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. Atheist Hunter

    May 2009 – Obama declines to host services for the National Prayer Day (a day established by federal law) at the White House.[4]

    October 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Rick

      You spend your time passing judgement on others.
      Maybe, you have your own religion in which you are Lord, maybe you are simply persumptious.
      In "my" Christianity judgement is our Lord's job, not that some pious blowhard.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  2. Rick

    This whole he is "not my denomination" so he cannot a TRUE Christian is so typical of the way various sects of our religion disrespect other sects of our own religion. Doubting another's devotion is so un-Christian.
    For more than 2000 yrs we Christians have fought and killed fellow Christians over minor semantics. If we cant respect our own, we certainly can't restect other religions. Hatred of fellow Christians and other religions was the way of the DARK AGES. In today's world such action is simply UN-CHRISTIAN.
    PLEASE, stop calling radical extreemists of any religion fundimentialists. No religion has HATE as afundimental
    An acute understing of the intolerance of Christians by Christians is the true genious behind our Fore-Father's wisdom in the separation of church and state. They came from a culture in which royals, the noble classes, the clergy and politicos were "devine". Do you really want a "semi-devine" Congress or President? Which BRAND of Christianity would they have selected? Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Calvinist, Quaker? Thank God they had the foresight not to get mired in that swamp!

    October 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  3. Atheist Hunter

    April 2009 – When speaking at Georgetown University , Obama orders that a monogram, symbolizing Jesus' name be covered when he is making his speech.[3]

    October 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Rick

      As President he speaks to all Americans of all religions. He does not speak for Christ, no President should presume to do so.
      Thank God (yours, mine and the other guys) for separation of church and state.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  4. Atheist Hunter

    February 2009 – Obama announces plans to revoke conscience protection for health workers who refuse to participate in medical activities that go against their beliefs, and fully implements the plan in February, 2011.[2]

    October 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  5. Atheist Hunter

    April 2008 – Obama speaks disrespectfully of Christians, saying they “cling to guns or religion” and have an “antipathy to people who aren't like them.”[1]

    October 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  6. Fools and the tools of fools made the worldly what it is today :-)

    The Justice wrote on October 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm, stating, @RP "Thou shall not kill. All elements of the Christian religions have ignored or abused that commandment for 2100 years then have the audacity to use the arguement to deny a woman the right to control her own body. It is okay to kill a heretic or go to war over your beliefs and yet you condemn a womans right to chose. Your mind is in the middle ages try and catch up."

    Knives are nowadays in a mother's hands,,,,,,?

    Well ain't that a rosebud?

    October 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  7. Reality


    – Only for the new members of this blog:

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion/choice however vitiates his Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting bloc in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.

    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

    October 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  8. Fools and the tools of fools made the worldly what it is today :-)

    Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

    October 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  9. rsm

    Rufus T. Firefly

    RSM, the cool thing about books and recordings and science and experiments and mathematics and stuff is that we have access to information beyond our own personal experiences. The fool is the one who sees a hypothesis fail over and over and insists it is true anyway.

    Unless of course you are dealing with a realm that cannot be accessed by "books and recordings and science and experiments and mathematics" which is precisely the case with the spirit realm (remember my statement about the stars and the shovel?)

    In short skeptics are writing checks science can't cash.

    Science and skepticism are utterly useless when it comes to this realm as it is beyond the tools in which you mention. In short to reiterate you have to be born or possessed of a spirit to sense a spirit and most here from what I gather are not...

    Which interestingly enough would explain why science cannot prove or disprove God. God is a spirit therefore requires being spiritually sensitive to sense him as natural tools would be useless.

    Do I expect the skeptics to accept this? No, as it falls beyond the evidence that they will accept.

