

    didn't the IRS just tell chueches not to speak about politics?

    June 30, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • no chuech has spoken


      June 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  14. The Watchman

    Liberation theology has became a political conduit. Liberation theology emerged in the early 20th century, sprouting out of the needs of the social communities, particularly the Black community in the United States. In the aftermath of the emancipation proclamation the Afro-American proceeded to carve their existence in America as a community in the 19th century, where their religion was their anchor in the wave of oppression. They established schools, hospitals, and businesses to meet their social needs. Their liberation was the struggle against political, social, economical injustice. However, along the way through the many years the social concerns and needs became more paramount than their spiritual development, the very anchor that sustained them and brought them hope. This has never been obvious to the black communities because of the close alignment of the Black church's engagement in both the propagation of the gospel and social justice activism. Consequently in light of this back drop, the path was clear for political saviors to fight on the half of the socially oppressed, and meet the social needs. Thus, the Afro-American church pulpits were open for campaigning.

    June 30, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  15. HarryHoudini

    Sorry. Church should be about worship, fellowship, and community. There's no quicker road to division and acrimony than getting political.

    June 30, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • youreyesareweird

      "Prayer changes things ."

      Actions by other human beings, while your head is bowed, is what changes things.

      June 30, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • just sayin

      Actions without a plan are totally useless. Prayer provides the plan. God bless

      June 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!

      July 2, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  17. prophet

    this woman is anti God, first her husband allows anti-moral behaviour and now she is telling religious people to be in politics which is totally against the doctrines of the church. Its against religious Law. We are praying for them as they are very mislead and immoral people. Technically because God invented marriage anyone who does not Believe in God cannot be known as married and therfore they aren't married.

    June 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • sally

      Ridiculous. Name s single non Christian president.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • sally

      How and when did god invent marriage? It existed long before Christianity did.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Gods work

      in creating marriage was when He joined Adam and Eve in the garden.

      June 30, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • single non Christian president

      Barak Hussein Obama

      June 30, 2012 at 7:03 am |
  18. A dose of reality

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    June 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Brynn

      11. You have no shred of humility.

      June 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Run run run little piggy. Run away from all the challenges to your asinine assertions.

      June 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Just Claims, No Truth


      Because thinking you have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe is humble?... right

      June 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • lilyq

      Just claims: We KNOW we do.

      June 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • TruthSeeker

      If the foolish one hadn't spoken, he would have been held for wise.

      June 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Facts

      " We KNOW we do."

      No, you BELIEVE that you do [have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe].

      One KNOWS facts. There is no verified evidence that your "God" is a fact.

      "Belief" and "knowledge" are not synonymous.

      June 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  19. Russ

    Black churches in May: "hey Obama, we feel somewhat betrayed by your gay marriage stance."
    (See CNN belief blog, early May – about 5 entries on it)
    Michelle Obama in June: "hey black churches, get political... these are moral issues."

    June 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • lilyq

      ain't that the truth

      June 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  20. Jack

    Hello everyone. Each of you is welcome to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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.