home
RSS
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. AB

    John Blake has mistaken writing down what other people say for journalism. The question of whether Obama "is really a Christian" is not a question that has journalistic merit - this we know. (Certainly, if there really were any *substantive* evidence on this question, FOX News would have dug it up by now, and the whole country would be aware of it.) Instead, the rather paranoid question "Is Obama a Christian" was invented by an unfortunate and exclusionary segment of the religious right. And it bears within it rather ugly racist overtones– "is President Obama 'one of us'?" it seems to ask again and again.

    To treat the veracity of President Obama's Christianity as if it were a substantive "issue" to be adjudicated is not to use one's critical judgement as a journalist but rather to eschew it. It is a journalist's task to explore substance, not peddle paranoia and fear-mongering about the President of the United States, while attempting to "balance out" the fear-mongering with a few sources saying the opposite.
    This article could have been a substantive exploration of the meaning of the debate around faith in politics. Instead, it was a travesty of journalism. But even more importantly, I think that when we speak about our most sacred beliefs, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @AB,

      did you read the original article?

      October 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  2. snowboarder

    i don't care what a candidates faith is as long as he has the good sense to realize that he represents the entire population, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack there of.

    the office of president is not a pulpit.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  3. bob

    Religion should not be an issue with this

    October 24, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  4. CJ

    It shouldn't be an issue. We should have non-believers running ofr office. They should be asked about the virtues of secularism and atheism in the debates.

    We could get the darn country running again if religion and the nuts that live for it were out of office.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  5. ChicagoBob

    Obama LIED ABOUT LIBYA..
    This story by Reuters White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: emails
    YouTube video American Crossroads: "Act of Terror"
    and I ask WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE
    NOW THIS
    Greta Van Sustern just broke the story that they have copies of real time e-mails within the Obama administration that prove THEY KNEW our Consulate in Benghazi was under attack by terrorists AND DID NOTHING.
    And from what I have read they could have sent Jets from Italy for an hour and half and might have been able to save them
    Greta Van Sustern just broke the story that they have copies of real time e-mails within the Obama administration that prove
    THEY KNEW our Consulate in Benghazi was under attack by terrorists AND OBAMA DID NOTHING. HE FLEW TO VEGAS for a FUND RAISER WHILE PEOPLE DIED. Could have scrambled JETS in ITALY been there in 1 and 1/2 hours.
    STOP THE COVER UP
    OBAMA IS A LIAR.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Observer

      Mitt "I Was Completely Wrong" Romney LIED about the 47%.

      Bush lied about the reasons for the $1,000.000.000,000 war he started.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • KATHY/Minnesota

      obama is a liar?? I have in my 60 years "never" seen/heard a person lie more rhan mitt romney.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Axiom

      Politicians are liars, Obama is a politician, Obama is a liar. Nothing new here, name one president that hasn't lied when it was required to buy public support!

      October 24, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  6. Mohamiss Shafik-Kaddir

    Obama is a Muskim . The Muslim Brotherhod instructs Barack Hussain Obama what to do to punish the American Indfidel and Kaffir . Allah will enact his will through our man Obama . Inshallah Allah will force America to convert to Islam , or Obama will destroy American for us . Obama is a Muslim , a member of the Muslim Brotherhood .

    October 24, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • palintwit

      You're full of sh!t, raghead.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • CJ

      How was your KKK meeting last night Bill?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Observer

      You didn't even FAKE this well.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Kathleeen Martin

      Mohamiss, by your name, I would assume and please do not feel offended in any way if I am wrong, but I assume you are Muslim, and as so, I just can't fathom WHY, it matters if the next President be it President Obama or Mr Romney, why their Religion matters???? I am a white Christian woman, believe in God, but accept that many others believe in a different Religion, and I can not see any reason a President's Religion in a country as Multicultural as America should matter, as long as the man is doing his Presidential job, and doing his worship of God, Allah, Buddha or any other belief on his private time..and not spouting his belief's on the taxpayers time...

