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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. Rainer Braendlein

    Obama cannot be a Christian because he supports gay marriage.

    If Obama would be a Christian, he would help single men and women to find partners of the opposite genter. Yet, our capitalistic system needs people which have no more roots, and can be completey exploited at the workplace. That is Obam's will.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • YO! Rainman

      Just wondering, since both of your heroes Fredrick the Great and Bonhoeffer were both gay and you must overcome the lust of your body, what do you do while on your knees besides praying?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      F you and F your bigotry, Rainy

      October 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      So, Rainy, in your mind it is the job of the president to bring lonely straight poeple together?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      people

      October 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      Rainy is apparently a self loathing closet queen. Jesus is fully aroused and waiting for your silky mouth, Rainy. Why are you still here?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • TC

      Really?

      You believe that the President should convince gay people to marry people they can never be attracted to or romantically love, and convince straight folks that loveless marriages of convenience with gay folks is the Christian thing to do.

      You're kidding, right?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      Judgements run the banal roads. Few if any are made new.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  2. Dustin

    I'd rather people worry about his character and decision making abilities over faith. The only faith I'm looking for in a president is his faith that he can lead our country.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  3. Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

    🙂 😦 😦 🙂

    October 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • keithhoover

      Poor thing. Perhaps a science class will make you sound more intelligent.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      1Cr 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  4. Bri Godfrey

    The irony for me was that I posted your article on my FB page. Many of my FB friends are professing Christians. Not one of them made a comment. I wonder if they even read the article. I wish FB would note "seen by (how many)" on individual FB pages like they do on group FB pages. Maybe they did not comment because the majority are Obama supporters. Sheep being led to the slaughter.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  5. Anomic Office Drone

    All of these people insisting that President Obama is a Muslim, and I bet you none of them could tell you what being Muslim actually means.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  6. CAsean

    Dear readers and responders,

    I am very curious and not judging one way or the other. Just trying to gather your thoughts. Could you answer this question for me?

    Is it important in your opinion to have a president that not only believes in but follows the biblical definition of being a Christian?

    I would love your thoughts as I prepare to speak to a large group this weekend.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • keithhoover

      I would rather have a President who is educated in sciences, which means a President who is atheist.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      ............ .

      October 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      CAsean
      "Is it important in your opinion to have a president that not only believes in but follows the biblical definition of being a Christian?"

      No. Religion should not be in politics. The only useful tidbit would be to know how gonzo a particular candidate is in regard to his chosen heroic legend, superst'ition and fantasy.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @CAsean,

      "Is it important in your opinion to have a president that not only believes in but follows the biblical definition of being a Christian?"

      In my opinion, this very notion is wholly unconst'tutional:

      Const;tution of the United States
      Article. VI.

      ... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

      Requiring that the "President not only believes in but follows the biblical definition of being a Christian" is clearly a religious test which I think should be extended beyond an interpretation limited to rules for eligibility to hold office, to the voting process itself.

      We are electing someone to lead a secular state, to be the President of *all* Americans, not just the 75% who profess some form of Christianity.

      The faith of the candidate might be an interesting insight into the person of the candidate, but it should not be a determinate in electing the President.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      It looks like "Innertube" has gone dotty on us:

      dot·ty
      adj. dot·ti·er, dot·ti·est
      1.
      a. Mentally unbalanced; crazy.
      b. Amusingly eccentric or unconventional.
      c. Ridiculous or absurd

      October 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      Well ain't faiths special? Beliefs and believe-abilities run the gauntlets of banal goblets ever so strewn about in wastefulness. Who's special now? Certainly not me!

      October 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  7. Michelle

    Wow, to question a mans relationship with God! You have no heaven or hell to place anyone in. It does not matter if they call themselves a Christian worshiping God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit or a Muslim worshiping Allaah. I then question those who question others, what God are you serving. If I have read the word correctly, Matthew 7:1 says judge not, that ye be not judge. President Obama has not gotten any credit for cleaning up the mess that the Bush Administration left. While he has made gain those gain are not good enough for the Nay Sayer. Speaking from experience and severing a living GOD! Obama has favor and a relationship with the GOD I serve because he is the only person who can keep a Man that was placed in Obama situation and he (Obama) still move with swagger and graces. That's GOD!

    October 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  8. Science Teacher

    Sorry, I can not vote for someone who believes Jesus is on a planet called Kolob. Mormonism is not Christainity, it is a science fiction cult.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • keithhoover

      I feel the same way here. Someone needs to get Neil on this blog.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's Place while outerspace is for the human race.

      Ain't you special?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    What is actually the real faith?

    Here is it:

    God's gospel of his Son Jesus Christ: God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, Jesus, for our sins, and raised him from the dead for our justification.

