Look at Obama’s faith draws criticism, praise
Some readers thought we went too far by asking why some thought President Barack Obama was the "wrong kind of Christian."
October 24th, 2012
09:50 AM ET

Look at Obama’s faith draws criticism, praise

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - People have all sorts of questions for presidential candidates in an election year. But there was one question I asked last weekend that scores of readers griped about:

Why do so many people doubt President Barack Obama’s faith?

Obama has talked publicly about his faith for years, but doubts persist. Why? Was it race? Was he a different kind of Christian than his predecessors? How can anyone judge whether another person is a Christian?

Those are some of the questions I presented in the article. The reaction was stunning: more than 8,000 comments, 25,000 Facebook shares, 700 tweets and citations on political websites such as Talking Points Memo and the Washington Monthly.

Praise and criticism came from all political sides - liberals and conservatives both liked the piece and loathed it. Some saw it as a ringing defense of the progressive Christian traditions that shaped Obama’s faith. Others thought I was trying to sabotage the president's re-election chances with an unfair question.

The comments from readers tended to land on certain themes.

He’s not Christian - no matter what anybody says:

I got the impression that if Obama were suddenly surrounded by an angelic host during a press conference, and the voice of God declared, “He is not a Muslim,” some still would not believe it.

A reader named “Paul” put it this way:

"Sorry, the premise that Obama is a new kind of Christian is, in my opinion, just flat wrong. He is a Muslim."

Who gets to determine if someone is a Christian?

Other readers took offense at some pastors in the article who declared that Obama couldn’t be a Christian because he never talked about being “born again” and he supported same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

The article mentioned several prominent conservative Christians - including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham - who questioned Obama’s faith.

One pastor in the article, the Rev. Steven Andrew, author of “Making a Strong Nation,” even said that he thought Obama was “an anti-Christ.”

A reader identified as “C. J Mills” wrote:

"These ministers represent the kind of Christianity that makes me reluctant to say to people I don't know that I'm a Christian, and the kind of speakers for the faith that drove all my children out of churches because they would not put up with such judgmentmentalism. ..."

A ‘hit’ piece on Obama?

What was most surprising to me was the reaction of Obama supporters. The article featured several progressive Christians who said the sources for Obama’s faith are not sinister. The president’s faith is influenced by a brand of liberal Protestantism that dominated American public life during the early 20th century and a biblical perspective shaped by his exposure to the black church and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A “Cindy” called me Sunday and left a two-minute phone message skewering the story, and added a lengthy e-mail.

Her message:

"Your Sunday morning pre-election hit piece on President Obama is an outrage! ‘Is he the right kind of Christian?’ ‘He’s been called the anti-Christ.’ Really? It is disgusting, and doing it on a Sunday morning is an outrage."

I called Cindy at home and, after apologizing for her “cranky” message, she explained the source for some of her anger. She’s an Obama supporter living in a conservative state, and she said was on edge because of the election. She thought any article questioning Obama’s faith would convince people not to vote for him.

Another reader, “Muffin72,” had the opposite reaction. The reader thought the article was a puff piece on Obama:

"Nice CNN Obama PR piece trying to get a last grasp at another group of voters. … You can't support abortion and be a good Christian at the same time. ... Sorry, it just doesn't compute."

Other commentators asked when I would write a story asking if Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was a Christian. One commentator frankly declared progressive Christianity was an “apostate form of false Christianity.”

One of most unusual comments came from a “Clarke.”

"John Blake, I do not care for your article. To be fair, please tell us in your own words, what is the right Jew, the right Mormon, the right Christian. Why CNN would let you write about any religion, is beyond me. Religion is a personal thing, and does not belong on your sleeve and for you to judge others is just wrong. Makes me wonder if there was not money exchanged for this article. Shame, shame on you and CNN."

I can assure you Clarke, no one paid me to write the story. Yet there was a payoff for me.

Most journalists love to get people talking about what they write. Though I’ll always wonder if some of the commenters actually read the entire article, I’m glad that a provocative question could generate so many follow-up questions, even angry ones.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Billy Graham • Christianity • Culture wars • Obama

soundoff (1,150 Responses)
  1. Where is your God now?

