The Gospel according to Obama
President Obama is not just a racial trailblazer, but some say a religious pioneer as well. No president has ever shared his type of Christianity, historians say. Some say he may revive a form of Christianity that once dominated America.
October 21st, 2012
06:59 AM ET

The Gospel according to Obama

By John Blake, CNN

President Barack Obama was sharing a pulpit one day with a conservative Christian leader when a revealing exchange took place.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Christian who has taken public stands against abortion and same-sex marriage, had joined Obama for an AIDS summit. They were speaking before a conservative megachurch filled with white evangelicals.

When Brownback rose to speak, he joked that he had joined Obama earlier at an NAACP meeting where Obama was treated like Elvis and he was virtually ignored. Turning to Obama, a smiling Brownback said, “Welcome to my house!”

The audience exploded with laughter and applause. Obama rose, walked before the congregation and then declared:

“There is one thing I have to say, Sam. This is my house, too. This is God’s house.”

Historians may remember Obama as the nation’s first black president, but he’s also a religious pioneer. He’s not only changed people’s perception of who can be president, some scholars and pastors say, but he’s also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage.

When Obama invoked Jesus to support same-sex marriage, framed health care as a moral imperative to care for “the least of these,’’ and once urged people to read their Bible but just not literally, he was invoking another Christian tradition that once dominated American public life so much that it gave the nation its first megachurches, historians say.

“Barack Obama has referred to his faith more times than most presidents ever have, but for many it’s the wrong kind of faith,” says Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners, an evangelical activist group based in Washington that focuses on poverty and social justice issues.

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“It is not the faith of the religious right. It’s about things that they don’t talk about. It’s about how the Bible is full of God’s clear instruction to care for the poor.”

Some see a 'different' kind of Christian

Obama is a progressive Christian who blends the emotional fire of the African-American church, the ecumenical outlook of contemporary Protestantism, and the activism of the Social Gospel, a late 19th-century movement whose leaders faulted American churches for focusing too much on personal salvation while ignoring the conditions that led to pervasive poverty.

No other president has shared the hybrid faith that Obama displays, says Diana Butler Bass, a historian and author of “Christianity after Religion.”

“The kind of faith that Obama articulates is not the sort of Christianity that’s understood by the media or by a large swath of Christians in the U.S.,” says Bass, a progressive Christian. “He’s a different kind of Christian, and the media and the public awareness needs to reawaken to that fact.”

Some Christians, however, still see Obama as the “other.” He doesn’t act or talk like other Christians, says the Rev. Gary Cass, a conservative Christian president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.

“I just don’t see or hear in his accounts the kind of things that I’ve heard as a minister for over 25 years coming from the mouths of people who have genuinely converted to Christianity,” says Cass, pastor of Christ Church in San Diego.

Cass says he’s never heard Obama say he’s “born-again.” There’s no emotional conversion story to hang onto.

Obama talks about his faith and attends church, but Cass says that doesn’t mean he’s a Christian.

“Joining a church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. “You can put me in the garage, but that doesn’t turn me into a car.”

The origins of Obama’s faith

The suspicion about Obama’s faith may seem odd at first because he’s written and spoken so much about his spiritual evolution in his two autobiographies, “Dreams of my Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” Other books, like “The Faith of Obama” by Stephen Mansfield, also explore Obama’s beliefs.

The 1925 “Monkey” trial of John Scopes, a high school biology teacher who taught evolution, drove fundamentalists underground, some say.

Mansfield says Obama is the first president who wasn’t raised in a Christian home. Obama’s mother was an atheist and his grandparents were religious skeptics (Obama’s family has challenged the description of his mother as an atheist. Obama called her “the most spiritually awakened” person he’d ever known, and his sister called their mother an agnostic).

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

Mansfield called Obama’s boyhood a “religious swirl.  He was exposed to Catholicism, Islam, and strains of Hinduism and Buddhism while growing up in Indonesia during the 1960s.

“In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology,” Obama said in Mansfield’s book. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

Obama became a Christian while he was a community organizer in Chicago. He joined a predominantly black United Church of Christ. The UCC became the first mainline Protestant denomination to officially support same-sex marriage in 2005.