      October 24, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • RealMenLoveJesus

      Hey...what's a Muskim?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  7. kate

    If I had to pick on who is more Christian...Obama or Romney, it would be Pres. Obama. His caring for people shows his Christianity. Romney??????????Only the rich matters to him. Pres. Obama is NOT A MUSLIM. If Romney should win the election...women will be inferior, the poor will get poorer and more people becoming poor. Romeny has no idea of what hard work is, what it is like to pay for a college education. Wake up people....someone who changes his views each day on everything that matters...means he doesn't have a good agenda for America.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  8. Kathleeen Martin

    Jeff...sounds ok, as now we know that Jeff is an Agnostic...fair enough...that is Freedom of Religious Belief or in your case Lack There Of...so ENJOY EVERY DAY to it's fullest as I guess for you, if your belief is accurate, this is a short term run Best Wishes...

    October 24, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • niknak

      It is just as short lived for you too Kathleen.
      There is nothing waiting for you once you die. Just as there was nothing for you before you were conceived.
      And the world won't even miss a beat once you pass.
      So yes, live each second to it's fullest.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  9. Jim

    Paul Ryan, Joe Biden and Pres. Obama are all committed Christians, just not Evangelicals. Are only Evangelicals Christian? What about Catholics? Methodists? Certainly Romney is the least Christian of the bunch. Mormonism is not Christianity. It is a polytheistic creed that deviates very far from Christian theology. Mormonism is no more Christian than Islam. The truth hurts, I know.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • William Demuth

      Is a Catholic Arab living in Israel a Jew?

      Does Hody Doody have wooden Balls?

      Does the Pope pee in the Vatican?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • sweebach

      Is Mormonism polytheistic?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  10. plumbline

    1 John 4:1-6.......4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
    4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Christianity and Islam is a mental disease- FACT

      Quoting Harry Potter again I see

      October 24, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • hilreal

      It wasn't too long ago that Rev. Gragam considered all Mormons as a cult and bordering on being the anti-christ. IT is amazing how money can change the hearts of even the most devoted.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  11. theoryorexperience

    I have a lot of admiration for Obama and 'liberation theology'. I just wish he'd talk about the poor more and I'm surprised he hasn't attacked the brutality of Ryan's budget which Romney embraced and which is the major reason he chose him.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Kathleeen Martin

      AMEN

      October 24, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  12. NorCalMojo

    People don't believe him because he's full of it.

    He's spent his career embracing questionable faiths and then dumping them when they're politically inconvenient.

    First Islam, then "liberation theology". Now we're supposed to believe he's some mainstream Christian.

    Riiiiight.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • dnick47

      You and your other birther's are full of it.... People like you are why the Lord Jesus will say, "Because of you My name has been blasaphemed among the Gentiles," cause you and your other fake-christians make His message abhorant since your actions and words do not in any measure correspond the His.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  13. RealMenLoveJesus

    The fundamental error in this entire debate is that no one has defined what a Christian is. Being a Christian is not about what we do or don't do. It is entirely about Jesus and what He's done for us and accepting His sacrifice on our behalf. Every single Christian makes decisions and does or says things on a daily basis that mark us as sinners in need of a Savior. President Obama is no different.

    By the way LinCA, Seyedibar and any other creatures living a meaningless life, hoping in vain that they don't have to be accountable for their actions one day...A fool says in his heart that there is no God. Enjoy yourselves saying what you wish now, what you will not be able to say when you die is that you
    weren't warned.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • June

      Amen

      October 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • LinCA

      @RealMenLoveJesus

      You said, "The fundamental error in this entire debate is that no one has defined what a Christian is."
      Freedom of religion means that being christian is a choice. Anyone who claims to be one, is one.

      You said, "By the way LinCA, Seyedibar and any other creatures living a meaningless life, hoping in vain that they don't have to be accountable for their actions one day."
      My life is far from meaningless. I simply don't waste my life living the delusion that there is something afterward.

