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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. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It's sad that voters need the warm fuzzy security blanket of candidates that profess to a faith in God. It's funny that the non-Christian Republican candidate is the fuzziest, if the not the warmest, of the candidates.

    October 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • The Truth

      Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't Fuzzy was he...

      Mitt Romney was a Christian. Mitt Romney believes in the Book of Mormon. Mitt Romney wasn't Christian was he...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  2. ordnry1

    My father was Baptist, my mother was Muslim and I am raised as a Christian and married to a Buddhist. I always remember what my mother taught me, that there are many religions and belief systems. People follow their religious convictions but there is only one God. It’s like you are climbing a mountain to reach the peak but there are many paths. Follow your path that leads you to the peak of the mountain. There are good and bad people everywhere on earth. Not all Christians are good and not all Muslims are evil. How many Christians follow the Ten Commandments? Just read some of the comments on this forum and you can tell how much anger and hatred we show towards one another when we don’t even know each other. Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in Moses and Abraham. Jesus is the descendant of Isaac and Mohammed is the descendant of Ishmail. Both Isaac and Ishmail were the sons of Abraham. Should we blame Abraham or his wife Ruth for the problems they created thousands of years ago or should be show love and compassion to one another just like Jesus taught us?

    October 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      To understand difference visit limitisthetruth.com, it will help you to reach conclusion, and differentiate between truth and hinduism, denial of truth absolute God.

      October 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • sam stone

      my father was an atheist, my mother an agnostic......marriage broke up because they could not agree on what religion NOT to bring the kids up in

      October 24, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Topher

      "How many Christians follow the Ten Commandments?"

      Theologically ... none.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  3. John Stefanyszyn

    One's way of life is one's true faith.
    The true faith of President Obama (&Mr.Romney) is freedom of self-rights.
    XES...to serve and magnify oneself
    This way is embraced by "christians", "muslims", "jews", "others", and including "atheists".

    But there is One Creator and One Anointed Son,Jesus Christ...who will return soon as the One King to rule according to the One True Way of Life.
    ....there will not be any freedom of self-rights or "religions".

    October 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  4. w absurd or haye-filled Rick

    Observation, the far-right finds the need to disguise their hate for Obama (anyone, anything they hate) in false religious arguments. Somehow, false religious issues makes them feel on the side on the Lord no matter how absurd or hateful their deluded argument. Also, please look up the true definition of Socialist. Hint: look in the dictionary. You will not find it in the Bible

    October 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • The Truth

      it's called hiding racism behind religious beliefs and has been going on for centuries...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  5. fred

    Other fred, you have to take today meds yet.

    October 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • fred

      Fred, understand I said you what. Thanks

      October 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • ....

      That's odd – I do remember Chad having a conversation with another Chad. I'm the one who had to take the meds to keep up with the:

      @Chad
      @Chad

      followed by others asking -which Chad?

      lol

      October 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • GOD

      @fred@chad@CHAD
      I find that both the real and fake CHAD, chads are both irritating whether dangling or not, therefore I have made chads of small endowment, whether excited or not.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • fred

      God
      You know the difference between agnostic fred and the real fred who reads your word and burns all other books. To bad fred cannot see how self evident the real God is compared with all the other gods.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "The Truth" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Lorraine" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian,

      October 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • The Truth

      "To bad fred cannot see how self evident the real God is compared with all the other gods."

      To bad fred cannot see how self evident the Emperor's real clothes are compared with all the other fabric so fine it can neither be seen, felt, smelled, touched or observed in anyway...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Athy

      Too bad neither of you know the difference between "to" and "too".

      October 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  6. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @fred,

    perhaps you'd like this candidate for the Senate in Indiana – Richard Mourdock?

    (CNN) – U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Wednesday he is sorry if he offended anyone for saying pregnancies from r@pe are "something that God intended to happen"

    Another of US Rep. Todd Akin's buddies apparently.

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/24/gop-senate-candidate-pregnancies-from-rape-gods-will/

    October 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Ooops – wrong spot, posted below.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • fred

      ok, how about we all take the same meds ?

      October 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • fred

      did I say that out loud?