Obama’s faith showed many of the elements of a liberal Protestant church: an emphasis on the separation of church and state, religious tolerance and the refusal to embrace a literal reading of the Bible.

In a 2006 speech before a Sojourners meeting, Obama talked about his approach to the Bible:

“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?”

When many people think of Obama’s religious experience in Chicago, though, they cite his exposure to the angry sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and “black liberation theology,” a movement that emerged in the late 1960s and blended the Social Gospel with the black power movement.

Bass, the church historian, says another black pastor shaped Obama’s theology more: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

He attended liberal Protestant seminaries where he learned about the Social Gospel’s concern for the entire person, soul and body.

Obama has reached out to evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, seen here praying at Obama’s inauguration, but many still doubt his faith.

King once wrote that “any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them …is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”

But King and the black church also fused the Social Gospel with an emotional fervor missing from white Protestant churches, Bass says. Other presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were influenced by the Social Gospel, but they weren’t shaped by the black church.

“This is the first time we’re hearing the Social Gospel from the perspective of the black church from the Oval Office. It makes it warmer, more emotive, more communal," Bass says. "There is less fear of linking the Social Gospel with the stories of the Bible, especially the stories of Exodus and Jesus’ healings.”

The emphasis on community uplift - not individual attainment - may strike some Americans as socialist. But the emphasis on community is part of King’s “Beloved Community,” Bass says.

King once wrote that all people are caught up in an “inescapable network of mutuality… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.”

“When I listen to Obama, I don’t hear communism, I hear the Beloved Community,” Bass says. “But a lot of white Americans don’t hear that because they never sat in those churches and heard it over and over again. It’s the whole theology that motivated MLK and the civil rights movement.”

Obama is not a Christian, some think

For some, Obama’s actions in the Oval Office seem to contradict Christianity.

Jesus was nonviolent. Obama has ramped up drone attacks in Afghanistan that have not only removed terrorists, but killed civilians.

The Bible talks about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Obama invoked Jesus when he came out in support of same-sex marriage. “The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule," Obama told ABC News during his announcement.

Jesus talked about helping the poor. But he never said anything about creating a massive health care law that taxed the rich to help the poor, some Christians argue.

But Wallis of Sojourners says Obama’s push for health care was a supreme example of Christian faith.

A situation where 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance is “a fundamental Christian problem,” Wallis says.

“Health is such a Gospel issue. Jesus was involved in healing all the time, and to have some people excluded from health care because they lack wealth is a fundamental Christian contradiction.”

Wallis has been one of the most persistent defenders of Obama’s faith. But no matter how much Scripture he and others cite, doubts about Obama’s faith have followed him throughout his political career.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson once said that Obama distorted the traditional understanding of the Bible “to fit his own world, his own confused theology.” The Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, publicly questioned Obama’s faith, then later apologized.

Conservative Christian books and websites are filled with stories of Obama allegedly trying to suppress the nation’s Christian heritage.

The Rev. Steven Andrew, author of “Making a Strong Nation,” says Obama is trying to change the national motto from “In God we Trust” to “Out of Many, One,” and he’s ordered the Pentagon to remove biblical verses from its daily report.

“That’s the most serious thing someone can do to a nation, trying to separate a nation from God,” he says. “He seems to be trying to change the Christian laws our Founding Fathers made.”

Andrew says Obama is actually an enemy of Christianity. In his book, Andrew argues that the Founding Fathers were Christians who created a “covenant Christian nation” and calls for a “national repentance.”

“I think he’s an anti-Christ,” Andrew says.  Cass, of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, says Obama’s emphasis on helping the poor through social justice isn’t Christianity.

Christians who talk about “social justice” are often practicing “warmed-over Marxism,” Cass says.

“Do I believe in caring for the poor and oppressed? Yes. But you don’t do it along the lines of communistic redistributing.”

Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and abortion rights also disqualifies him from being a Christian, Cass says.

“It’s the most pro-abortion administration in the history of America.  On every social issue – the sanctity of life and of marriage between men and women – Obama is on the wrong side of every moral issue,” he says.

He says a progressive Christian is a contradiction.