      You said, "A fool says in his heart that there is no God."
      Yup. That's how you keep the sheeple in line. Threaten them with being labeled a fool if they use their heads. Religion relies on keeping their followers from critically evaluating what they are being spoon-fed. You see, it ruins the delusion if they do.

      You said, "Enjoy yourselves saying what you wish now, what you will not be able to say when you die is that you weren't

      October 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • LinCA

      Oops. Part of my post didn't make it (trying to get poon through the filters). Here is the whole thing:

      @RealMenLoveJesus

      You said, "The fundamental error in this entire debate is that no one has defined what a Christian is."
      Freedom of religion means that being christian is a choice. Anyone who claims to be one, is one.

      You said, "By the way LinCA, Seyedibar and any other creatures living a meaningless life, hoping in vain that they don't have to be accountable for their actions one day."
      My life is far from meaningless. I simply don't waste my life living the delusion that there is something afterward.

      You said, "A fool says in his heart that there is no God."
      Yup. That's how you keep the sheeple in line. Threaten them with being labeled a fool if they use their heads. Religion relies on keeping their followers from critically evaluating what they are being spoon-fed. You see, it ruins the delusion if they do.

      You said, "Enjoy yourselves saying what you wish now, what you will not be able to say when you die is that you weren't warned."
      Do yourself a favor and look up Pascal's Wager or Gambit. You might avoid sounding like a complete moron, next time.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      @RealMenLoveJesus,
      "A fool says in his heart that there is no God."

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cu.ckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews (including Paul of Tarsus) who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.

      ------------------------------

      "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.
      "What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!
      Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! – Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything." – The Emperor's New Clothes

      ---------------------------------–

      Of old time there was a great king. One day a man came before him and said, "My king, I shall weave a turban such that one born in wedlock will see it, while the ba.stard will see it not." The king marveled and ordered that that weaver should weave that turban; and the weaver received an allowance from the king and tarried a long while. One day he folded up this side and that side of a paper and brought it and laid it before the king and said, "Oh king, I have woven that turban." So the king opened the paper and saw that there was nothing; and all the viziers and nobles who stood there looked on the paper and saw nothing. Then the king said in his heart, "Do you see? I am then a ba.stard"; and he was sad. And he thought, "Now, the remedy is this, that I say it is a goodly turban and admire it, else will I be put to shame before the folk." And he said, "Blessed by God! Oh master, it is a goodly turban, I like it much." - The King's New Turban

      -----------------------------------------

      A merchant that thought to deride a miller sitting among company said to him, "Sir, I have heard that every honest miller that tells the truth has a golden thumb."
      The miller answered and said it was true.
      Then the merchant said, "I pray, let me see your thumb." And when the miller showed his thumb, the merchant said, "I cannot perceive that your thumb is gold. It is the same as other men's thumbs."
      The miller answered, and said, "Sir, the truth is that my thumb is gold, but you have no power to see it, for it has the property that he who is a cu.ckold shall never have power to see it. - The Miller with the Golden Thumb

      October 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  14. Meade21

    If you are a christian – your social views on abortion and marriage will line up with scripture.....Obama's don't......

    October 24, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • BRC

      If you want marriage to line up with scripture we're going to see a lot of men running around with 20-30 wives (and impregnating their servants if the wives can't carry).

      And where exactly does the Bible mention abortion?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Observer

      Wrong.

      The Bible NEVER mentions abortion.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • bob

      If you are a christian you should still believe the world is flat and has four corners.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • niknak

      Wait, you mean the world is not flat?
      All the home schooling and my folks never once mentioned it.
      I googled it, and it says it is in fact round, but you know one can never believe anything off the interent.....

      October 24, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • snowboarder

      meade – there are as many variations of what christians believe as there are christians.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  15. REV Paul

    A christian has 100% faith in the word of God and not public opinion. If the bible says something is wrong or not moral than its wrong and not moral. We make it so hard because as humans we want to tell God what should or shouldn't be in the word. I am not God or couldn't save humanity with my death but he did and he gets to all tha glory. His word is final.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • sweebach

      What would be your take on the death penalty, curiously?

