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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. bob

    Any true Christian is an authentic follower of Christ. They believe He is God in the flesh. He was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead. He was sacrificed so that we may be forgiven of our sins. It is by the Grace of God and the acceptance of Grace that we are saved. This is a simple example of the profession of faith. Any Christian should be willing to share it any time they are asked. If the President is willing to give his profession of faith, then we should accept it. I have never heard the President give his profession of faith. I cannot say if he is or isn't a Christian.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • DB

      I have never heard any other US President – nor a candidate for US President – ever utter those words. Your demand that Obama must convene a press conference to announce it to you before you are willing to believe that he's Christian only serves as proof of your own hypocrisy. It has nothing to do with his faith, it's politics...you're just using faith as an excuse. If he was a white Republican, you'd already believe him even without a declaration of faith.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  2. this guy

    separation of church and state should really be amended to read separation of religion and reality.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  3. Johnny

    It is not just that Obama is for abortion, his views are extreme and far to the left of most Americans. He voted against the partial-birth abortion ban, and I think was the only one to vote against a bill which would require a doctor to help a child who survived an abortion. He also seems to have a litmus test for people he appoints which oversee such social issues. They have to be as radical as he is. He is such a pawn of Planned Parenthood, which has been criticized by many women and women support groups for not being able to either give mammograms nor cervical cancer tests. So what do they do? They do abortions, and even pressure young women who come in undecided, to get one, just to get their $500-$1000 check. I, for one, good not in good conscience vote for Obama,

    October 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • DB

      "It is not just that Obama is for abortion..."

      That's where I stopped reading. That's right, sunshine...you lost me before I even finished the first sentence because you opened with the utterly preposterous notion that Obama (or ANYBODY, really) is "for abortion" as if it's something that they love and want to promote and encourage.

      If you can't understand why you don't deserve to be respected or even LISTENED to when you say things like that, then I honestly don't know how to explain it to you.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • LMC

      I have never heard of Planned Parenthood pressuring women to get abortions. I have known several women who have decided on abortions due to personal problems and they said they received very unbiased counseling from Planned Parenthood. The decision was their own, without any pressure.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  4. not having it

    WHEN WILL WE SEE AN ARTICLE ON MORMONISM? We know nothing abut Romney his taxes his core beliefs....But we are still vetting the POTUS!!! This is an outrage and it is RACIST!!!!

    October 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • cindy

      great comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      why are reporters vetting obama.....where is the scrutiny regarding romney's religious beliefs......

      October 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Wil Smith

    Last I checked being the President of the United States has nothing to do with what faith you are, regardless if you are Obama or Romney........We all service this country.

    Obama Support

    October 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  6. TK

    Before the election is over I would like to see some articles about romney and his mormon faith

    October 24, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • June

      You can read about his beliefs on the Morman website, just search mormans and the computer will bring up the Morman website, you may read about beliefs and other issues. Please read the beliefs and question and answer part where people right in and the church represenatives answer their questions.

      October 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  7. Mike From Texas

    Chances are he will revert back to islam once he is booted from office.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  8. Kathleeen Martin

    I just sat and read every post on this page alone and thought...We need help as a society if we can NOT accept that in POLITICS, it is not Church, or Temple, or wherever else that must matter most. IF POLITICIANS were to have to waste time defending their Religion, do you people REALIZE HOW many Religions there are????? The poor President could not limit it to the Religions stated on this page but would have to cover all known Religions in America, and that would SURE not be a good thing for America... I mentioned in a different post I am a Christian woman, I do accept the RIGHT of every other person to their own personal beliefs and NEVER would condemn anyone except the fanatical crazies or the KKK in their beliefs, BUT the issue still goes back that REALISTICALLY if ALL of us including myself had taken time to chit chat about POLITICAL ISSUES rather than the ever so PERSONAL issue of Religion, we would be FAR better off... as for President Obama being a true Muslim, then if so, sadly for his belief, he is doing Islam a disservice by pretending to be Christian... personally my guess is, the man is a combination of Christian and Muslim, and I believe he has admitted that, but HOW one lives their life, how they treat others...truly is what matters most... Do your worshiping in a House of Religious belief, in your own home and in a few minutes free time during the day...as if you want to be a good President, you can best have your Religion show itself through your love of people, your actions...you commitment to keeping Promises made, not by spouting off your Religious beliefs... Have a Nice day people..