    You wake up feeling amazing with Marie next to you. She finally spent the night. You can make out the curve of her buttocks beneath the thin sheet. Your groin reacts and you press against her, fitting neatly in the begging crevice. She smells like flowers and honey. You throb with anticipation and she moans in anticipation. You reach for a condom, but realize to your dismay that your dog is busy chewing and has something stuck in his teeth…

    October 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • cristopher hitchens

      Marie is your other dog.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  2. barbarianofgor

    Go on YouTube and search "Behind the Veil" on Mormon practices...

    Can any true Christian accept Romney?

    Obama is a Christian, and if you don't accept it you either don't like his skin color or want global religious war for your exact branch of faith.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  3. Sakman

    I visited Obama's/Rev. Wright's Church website before the controversy was even brought up and it came to public attention. At the time, you would have no idea what religion the Church was affiliated with. There was no mention on any of the web pages mentioning anything related to Christianity.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  4. palintwit

    Many times I have observed teabaggers working to get all their bagging and birthing done by Friday. This leaves the weekend free to hang out at the Walmart gun and knife dept. with their fellow baggers. Or they may choose to spend their time boinking their sisters and cousins.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  5. nestor

    Mr. OBama is in the wrong position to pray to ala.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  6. S. I. Daniel

    John Blake: You sounded and wrote with foolishness. What about this – Over the years, True Christian have gaven full supports to Republican. Totday, Christian Hands especially Pentecostals are now cut in a cookie Jar. What do I mean by this, for years, Christians have been made to belief in their religion tolerant to fight Abortion, Gay Marriage that Republican do publicly proclaims.
    Yes we indeed supports Republican candidate for this reason until now, that the Tea Party (haters of President Obama) came in, with some look warm Christian joined, they were so strong, they voted out the person as a true Christian that I thought would be the next Christian Presidential Candidate for Republican.
    The hate against President Obama was so huge that so-called Christian forgot what the bible said of Jesus statement “Not all who call me Lord! Lord!! Shall enter into the kingdom of God”
    What is all these means? We Christian are now embedded into Republican theory of manipulations that our faith has been crushed. Because of Abortion and Gay marriage we may elect a President who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members of which are commonly known as Mormons or LDS (Latter-day Saint).
    Christians, don’t be fools because he mentions Jesus Christ so many times, and that does not change his doctrines and beliefs. If you elected what you don’t belief in, you’ll get all what he beliefs. A word for the wise, Christian especially Pentecostals listen up and you John Blake, wake up to reality.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  7. robert

    I I find it interesting that most of the comments I read in this and the previous article failed to base the issue on the only place that the real issue can be based and that is on what the Bible says. Anything else is subjective opinion. The Bible clearly says that to be a Christian is not based on church affiliation or even behavior but based on whether or not a person has received God's gift of eternal life through His son Jesus. This is by grace through faith in Christ's death and resurrection...nothing more nothing less. Really only God himself knows the hearts of people so why would we try so hard to see into a person's heart. It is an exercise in futility.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      "...what the Bible says. Anything else is subjective opinion."

      That statement disqualifies you from any rational discussion.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • The Truth

      "I I find it interesting that most of the comments I read in this and the previous article failed to base the issue on the only place that the real issue can be based and that is on what the Bible says."

      Fvck you and the bible you rode in on, this is the "Belief Blog" buddy, no where does it say "Christian Blog" or "Bible Blog", and I "Belief" you and your religion hold no truths but are just a bag full of lies and deceipt.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • jarhead333

      @The Truth. Then what are you doing on here. Not believing in anything means that you wouldn't qualify for the "belief blog", would it. I mean, not believing in anything is the absence of belief.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • The Truth

      @jarhead333 I do have a belief, many of them. One of them is that your religion is full of shlt. Why shouldn't I be allowed to express my belief? I was earlier pointing out the FACT that this is not a bible blog, but apparently you are to dense to understand that and therefore not worthy of any more response time.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • jarhead333

      @"The truth"
      Why are you always so fussy? You say that you are allowed to express your belief, yet you attack when other people express theirs. Atheism is not a belief. The first two words in the definition are "a disbelief". So telling others that they do not belong on a "belief" blog is kind of ironic.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • OTOH


      Have you ever heard of discussing and debating **about** beliefs?

      This is not a Christian prayer blog - sorry.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • jarhead333

      You let me know when people start having an intelligent debate. "The Truth" only seems to want to make petty attacks on religion. It's old.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • robert

      Why are you all so angry? Did you have a tough childhood? Did somewhat at a church hurt your feelings? Let God's love give you freedom friend. I really do feel sorry for you.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • jarhead333

      I dont know who you think is angry. Your cute and snide remarks do not bother me. It's usually the atheist that have had their feelings hurt by someone in the church. The atheists on these blogs that attack faith feel that at one point in time, God was not there for them. They are now infested with anger towards religion and let EVERYBODY know about it.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  8. Kyle


    In this interview Obama admits his Muslim faith.