“No Christian says I believe in Jesus Christ and I reject the Bible,” Cass says. “These progressives who say they’re Christians are liars. They’re using Christianity as a guise to advance their own agenda.”

Cass says he doesn’t know what Obama believes.

“He’s conflicted,” Cass says. “He has Muslim sympathies from his upbringing."

How progressive Christianity lost the public square

There was a time when Obama’s brand of Christianity would have been understood by millions of Americans, historians say.

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

The Social Gospel and progressive Protestantism dominated the American religious square from the end of the 19th century up to the 1960s. At times, the traditions blended together so seamlessly that it was hard to tell the difference.

The Social Gospel rose out of the excesses of the Gilded Age in the 1880s, when urban poverty spread across America as immigrants crammed into filthy slums to work long hours in unsafe conditions.

Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor in a New York slum, urged the church to take “social sins” as seriously as they took individual vices. Churches began feeding the poor and fighting against other social ills.

“The notion that religious people should be about feeding the poor and helping the homeless is a carryover of the Social Gospel,” says Charles Kammer, a religion professor at Wooster College in Ohio. The Social Gospel was adopted by many Protestant churches in the late 19th and early 20th century, says Bass, the church historian. Some of the Social Gospel churches grew popular because they provided the poor with everything from English classes to sewing instructions and basketball leagues.

“The first American megachurches were liberal, Social Gospel urban churches,” Bass says.

The Social Gospel, though, sparked a backlash from a group of pastors during World War I. They were called fundamentalists. They published a pamphlet listing the “fundamentals of the faith:” Biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, Adam and Eve.

But the fundamentalists lost the battle for public opinion during the “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925. John Scopes, a high school science teacher, was tried for violating a Tennessee law that prohibited the teaching of evolution.

Though Scopes lost, fundamentalist Christians were mocked in the press as “anti-intellectual rubes,” and a number of states suspended pending legislation that would have made teaching evolution illegal, says David Felten, author of “Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity.”

The trial drove fundamentalists underground where they created a subculture, their own media networks, seminaries and megachurches, he says.

That subculture thrives today, Felten says, and has infiltrated the political arena. It has created an “alternative intellectual universe” that denies science, rational thought – and any beliefs that violate their definition of being a Christian, Felten says.

“They have millions of adherents who believe in a literal six day creation and a literal Adam and Eve – so it’s not a stretch to believe that President Obama is a Kenyan-born secret Muslim bent on destroying the country,” Felten says.

Progressive Christians eventually lost the messaging wars to this fundamentalist subculture, Bass says. Their nuanced view of faith couldn’t compete with the “spiritual triumphalism” of conservatives.

“If you get up and say we’re right and we have the truth, then you have a powerful public message,” she says. “They have a theological advantage in the public discourse. It’s comforting to have things clear, to have things black and white.”

The result today is that the Protestant tradition that shapes much of Obama’s Christianity is fading from public view.

The share of Protestant Christians in the United States has dropped below 50% of the population, according to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

White mainline Protestants make up only 15% of the nation’s population, the survey revealed. The study also found that the fastest growing "religious group" in the country is people who are not affiliated with any religion.

Another generation of Christians, though, may bring a new version of progressive Christianity back.

The lines between younger conservative Christians and progressives are blurring, says Marcia Pally, author of “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.”

Pally spent six years traveling across America to interview evangelicals. She says her research revealed that more than 60% of young evangelicals support more governmental programs to aid the needy, as well as more emphasis on economic justice and environmental protection issues.

“What’s interesting is that these values, associated with Obama and the black Protestant tradition are now also the values of a growing number of white evangelicals,” she says.

Her perspective suggests that Obama’s faith may be treated by history in two ways:

He could be seen as the last embodiment of a progressive version of Christianity that went obsolete.

Or he could be seen as a leader who helped resurrect a dying brand of Christianity for a new generation.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Church • Courts • Creationism • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Evolution • evolvution • Faith • Fundamentalism • Gay marriage • Gay rights • God • History • Homosexuality • Interfaith issues • Obama • Protestant • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage • Schools • Science

soundoff (8,626 Responses)
  1. Imwebspy

    Mr.Romney said he wanted to do away with the separation of Church and State, because that works so well in the middle east!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  2. tony

    It seems to me that this article is a solely poorly disguised hate speech and it and CNN should be reported to the FCC.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      Hate speech against whom?