    October 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  9. Sarah

    I believe the Holy Spirit has shown many of God's people that Obama's relationship with God (Yahweh) is not what it should be. The bible tells us how to choose our leaders. It also tells us to be in the world, not of the world (1 John 2:15-17). Obama may believe his sincerity when it comes to his faith, but he abides from within that with a double-standard. He is a divider, not a uniter. He has shown that with Obamacare, with his campaign, and in other ways. With scandals, he has shown himself to be a liar. With his vote against the Illinois Born Alive Infant protection act, he showed his heart's apathy toward the murder of innocent life. Only God can create life. We can create flesh. We cannot breathe life into it. Obama is not a Christiant. Obama is a politician.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • BU2B

      "He is a divider, not a uniter". Funny, your religion is THE ultimate divider.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • da

      LOL...is this Sarah Palin on here making these stupid comments? Girl go sit down!! LOL

      October 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  10. Amir

    This is just waste of time and unnecessary information, it do NOT matter who you are, what faith you share or what race you come from but yet what it matter the most is what can you do for this COUNTRY!!.

    My believe is as long has you treat everybody equally and actually love / Care each other as it is really your own brother or sister than this itself is half of a religion, and I have seen our President do the same. He cares for our people and loves this Country (Our Great Nation USA).

    “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive”.
    Dalai Lama

    October 24, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Kathleeen Martin

      AMIR...you and a few others say it BEST... of course we do not want a KKK President of someone from a Lunatic Fringe Cult, but otherwise...as the saying goes "You Can't Please ALL of the People All of the Time" I stand by my belief...whatever a President's Religious Belief , how he conducts himself as America's leader, how he keeps the promises to the best of his ability and WE ALL MUST REMEMBER...anyone can make promises now, But pray it does not happen, but if a massive third world war occurred, if America was attacked NOT by a particular RELIGION, but by a group of Crazies from that Religion, and if Mother Nature bombards us with more Natural Disasters, obviously these things impact the Deficit and Economy immensely..All we can expect of a President is that they do their best to HONOR promises made and conduct themselves in a GOOD and Caring way while trying to solve as many of America's problems as possible..

      October 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  11. Christian JUDGEMENT

    "How can anyone judge whether another person is a Christian?"

    But I thought their Holy Savior and Most High Lord Jeebus COMMANDED them to NOT JUDGE???!!!

    Guess that's yet another hypocrisy committed by Christians. They just can NOT pass up an opportunity to do THAT!

    October 24, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Tyler Connell

      Although I do agree that judging is wrong and it says not to judge...I don't believe that Obama is a christian, not judging him on faith or knocking on what he does believe it's just saying I don't believe it. People that do go and talk major crap on him about his faith isn't right when they take it further than just not believing he is christian. I think the evidence is there to show he isn't, i'm not going to go around telling everyone he isn't and it's not my place to judge. I would definitely believe that this is coming up to pursue christian voters that are only voting for Romney because of that reason but who knows...maybe he really is

      October 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • grumblesfromthegrave

      II think you're confusing JUDGMENT with DISCERNMENT.
      Yes, Christ taught "Judge not, lest you be judged." (Matt. 7:1)
      But He also said to watch out for false teachings and teachers (Matt. 16:5-12)
      We are to develop discernment, so we know right from wrong, and are not misled.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • stacey

      In my earlier post I was trying to touch on discernment but it came across as judgement. I did not want to use the word because people likely would not have understood. Well said.

      October 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  12. Kaththe

    The US is on the brink of a religious war with itself. The founders specifically outlined a government free from entanglement with religious influence, rhetoric, and dogma. Our new American idea of Democracy was a break with the old ways of religious strangulation and persecution. Any argument that ends with “the Bible says so” is the dead end of critical analysis, critical thinking. The Bible is not a reliable template for the 21st century, Democracy is.
    When I hear “I will vote my heart as a follower of the Bible” from the mouths of politicians – I seethe.
    That is not what I expect to hear from those who would govern. The religious war at home becomes a contest to see who is more religious than the next – Keep that contest out of government. I believe that is what the founders had in mind.
    You have faith? Good for you. Exercise a little faith in democracy! It is American.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • gary

      Kaththe, Your post is wonderful. I agree with you 100%.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Brand X

    If Being a Muslim was having a religious faith I would not worry, but it is a political movement (like being a Natzi ).

    October 24, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • snowboarder

      or a christian

      October 24, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • palintwit

      There is no 't' in Nazi.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  14. Dallas, TX

    John Blake, I commend you for your article. It provokes people to think about whether religion should or should not weigh in on their vote, and provides both sides of reporting on the President's religion. If anyone claims to be a Christian, then they should take the President's faith claims at face value. It is not a Christian's place to judge and label others, especially based on unfounded information. Matthew 7:3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

    October 24, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Christian JUDGEMENT

      When Christians actually start adhering to the COMMANDMENTS that their Holy Jeebus gave them – then and ONLY THEN shall they be given even a smidgen of respect.