    October 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • MDATB

      Then refute the claims of the skeptics.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  10. Truth Seeker

    This is Obama's views


    October 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  11. The Justice

    Thou shall not kill. All elements of the Christian religions have ignored or abused that commandment for 2100 years then have the audacity to use the arguement to deny a woman the right to control her own body. It is okay to kill a heretic or go to war over your beliefs and yet you condemn a womans right to chose. Your mind is in the middle ages try and catch up.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • RP

      Christians don't kill innocent lives...lives that cannot defend themselves.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • truth be told

      The commandment was written in Hebrew not English the actual phrase is you shall not murder. Killing is done in war, execution by the state is not only sanctioned it is commanded. Murder is done in abortion, the unborn child is innocent.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Topher

      So because there are some hypocrits and others who were wrong, you think that should dismiss others to commit sins?

      October 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      perhaps modern man has a different impression of what is sinful than did iron age man

      October 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • truth be told

      Sin is sin evil has not changed.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • The Justice

      Why is it that you christian lion hearted types can"t get it through your heads that you have not got the right to impose your beliefs on others that do not share your views? Are you all willing to go to war with the Chinese that have a one child per family to control the over population in the world and use abortion to control their policy? The obsession with what you believe is right for OTHER people is insane, look after your own house and let others look after theirs. Thank You.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • truth be told

      In a Democracy the right of the majority is the right. When will the 1% of America that is so called atheist or ho mo se xual get it through their heads that no one wants their crap as law.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • The Justice

      The more you post the more I see you are insane, I have dealt with people of your mind set before; most religious fanatics of one stripe or another, but you remind me of a member of the KKK, you will never see through your indocrination and your hatred.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • jarhead333

      @ "The Justice"
      Are you kidding? Do you believe the garbage you write? "impose your beliefs on others that do not share your views. Look around, I see a whole lot of hate and hypocrisy comming from the atheist crowd. You all love to get on here and spit hatred towards Christians, yet you tell Christians they are full of hate. Maybe you have had some bad experiences with Christians in the past, but not all of us are the "fire and brimstone" types. Your so eager to lump all Christians in with fanatics. Do you want other people to classify you with some of the other knuckleheads on here? Take a long look at yourself.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Allan

    Enough has been said about Romney and his faith. As far as I can tell you are the only current media type who has even thought to ask such a question. Good for you. As to Obama's christianity, he gave an interview, I believe to a Chicago paper before he ran for president. If that article is to be taken as true, he is not what one would a not well informed as to what the faith teaches.Obama may consider himself a chritstian but his previous statements about the authority of the scriptuers, the deity of Jesus and most of the major traditional doctrines of the faith do not line up.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  13. Justin

    I thought your article was insightful and fair. I grew up in and came out of an extremely conservative evangelical culture that is still hostile towards Obama as "the anti-Christ" because he happens to be an inspiring but foreign-looking figure. The same people that told me with utter seriousness that Mormonism is a cult and blasphemy against God are voting against Obama because he is EXACTLY the wrong king of Christian. Thank you for writing.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Topher

      What are you trying to say with that "foreign looking-figure" crack? Are you insinuating Evangelicals are racists?

      October 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Aaron Poscovsky

    You can't be a Christian, and vote to kill BABIES.

    Sorry, but people that say it okay to KILL BABIES are WRONG!


    October 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      Well considering no one is in the business of killing babies, I think everyone agrees.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • truth be told

      Abortion is the business of murdering babies.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Topher

      Exactly right.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for the new members of this blog:

      The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

      Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

      : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

      "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

      "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

      Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

      "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

      Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

      The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

      – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
      – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

      Followed by:

      One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
      Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
      The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
      Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
      IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

      Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

      October 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  15. Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

    hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled as Christianity is nothing but a Gumbo, cooked to prove hinduism, racism of hindu Jew's, crimnal secular s, gumbo of hindu pagan fundamentals, supported by corrupted teachings of truth to hind fool humanity into gentile ism, slavery, handy work of hindu Magi's, criminal tricksters of Egypt and Persian origin, followed by hindu's ignorant's as some thong of holy nature, hinduism, absurdity called religion. End hinduism, racism and follow truth absolute GOD to be equal. For more visit limitisthetruth.com

    October 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  16. joe dokes

    I don't care what Obama's or Romney's religious beliefs are. PERIOD!