      October 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • tony

      non-white presidents for starters

      October 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  3. Pat in IL

    Obama, by his words and actions, has shown over and over again that he is a genuine Christian who walks with Jesus. Anyone who says he is not is just politicizing an agenda tat has nothing to do with true Christianity.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • BYRON

      What DRUGS are YOU on??
      You MUST be JOKING or have NEVER read a SINGLE page of the BIBLE!! – BIG FAIL!!

      October 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  4. Imwebspy

    Romney said he would bring religion back to the White House, I don't know much about Mormon from the debate I gather

    1. blacks didn't get into heaven till almost the 80s

    2. The little lady should remain home and be submissive to their husbands!

    3. The world was created 4 years ago!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      The Democratic Party did not allow Blacks to vote until 1965.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  5. Chris33

    George W. Bush inherited a strong economy, a budget surplus, and a nation at peace.

    Eight years later, he left Obama with a shattered economy, a trillion dollar deficit, and two useless wars.

    Obama saved the country from another Great Depression, rebuilt GM, reformed healthcare, reformed Wall Street, doubled the stock market, created 12 straight quarters of GDP growth, created 32 straight months of private sector job growth, got Bin Laden, got Gaddafi, and got us out of Iraq.

    And now with the automatic spending cuts and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2012, Obama has solved the deficit problem as well.

    Obama has done a very good job.......

    October 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • BYRON

      F A I L !!! – Stick to the subject; can't, can you?

      October 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • tony

      He did. Bush was the latest great example of the wrong sort of self-proclaimed Christian. And look at the massive death toll, financial melt-down, and almost world-wide misery he caused.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Bush inherited a Recession with Markets in freefall, but turned it around in 6 months.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  6. Hypatia

    Xians have murdered one another over divisions since the cult's inception. Arians.....Lombards......they always find a valid spiritual reason to indulge themselves in bloodlust. Typical of all 3 desert cults.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  7. GetReal

    Why just President Obama? What about Billy Graham. Is he the right kind of Christian, a man who has completely flipped on his belief by embracing a cult as true believers?

    October 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • BYRON

      Is BILLY running for PRESIDENT?? FAIL!!! Try again!

      October 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • NoTags

      Billy Graham hasn't been a Christian since he accepted the 'new age religion' theology as gospel. At that point he completely deserted Jesus Christ as his saviour.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  8. GetReal

    Why just President Obama? Is Billy Graham the right kind of Christian, a man who has completely flipped on his belief by embracing a cult as true believers?

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  9. Reasonably

    Our version of The Cult is better than your version of The Cult – just ask us why!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  10. Rae

    Today's "Christians" (a.k.a. "evangelicals", a.k.a. fundamentalists) are the modern Pharisees. All self-righteous, "do as I say, not as I do", more than happy to bend down to the letter of the Law and then break the heart of it.
    If you want to know what a real Christian is, you don't need a doctorate in theology, it is right in Matthew 25 – and it has nothing to do with gays, abortion, flag-burning, guns, or anything else like that. And the ultimate justice will be when these rabid fanatics who demonize Obama and others are judged by the same standard they are putting out.
    When you die and meet God, you will only have one question to answer: "What did you do with the life I gave you?" There will be no excuses, no evasions, and you will be your own prosecutor as God shows all you have done. And all the "Christians" who declare, "I went to church every Sunday", will be answered with, "So what?" and "I sang in the choir" will be answered with "So what?" as will "I went to bible study 3 times a week", "I protested against gays" etc – every other soul-wasting activity will be given the same answer.

    Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the sick, welcome the stranger...that is what you are called to do.

    You don't get into heaven without a permission slip from the poor.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Pat in IL

      Amen! Your message is spot-on, and can be proven by simply reading and understanding the Bible.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • loui z


      October 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • BurntOutBaptistinSaginaw

      Amen Rae.