      However – they'll still be deluded nutwhacks.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  15. Charlotte

    Utter Ann Coulter REEEtards, all those who continue to labor under their rightwad delusion about Obama being a muslim.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  16. theoryorexperience

    I notice that Ryan's giving a speech today about poverty and upward mobility. But despite the notion of the U.S. as a place where anyone can make it if they work hard, upward mobility here is at a 50 year low; we have less upward mobility than most other industrialized countries! Meanwhile concentration of wealth at the top is at an all time high. Look at Ryan's budget and Romney's policies like eliminating taxes on capital gains, then look at Obama's emphasis on, say, community colleges, or green manufacturing jobs, and ask who has the better shot at making a dent in the problem.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  17. TheEyeofGodisWatchingYou

    So all I get from this piece is, CNN clearly gets internal flack for questioning anything Obama does that might lose the election. I dont care if obama is a flipping ancestor of one of the wise men that walked for days in the desert all through the nite to visit precious little white baby jesus. The bottom line is, he is a FREEMASON just like the rest the cronies. So he "believes" in Luciferian rule just like George Bush. So if he believes in white baby jesus or muhamid ali it dont matter thats for the ya yas that dont do any research. Once a Freemason, hes in the satan club. Hail satan!

    October 24, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Mopery

      Jesus was not white.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Christian IDIOCY

      Jesus was FICTIONAL.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • TheEyeofGodisWatchingYou

      obviously but tell that to the little old lady on the corner.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      TheEye...,

      He is a Freemason?

      1. Prove it.

      2. Even IF he is, here is a list of U.S. Presidents who were Freemasons:

      George Washington
      James Monroe
      Andrew Jackson
      James Polk
      James Buchanan
      Andrew Johnson
      James Garfield
      William McKinley
      Theodore Roosevelt
      Howard Taft
      Warren Harding
      Franklin Roosevelt
      Harry Truman
      Gerald Ford

      http://www.mastermason.com/wilmettepark/pres.html

      October 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • David

      Agreed. All these people that get to this high a position have embraced either freemasonry, the CFR or the Trilaterals. They always do. And they always owe.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • TheEyeofGodisWatchingYou

      nice list. its not long enough. so what that he worships satan? heres a list of satan worshipers? Im not giving any credit to satan, thats what these people believe and guide there life path.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • DB

      I am a Freemason. Barack Obama is not...and neither are any of the Bushes.

      Not that it matters, because Freemasonry is only a fraternity and nothing more. It has nothing to do with "lucifer," and by the way you meant SATAN, not "lucifer." The two words are not synonyms. There is no "lucifer" in the Bible. You fool, you're ignorant about your OWN religion!

      October 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  18. this guy

    If one of your arguments fro a creator and god is "if the sun or earth were any closer, or farther apart, there wouldnt be an adequate climate fit for life" YOU ARE DUMB!

    religious ppl dont understand that we are here bc of that distance separating the earth and sun, not that the sun and earth are the perfect distance apart BECAUSE we are here.

    like usual, religious ppl have the whole concept a$$ backwards.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Mopery

      They also insist on more and more evidence for things like evolution, and when that evidence has been produced they insist that they still need more evidence to believe it. Yet how much evidence do they ask for in exchange for their belief in an omnipotent sky man? There's no reasoning with the unreasonable.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • this guy

      @mopery

      agreed.

      "if you could reason with a religious person, there would be no religious people."
      -Bill Maher

      October 24, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  19. Mopery

    The real question is, why won't C N N ask the same question about Romney? "Is Romeny the "wrong" type of Christian?" Billy Graham thought so...up until about a month ago. Lots of Southern Baptists will tell you that Mormonism is a cult. Be fairly balanced C N N, ask the same question of both candidates if you're going to ask it at all.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Nick

      Obama claims to be a Christian but does not act in a way that would lead others to believe he is a Christian. Whereas Romney claims to be a Mormon and his actions are in line with that belief system. It's about the deceit of saying you are one thing but acting like another that is the issue. Not whether you are really a Christian or not. If you say one thing and do another you are a liar and liars cannot be trusted.

      October 24, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • David

      Eff these people trying to judge who is the right whatever. God is the only judge. Get over yourselves.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Nick

      David...are we just supposed to vote willy nilly? We have to judge who is the best candidate to be elected in our opinion. That is judging no matter what side your on. I don't want to vote for someone who claims a bunch of stuff but doesn't do it.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  20. Separate Church and State

    Look, Obama's religion is exactly where it needs to be - away from his governance. Our founding fathers were not only in support of religious freedom, but freedom FROM religion. Obama's ability to keep his faith from interfering with his responsibilities as commander and chief display open-ended exemplary leadership that ALL politicians should stand by.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:44 am |
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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.