      October 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @GOPer

      Hey buddy...

      Yeah... just saw this little nugget from yet another fundiot.

      I'm curious to see just how far to the 'right' in their religious view-points they can go. 8)

      Peace...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  7. mama k

    Christians are experts in telling each other they are "not the right kind of Christian". This has always been the case in the U.S. Different Christian sects were even feuding and persecuting each other around the time of the founding of the U.S. in several states (or soon-to-be states). Because this feuding between these sects annoyed our founders so greatly, they made it a top priority to establish the separation of church and state (and to make it Amendment #1 of our Constitution). This is also reflected in what they had to say on the matter:

    James Madison (our 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 24, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @mama k

      Thanks, as always.

      Peace...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  8. mama k

    Had the Catholic tenets regarding abortion and contraception been strictly followed since the founding of the U.S., we would have a population like China and our city slums would make Latin American slums look like Pleasantville. I'm not for people getting abortions for convenience, but right-to-lifers have always been completely out of touch with reality.

    October 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • fred

      40 million abortions in the U.S. are what you are applauding? You should find it appalling instead.
      60 million illegals have more than made up the slack and we now have 42 million people on food stamps. Exactly what is it in your plan that is working?

      October 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • sam

      Nice try fred. Back in your hole.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred, – reposted

      perhaps you'd like this candidate for the Senate in Indiana – Richard Mourdock?

      (CNN) – U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Wednesday he is sorry if he offended anyone for saying pregnancies from r@pe are "something that God intended to happen"

      Another of US Rep. Todd Akin's buddies apparently.

      http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/24/gop-senate-candidate-pregnancies-from-rape-gods-will/

      October 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • fred

      GOPer
      Poor choice of words but God can stop ra pe yet allows it. God could stop abortions but allows it.
      Whatever choices we make in our lifetime are allowed (to the extent they are made) and consequences fall on the good and the wicked in what seems to be indiscriminate ways. God did not promise such things would not happen but did promise all things work to the good of those who believe. I like that promise and it is in keeping with the loving God I know.
      What can I say we still stone people based on our beliefs we simply can no longer use rocks. Can't say we have not been warned to watch what we say. My prior comment was not intended to be a slam or offend yet, someone that has had an abortion or is illegal may take offense.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • fred

      GOPer
      Ok, I need an English refresher course as 42 million on food stamps could be assumed to apply towards illegals. Not the intent.
      Thanks, good thing you do not know which office I am running for (or away from).

      October 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @fred

      Hello -fred...

      You Said to @GOPer: " Whatever choices we make in our lifetime are allowed (to the extent they are made) and consequences fall on the good and the wicked in what seems to be indiscriminate ways. "

      I certainly agree that "we do" make choices. And, we can't always control every outcome or the circu.mstances of our actions, but... we are responsible on how we *respond* to the manifestations of our actions, regardless of whether one believes in a God or not.

      Peace...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "The Truth" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Lorraine" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian..

      October 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred,

      my observation that we have yet another Republican candidate essentially telling women that they cannot control reproduction in their bodies (since it apparently is "God's will") was directed at your abortion reference.

      I wasn't reacting to your comments about undocvmented workers or those receiving assistance.

      Read the article I linked to a see the reaction of his GOP 'colleagues'. Just like Akin's PR disaster, they can't distance themselves from his comments fast enough.

      October 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  9. sam

    " – redzoa

    Atheist Hunter's cut and paste comes from David Barton's Wall Builders website. Rather than spamming this thread, Atheist Hunter could have simply provided the link:

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=106938

    Perhaps, knowing Barton's reputation as a "Liar for Jesus," this was a conscious choice to isolate the claims from the clearly questionable source."

    Yeah, it's Sad Troll Showcase Day here on the blog; poor Atheist Hunter was laid off from his McJob for being a bad fundie and annoying people.

    October 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @sam

      Hey buddy...

      " Atheist Hunter was laid off from his **McJob** for being a bad fundie and annoying people. "

      LOL ! 😀

      Peace...