      October 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  11. God's Oldest Dreamer

    Individualism is the cloak that weighs down popularities' commonwealths. Seek ye the solace wherever one can find it. Tip the jars over before one finds it too full. Glare up and onto the faces of deniabilities. Write openly and without remorsefulness. Keep one's chin up and off the floors of denial. Change evermore your ownliness diasporisms never to ever stand too longingly. Change when needed one's arguable commonalities. Leave alone nothing that moves freely and openly in the courts of rationalism. Lay down all laws of improbabilities to give rise toward faithfulness. Love your neighbor.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  12. Believer

    Obama is an atheist who makes a false show of being Christian just to secure votes .. this point was proven in DNC where they had to re-insert God into their platform based on a dubious voice vote. Classic example of using God conveniently when you need votes and dumping Him when it comes to making policies ..

    Obama got God re-inserted into DNC platform because he was presented with polls showing God is still important .. not time yet to dump God. Was this a principled stand? NO ... it was based on polls .... Obama is NOT a leader ... he is poll-follower .. who flip-flopped his position on gay marriage solely based on POLLS ... we need a LEADER in WH ... not a POLLSTER

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • sources please... oh cat got your tongue? ..that's what I thought

      October 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Ruby

      A leader as in dictator? I much prefer a polll following adminstrator, guided by the will of the people and therby implementing a democratic process.
      To each his own I suppose, but this country was set up to function in a democratic manner, without a monarch.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  13. michael

    Ummmm... at least he's a Christian at all. Romney is a staunch Mormon who is very religious and has been for his whole life and Mormon's actually believe that all Christians are going to hell. Google Mormon Beliefs!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  14. mama k

    "Wrong kind of Christian" is probably a phrase that was being used a lot when the country was founded. Differing Christian sects were feuding and persecuting each other around the time of the formation of the U.S. government. Also Deism was popular and had strongly influenced the great thinkers of the day including many of the key founders.

    Because the feuding between Christian sects annoyed our founders so greatly, it should be no surprise that the key founders had an immediate need for the separation of church and state (and to make it Amendment #1). This is also reflected in what some of the key founders had to say on the matter:

    James Madison (4th President, was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 1785)

    and then ten years later:

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795)

    Thomas Jefferson (our 3rd President, was the key author of the Declaration of Independence)

    Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    (Letter (as POTUS) to the Virginia Baptists (1808))

    and then of course we have clarifying moments in history such as:

    President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    (from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)

    Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @mama k

      I always love when you post this..."mama k" Keep on postin' !!


      October 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Then John Kennedy funded 2/3 of Catholic Charities with Social security funds, ending the seperation of church and state envisioned by Chief Justice Black. It would be more apparant what Obama is trying to do if Blacks had benifited from his term in office.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  15. Imwebspy

    It is not like the ROMNEY TEAM started a fraudulent republican war based on
    fabricated WMD costing:-THREE (3) trillion dollars-U.S. Troop Casualties
    – 4,487 US troops-US Troops Wounded – 32,223, 20% of which are serious
    brain or spinal injuries. (Total excludes psychological injuries.)-US
    Troops with Serious Mental Health Problems – 30% of US troops develop
    serious mental health problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home.

    Romney invited 17 out of 24 Bush men back that's a do over not new beginning !
    At Wednesday's 60th annual dinner of the Radio and Television
    Correspondents' Bush makes laughs in speech, as Americans children were
    face down, in the dirt, on foreign soil, dieing, on his behalf...Bush ended
    his funny speech saying "No WMDs over there, non under my podium, Gees
    I'm a little red in the face lol !!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  16. julia dillard

    Since when does the conservative Christian right determine just who is a Christian and who is not? That's an extremely dangerous trend, We're talking Taliban territory when we have religious extremists telling everybody that they have to have the same beliefs. Obama was a member of the United Church of Christ and follower of liberation theology. Liberation theology focuses on the struggle of those who have been oppressed and the search for freedom and justice. Sound familiar?? This country was founded by those seeking religious freedom. Now we have a bunch of unthinking, right wing extremists trying to oppress the rest of us who are Christians. Terrible.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • crbianb

      As apposed to the liberal left deciding who is a Christian and who is not? Like this article is doing?

      October 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Rainer Braendlein

    Don't let us talk too much about any details of faith as long as we have not understood the elementary mechanisms of faith.