      October 24, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • REV Paul

      I also molest children and sheep

      October 24, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • snowboarder

      rev – there are plenty of christians that believe the bible is allegorical and not literal.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • niknak

      What does the babble say about stem cell research?
      Or Australia?
      Or carbon dating?
      Or IVF?
      Or Nafta?
      Or electricity?
      Or the speed of light?
      Or solar power?
      Or anything else that affects us today?
      Thats right, NOTHING!
      Your book is nothing more the the ramblings of stone age goat herders with a bit of ancient history thrown in for color.
      Plus, most of it is not even original, but ripped off from earlier religions from that region.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  16. palintwit

    Forget Obama and forget Romney. Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. She is the "right" kind of Christian and she will see to it that we all get more of the Baby Jesus in our daily lives. But first she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, taking care to speak only to "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation once again if we all just follow the Palin Path. It is our only hope.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  17. Kathleeen Martin

    To those who "Hate" either of these men, well, they have obvious Mental issues. These are two very different men, different ideas on many issues, however, they clearly both love their Wives, their family's and their Country, and whoever of the two get Elected into office, the BIGGEST issue is to have a Congress that can stop bickering and waisting time and apply themselves to the job they are being paid to do..

    October 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  18. Dallas

    The idiotic post on here are beyond comprehension. Unbelievable, uneducated mor on s.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • RSM

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on this...but it is so much fun watching everyone argue back and forth over it. But now I have to get the bed so everyone else can have fun bickering over it.

      And to anyone who sends me a comment back and I don't answer...you win your right in whatever you believe as I can no longer endure you mental giants...there you've had your ego stroked now go bother someone else and have a nice life.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  19. MTY

    Why does anybody care about Obama's faith? Are these people insinuating that a Muslim president wouldn't be as successful as a Christian president? Why isn't Romney questioned repeatedly about his religion or is heritage? I've never heard anyone ask if Romney was an illegal alien. Part of it is just pure racism.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  20. jeff

    Anyone with an IQ above room temp knows that the idea of a god is ludicrous. Zero evidence.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • bob

      its not about evidence its about common sense. To think there is some old man in sky who spends eternity waiting for people to light candles, wear robes, pray and then die to float around him for eternity is ludicrous.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • samnet45

      Jeff,
      You have missed the whole scope of the Bible and what being a child of God is. It is not a earthly, physical thing. It is all about faith and relationship. You will never find it from your present perspective.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • RealMenLoveJesus

      The heavens are telling of the glory of God!! It is foolishness to those who are dead. How do you live and breathe and move? Why do you love? How do you exist? If Earth was any closer to the sun we would be incinerated and any further away we would freeze to death. Why don't the oceans overrun the land and flood the planet? Who holds all of these laws and all laws of physics in place everyday since the beginning of time? Darwin's theories don't EXPLAIN anything. Atheists are just desperate to believe! I think they are the MOST desperate to believe. They spend their lives calling believers fools because deep down they hope someone will prove God to them to their satisfaction when the reasons to believe are all around them! If there was a big bang, how did it start? If we all evolved from the same organisms which one decided what "we" needed to evolve into? How "we" should change and when? And afterwards who put the laws in place to make all subsequent species follow those rules once they were determined? I don't know about you but I could use a set of wings. And breathing under water would come in really handy too! Why didn't we all get those upgrades? It takes more faith to believe that garbage than to believe in an Intelligent Creator. WAKE UP!!!!
      P.S. – Respect your President

      October 24, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • this guy

      Samnet45 is a dumb person

      ...so is RealMenLoveJesus

      October 24, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • June

      prove it

      October 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • RSM

      You mean no evidence for someone who cannot sense the spirit realm which I and others can...

      BTW Jeff, my IQ the last time I had it tested was around 180...what's your's? Can't be very high as anyone who would make a comment that foolish could not possibly be all that bright.

      October 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Advertisement
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.