      October 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  10. Atheist Hunter

    If there are any Christian out there that are still considering voting for the man of lawlessness, then you deserve the lawlessness that he will bring on this nation. Reconsider you position with God!

    October 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Boss Hogg

      Dick Cheney was stopped being atheist when he shot his unting buddy.What is going to take for you ????

      October 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • sam

      Your communication skills were much better when you were copy-pasting.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "The Truth" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Lorraine" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert"

      This troll is not a christian..

      October 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  11. G.O.D.

    Is it me or am I the only one?

    October 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • GOD

      No, if I really existed and had dominion over the shi*tload of christians that are now on earth. I would just give up the whole damn project, lets say on Dec. 21, 2012, or call Harold Camping if you don"t believe ME.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  12. Atheist Hunter

    February 2012 – The Obama administration makes effulgent apologies for Korans being burned by the U. S. military,,[54] but when Bibles were burned by the military, numerous reasons were offered why it was the right thing to do.[55]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Boss Hogg

      Dick Cheney is stopped being an atheist when he shot his unting buddy.What is going to take for you ???

      October 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @AH your name alone disqualifies you from being able to hold a serious discussion. However, everything you have written is absurd at best. It is NOT unusual for a President to apologize for stupidity on the part of Americans abroad. Stupid.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • == o ==

      This is all cut and paste from David Barton, whose book about Jefferson was so riddled with misinformation, the publisher pulled the book. His organization Wallbuilders is in the business of supplying anyone, including congress with twisted U.S. history in effort to bring more religion into government and public schools.

      October 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  13. Atheist Hunter

    October 2011 – Obama’s Muslim advisers block Middle Eastern Christians’ access to the White House.[53]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Boss Hogg

      Dick Cheney was stopped being an atheist when he shot his unting buddy.What is going to take for you ????

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

    2010 – While every White House traditionally issues hundreds of official proclamations and statements, on numerous occasions, this White House avoids traditional Biblical holidays and events, but regularly recognizes major Muslim holidays, as evidenced by its 2010 statements on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj, and Eid-ul-Adha.[52]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • ....

      BULLSHIT ALERT. (see a review of the author where this info came from:
      http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/hard-truth-for-author-publisher-pulls-the-jefferson-lies/ )

      October 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • nope

      @ .....
      nope

      October 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope is false

      October 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  15. Atheist Hunter

    August 2010 – Obama went to great lengths to speak out on multiple occasions on behalf of building an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero, while at the same time he was silent about a Christian church being denied permission to rebuild at that location.[51]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • sam

      I'm kind of vicariously embarassed for you...not much though, since you just bring this stuff on yourself.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  16. Atheist Hunter

    August 2010 – Obama speaks with great praise of Islam and condescendingly of Christianity.[50]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • ....

      BULLSHIT ALERT. (see a review of the author where this info came from:
      http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/hard-truth-for-author-publisher-pulls-the-jefferson-lies/ )

      October 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  17. Let Loose the Trolls

    @Atheist Hunter
    You are probably enjoying the mental maste*rbation that you are engaged in. Perhaps you could reach your climax right soon, so that intelligent people could converse.

    October 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • sam

      This is all he has in his sad life. Must be the forced abstinance...

      October 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  18. Atheist Hunter

    April 2010 – Christian leader Franklin Graham is disinvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer Event because of complaints from the Muslim community.[48]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • sam

      Franklin is a crazy right-wing nutjob. I'd complain about him too.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  19. Atheist Hunter

    May 2009 – While Obama does not host any National Day of Prayer event at the White House, he does host White House Iftar dinners in honor of Ramadan.[47]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • ME II

      "It continues the tradition of hosting iftars that began annually under President Bill Clinton and was continued by President George W. Bush." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/obama-ramadan-dinner-iftar_n_1763758.html)

      October 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • ME II

      http://www.whitehouse.gov/holidays

      October 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  20. Atheist Hunter

    October 2011 – The Obama administration eliminates federal grants to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for their extensive programs that aid victims of human trafficking, because the Catholic Church is anti-abortion.[46]

    October 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, that wasn't the reason. Cute spin, though. You're looking kind of desperate.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
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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.