    Noth that it matters what he says his faith is, or what it really is. He is a politician and will use whatever he can to sway you to vote for him. His religion is irrelevent.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  9. Andy Daniel

    I would suggest to Christians who think that Obama is a Muslim to look at some simple facts:
    1. Nearly everyone starts out following the faith of their parents.
    2. Obama's stepfather was a Muslim and took him to Mosques.
    3. When Obama went to college in the US, he started going to churches, not mosques.
    4. He had exposure to both Christianity and Islam and made his choice for Christianity.
    (obviously, Jeremia Wright, despite his issues, is not a Muslim. When Obama left Wright's church he went to another church, not to a mosque)
    5. Whether ot not Obama believed in Islam as a child or was simply doing what his his stepdad told him, I coudn't say. His religous activities in college and beyond though are Christian.
    6. If you believe that a person cannot change faiths, why do you bother evangelizing?

    October 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Eliminate hinduism, denial of Islam ism by hindu's flares, for peace, Islam among humanity.

    Obama’s Is lamic faith draws criticism, by deniers of truth absolute ALLAH, draws praise by absurdity of Human goons.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  11. Snow

    I don't understand the logic you christians use.. you say that you believe the word in bible is the absolute truth and it says "thou shalt not judge" and yet, all I see around is judgements..

    Judging whether a person's lifestyle is sinful.. Judging whether a guys support of a policy is sinful.. Judging whether a person follows the "right" kind of christianity (which is always the one you follow).. judging whether the others will face what kind of wrath after they die.. judging.. judging.. judging..

    Really? do you forget that when you go on and face your god (according to your belief), you would have to answer for all your judgements yourself and be branded as the biggest hypocritical sinner of the lot? Just curious!

    October 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Wes


      There is no commandment that says 'thou shalt not judge.' The Biblical principal you are referring to says (in Matthews 7:1), 'Judge not, lest ye be judged.' What the Bible tells Christians is that we will be judged by God in the same manner we judge others. So if we judge others harshly, so shall we be judged. The Bible also says to beware of false prophets, which is essentially an order to judge others that claim to be Christian by their words and actions. Christianity is not malleable – it is a finite classification of faith and belief defined by the Bible. I don't know what's in his heart or where his faith lies – all I know is what he says, what he supports and how he acts. I'm not the judgemental type, but by my understanding of what the Bible says is required of a Christian, it is my estimation that Obama is not one. Opinions may vary, but that's my judgement. As a Christian I believe it is my duty to make that judgement call, and I accept that I will be judged by the same standard when my time comes.

      Also in my estimation, Obama is no more Christian than he is a muslim. That said, none of it makes much of a difference when it comes to this election. We are not electing 'head preacher of the US' – we're attempting to elect the candidate most likely to increase the greatness of our nation and be a better commander in chief than the other guy. Hopefully we're all voting for the candidate with the POLITICAL views that closest match our own. As a Christian, of course I want our POTUS to have solid morals, as that moral compass guides all mankind in his decision making, but in the voting booth, his religion is a bonus and not a requirement.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  12. JLS1950

    Couple of applicable pieces of scripture on the inappropriateness of labeling someone "not a Christian" who claims faith in Jesus Christ and especially who does not show specific violations of the requirements of such faith:

    Acts 15:19-20 – "Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they [note: personally] abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood."

    That is the only scripturally-supported litmus – and Obama has not shown himself in personal violation of these things.

    "So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them."

    The authority to tear down so-called "false christians" has been SPECIFICALLY DENIED by Jesus Christ to his followers.

    "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."

    Therefore, from a scriptural perspective, such criticism of Obama is evidence of blasphemy and of rebellion against Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit on the part of his critics. Unless Obama violates a specific requirement of Christian faith and refused to repent (and the litmus of the critics are in general not supported by scripture since they far exceed Acts 15) then such criticism is in itself a violation of Faith.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Debbie

      THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  13. Kittyg

    Yep! He's a Muslim!