    October 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  17. palintwit

    It must be absolute hell to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and realize you're Sarah Palin. If it was me, I'd close the garage door and start the car.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Aaron Poscovsky

      Why did you mention Sarah Palin?
      She not running!

      October 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • William Demuth Sr

      You go ahead and do that car/garage thing, just to be on the safe side.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  18. Dan

    Interesting CNN would post this two weeks before Nov 6. I'm finding that CNN too is getting caught in the 'news spin' vortex and will put out anything to get their ratings to go up. CNN does not need to become like FOX News. One hate and fear mongering news channel is enough for a democracy. More channels like FOX will surely deteriorate our democracy further.

    Surely, CNN has all the right under freedom of the press however, shouldn't CNN also put out a similar article asking about Romney's Mormon faith.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  19. n

    Obama stated himself he was a Muslim his entire life but this changed when he got into politics, its not crazy for anyone to question his faith as he is a great deceiver.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Justin

      your statement is factually false and the reason the GOP is still a social power.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  20. someGuy

    'can't support abortion and be a good christian at the same time'

    Is there a biblical reference to abortion? Honest question. I never thought there was but I've never looked into it either so anyone with a biblical citation for abortion please post. Thanks.

    October 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • RP

      "Thou shalt not kill"

      October 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Coat hanger

      There is no reference to many things in the bible, ignorant goat herders were not up on 21st century technology.
      Just saw the RP post. To bad christians must have missed that "Thou shall not kill" bit untill it suits their purpose, hypocrisy thy name is christians.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Justin

      There is no biblical scripture on abortion.

      There is, however, a lengthy passage in which the prophet Hosea asks God to give the wives of Israel's enemies early miscarriages. God says, "Okay." The God of the Jewish scriptures is Pro-Choice when it suits him, I guess.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Snow

      "Thou shalt not kill"
      aww cute.. a simpleton..

      So, let me ask you, would you tell the military personnel who risk their lives to kill the enemy and protect us that "They are going to hell because they killed"? would you say that to the police too?

      October 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • truth be told

      The Bible was written in Hebrew not English. The actual intent of thou shalt not kill is thou shalt not murder. Killing is done in war, murder is done in abortion.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Topher

      Well, the word "abortion" doesn't appear, but there are passage after passage that make it clear that killings babies (including those in the womb) is clearly wrong.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Smite Them

      Topher: "...killings babies (including those in the womb) is clearly wrong."

      Then why does "God" do it? Man, made in 'his' image, is just following suit...

      October 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Topher

      You'll have to give me a specific instance to comment on that.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Jen

      Top her,
      Fifty percent of fertilized eggs never make it to implantation. FIFTY PERCENT!!! That makes 'god' the biggest abortionist there is.

      Plus if you believe in the great flood (ie are not intelligent), then 'god' sure killed a lot of babies when he killed all of those pregnant women.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Coat Hanger

      God destroyed Sodom, and flooded the earth according to the Noah story, no pregnant woman around, I guess, and killing off the first born in Egypt, just to name a few...

      October 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      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 doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      October 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Topher

      Really? "Coat Hanger"? I'm glad you find impaling infants so funny.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jen

      The definition of infant is 0-12 months. No such thing as an infant in the womb (I'm 38 weeks pregnant with a FETUS right now). It will be an infant after he/she is born.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Topher

      Would "impaling babies" work better for you? Seriously.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Topher

      Congrats on the baby.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Coat Hanger

      @TopherYou wanted examples of when your mythical god destroyed unborn fetus/babies(in your world) , I gave you three examples and your response is impaled babiies are funny. Respond in a rational manner if you can, which I doubt.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • phk46

      RP – you cite "Thou shalt not kill" and the bible's proscription of abortion.
      But what *what* is it that thou shalt not kill? It seems not to apply to cows or sheep. And presumably it doesn't apply to murderers. Why should we assume it applies to a fetus?

      *You* may believe that a fetus is a person. But *I* do not. Why is your opinion better than mine?

      October 24, 2012 at 4:57 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.