    Don't let us focus too much on Obama, the man of confusion, but on the things which really matter because if we clarify the basic misconceptions concerning the Christian faith, we will proceed, and understand everything of the current course of time.

    Recently I have occupied myself a little with Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, and Benjamin Frankiln which were both leaders of positive Englightenment and hence belong to the Fathers of the modern Western World. They spoke out very much in favour of virtue (which even actually means manhood in Greek or Latin language). They said everybody should aspire for a life of virtue.

    I extremly appreciate Frederic and Benjamin for their promotion of righteousness and virtue, it is only that they neglected a little (at least I got the impression) to explain completely the way to virtue. One reading scriptures of Frederic or Benjamin could conclude that he could become virtuous just by some special training.

    Of course, training as described in Franklin's Autobiography is very important but the absolute foundation for an improving life is the faith in Jesus and the sacramental baptism.

    The great issue is that our "grandfather" Adam once forsake God, the Life, the Light, the Peace and the Community. Everything which awakens in us the associaton of joy is in God, God himself is the Joy. Hence, when Adam forsook God, he forsook all which could make him happy. Adam was once made in the image of God but regretably Adam voluntarily and without any reason left that marvellous and glorious state, subordinated himself to the powers of death and degenerated. Hence, we have biologically inherited the degenerated nature of Adam.

    God gave the commanments or the law of the Torah. With that he expresses that he is not pleased with much of our behaviour. Now, if we would be perfect by birth, we had never broken any divine law. Yet, the reality is that we break the divine laws nearly every moment because or core essence is corrupted. Of course, we still resemble God in some respect because he at first made us in his image but we also have an evil germ in us which wants to prevail more and more, and can destroy our life, if we don't start to suppress it.

    The basic requirement to dampen this evil germ in us is the faith in Jesus' death and resurrection which convinces us again of God's love towards us. Through faith in the gospel we return into the confident community of the eternal God, the Life. Yet, Jesus Christ died for us not only in order to gain forgiveness for us but also redemption. It seems according to the Epistle to the Romans by St. Paul that everybody easily undestands the we can have forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice when we regard it as an atonement for our sins but only a few people or actually nobody understands that it is also a work of redemption.

    This problem is solved by the Holy Sacramental Baptism of the Christian Church, insti-tuted by Christ himself. There we get metaphysically connected with Christ's death and resurrection. Through baptism we die for the sin and "enter" Christ because we have resurrected with him through the marvelous baptism. After baptism we are in Christ who is then our righteousness. It is only that the biological body remains sinful in itself, and we have to fight against it/him our whole life. Our life improves when it becomes a habit for us to overcome our body daily by the power of Jesus' death and resurrection.

    Having that divine knowledge of releasing baptism we can also apply the special method of Benjamin Franklin which begins with a reduction of food intake which was also recommended by Jesus and the Apostel, and also Martin Luther.


    October 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  18. Lloyd Umbarger

    Excellent article! Comprehensive, mature, correct, with a deep understanding of Christian faith and church history. President Obama has demonstrated a remarkable balance in his political leadership. I have often felt that he is a Presbyterian in actual practice, but may not know it! The Protestant Reformer, John Calvin was a trained lawyer who served Geneva masterfully as a Christian leader concerned for the whole person and the entire public community. It is an absolute miracle when anyone comes close to doing that. May we all strive, by God's amazing grace, to actually demonstrate our faith by what we do and say and think!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • crbianb

      "...Obama has demonstrated a remarkable balance in his political leadership." Are you serious? Playing the race card, calling for classwarfare, writing laws behind closed doors, not allowing the republicans in to participate. That does not lead to a "balanced" leadership.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  19. Imwebspy

    out of touch, Romney how would you make equal pay for equal work ""I will give""THEM"" time off, for women to go home and make dinner""!

    October 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  20. annieL

    Ambassador, it is my free will to designate a portion of my taxes for the healthcare, housing and food of those with meager means. Why? Because no church or charity can meet all the need with voluntary donations in every town and rural hamlet of America. And because we are Americans, one people, united that stands for something bigger than ourselves.

    October 21, 2012 at 1:26 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.