    October 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  14. Jeff

    As a Mormon i'm just glad that when Romney gets elected it will fulfill another prophecy and bring us that much closer to a unified world under one religion.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • M

      Yeeesh. The faithful never learn.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Snow

      Will everyone get to learn the secret handshakes to get entry into the spaceship bound for kolob?? How about the secret codewords to say to the sentrys? and the secret underwear patterns?

      October 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Athy

      A unified world is fine. Just leave religion out of it, it's not required.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • The Truth

      I think Jeff might get in trouble for letting to much out of the bag...

      You aren't supposed to show everyone Romney's hand until after the election, otherwise how is he supposed to bluff with a straight face...

      October 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Lameness Spotter

      You are a lame Poe, Jeff....

      October 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • wednesday today

      So if Romney wins, you will say that was god's plan. If Romney loses, you will still say that was god's plan, but why not say that Obama winning is allah's plan if you think Obama is Muslim? Let me clue you in... there is no god, and there will never be a unified world under one religion. Hopefully there will be a unified world without religion, but the human race will be extinct by that time because we will all have killed ourselves in the name of religion/god/allah

      October 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • The Truth

      @Lameness Spotter – Are you saying Jeff isn't real and that there are no Mormons who believe as he does?

      October 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  15. baman

    There is one aspect of Obama's faith that is not in question. For years he attended a church led by a "pastor" who spewed racial hatred and rediculous theories against whites. If a similar situation had existed with a republican candidate, the media would have generated an incessant uproar the likes of which we have not seen since Watergate.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • sam

      That got hashed out in 2007/2008. Where were you?

      October 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • baman

      @ Sam – Exactly my point. If this situation had been reversed and a white Republican candidate had been attending a church whose pastor had been spewing the same type racial hatred against blacks, it would never have been "hashed out".

      October 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      and christianity and mormanism both discriminate against gays. Whats your point? all religions are bogus.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • baman

      @ religion – my point has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with bias in the media.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • huh!

      crux of your argument,.. "if.... had been.... it would have..."

      lets play with it.. "if COCOPUFFS had been STUFFED WITH CHEESE, it would have MADE IVAN THE TERRIBLE A BUNNY LOVER"

      see how much sense your argument makes..

      October 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Primewonk

      So have you read the transcripts of Wright's sermons? Or are you just spewing the same fucking bullsh</it you get from your tea bagger puppetmasters?

      October 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • azgirl

      Mitt's Morman religion excluded blacks from joining the church and receiving the priesthood. Their doctine up until 1978 when mitt was 31 years old stated that Black skin was the mark of evil and sin. It also stated that marriage between blacks and whites is vile and subject to death. Is this not racist? I don't recall CNN or Fox news covering this? Perhaps you can refer me to these articles where the Morman views about blacks was covered.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • baman

      @ huh – It is very easy for a rational thinking person to see the logic in my statement – they might not agree, but there is logic. There is absolutely no logic in the statement you concocted. Try to do better next time.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  16. Gayle Z

    Your exploration of Obama's Christianity was a provocative, insightful, and well-rendered article, and I liked it enough to share it on my Facebook page. Thank you for writing it.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  17. mm

    I believe in god and christ, however i am not a bible thumper as man wrote and interpteted the bible, so am I a muslim, and i could care less if people think i am or hindu, buddhist, or what ever, what a man belives is up to him and if it makes him a better person for it , so be it.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Mick

      If only you believed in capitalization.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Athy

      "could care less", or "couldn't care less"?

      October 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  18. Joel

    Why is this still being discussed?

    October 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  19. FA

    I think people want to see Obama singing and dancing in the church!!

    October 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Michael

      They probably envision him singing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah", at that.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  20. Robert

    Look at where he went to Sunday School, when he was growing up in Hawaii. He went to a Unitarian Sunday School. This I think is the basis for some of life teachings today. Probably at Harvard which has an Unitarian Divinity school, maybe played some roll to. I wonder what church he attended when he lived in Cambridge. I can see a lot of similarities between how he governs and the Unitarian Principles. He is not alone if this is the basis for his belief system, Adams, and Jefferson, both admired, if not followed the Unitarian Church.

    October 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Blasphemy! We all know that Washington and Jefferson were young earth creationist Southern Baptists born again in the glory of the Lord.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      In later life, Adams did follow the Unitarian Church. It's much harder to tell what Jefferson actually believed.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • A Think

      Jefferson was a slave owner and really liked certain slaves more than others. That was very christian at the time but Jefferson was a deist, no believer in the religious pedlars we see today.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:05 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.