    If we simply believe that (regard this gospel as true), and get sacramentally baptized, we become righteous. Through baptism we die for the sin, and enter Christ. Christ becomes our righteousness. In Christ we can overcome the lust of our sinful body. Daily we remember Christ's sacrifice and our baptism, overcome the lust of our body, and love our felllow human beings in God's power. This is the real Christian faith, which leads us to eternal glory.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • DB

      So why doesn't God tell me that himself instead of expecting me to take your word for it?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Through baptism we die for the sin, and enter Christ."

      Use lots of lube, queenie

      October 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      You love your fellow human beings, but you want them to have fewer civil rights. Is that right, Rainy?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • sam stone

      rainy's a punk, and a german closet queen. sort of amusing.....that self loathing must be eating him up. good.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  10. Phil

    The man wears a gold ring on his left hand inscribed "There is no God but Allah". Why did I not call it a wedding ring? Because he wore it before he was married. Beyond bizarre. Look into it. Google "Obama's Allah ring". It's on youtube as well.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Phil,

      For your little Google search also type in the word "debunked" and get outta here with your urban legend.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Spencer

      Citation needed

      October 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Rob

      Because nothing fake is ever posted on YouTube. LOL

      October 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  11. Jaimie

    I love reading he bible:

    Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
    31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  12. Geoff

    Regarding a portion of Clarke's comment at the end of this article, I would say that being religious IS figuratively wearing your religion on your sleeve. Those who say they believe something but do not ACT on it are not religious. My comment has nothing to do with Obama's personal beliefs, I just thought it was important to clarify my thoughts on being religious.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  13. Scott

    If Obama came out right now and said he was neither Christian nor Muslim nor any other goofy denomination, I'd go down to the nearest campaign office and sign up. Having a leader that isn't influenced by a belief in a supernatural babysitter would be exactly what this country needs. If our elected officials cared more for the well-being of their fellow man and less about following the literal word of a book written by dudes hundreds of years ago, everyone would be better off.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    What is actually the real faith?

    Here is it:

    God's gospel of his Son Jesus Christ: God, the Father delivered God, the Son, Jesus for our sins, and raised him from the dead for our justification.

    If we simply believe that (regard this gospel as true), and get sacramentally baptized, we become righteous. Through baptism we die for the sin, and enter Christ. Christ becomes our righteousness. In Christ we can overcome the lust of our sinful body. Daily we remember Christ's sacrifice and our baptism, overcome the lust of our body, and love our felllow human beings in God's power. This is the real Christian faith, which leads us to eternal glory.

    I am sure that Obama does not live according to this doctrine but is an adherent of the cheap grace which leads to eternal damnation.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • chill

      And what personal relationship do you have with the President that makes you remotely qualified to judge his faith.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Truth

      For God so love the world that He gave His only Son (Jesus Christ). He is the only one who died for our sins. He is the only judge. Who are you to judge?

      October 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Pat

      Cheap grace? That cheap grace that you're referring to came at a heavy cost, the sacrifice made by God for man. We can't add one thing to that sacrifice that makes any larger a sacrifice. The world changed that day. What I find impossible to accept is the blind, narrow-minded thinking of some of my brethern that a person that holds views that are contrary to their own automatically disqualifies that person as a believer in Christ. Wisdom is found in the council of many, not in the council of many that all think alike. If Christ were walking the earth today, he'd be more democratic than republican. In fact, I'm sure he'd have some pretty harsh words for the current batch of pharisees.

      October 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • humanbeing

      @chill

      His strong stance for his support for gay-marriage and abortion is a PRETTY CLEAR indication: that he loves and fears man more than he does God. I don't know what else you need to know. You can tell a person's faith by the fruit of the Spirit.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • A-Rod

      Really, because that is not how I view or explain my Christian religion.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      Speaking for god again, are ya punk?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      humanbeing: the gay marriage issue is about equal rights. what is it about equal rights that you oppose? and, does not opposing rights mean that you are a bigot?

      October 24, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  15. Howard

    POLITICAL SPIN ... VS. ... TWENTY YEARS ATTENDING JEREMIAH WRIGHT'S ANTI-AMERICAN, RACIST CHURCH.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  16. OG238

    Seriously CNN????? The race card?!?! Come on there's millions of black christians. Why would anyone doubt his religion because of his race?!

    October 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  17. tami

    Jeramhia Wright

    October 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  18. RealMenLoveJesus

    Patrick in Wisconsin...Ride this!!!

    October 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  19. Religion is for dummies.

    In a liberated society, freedom of conscience facilitates the progression of civilization. A purport of the notion of freedom of mind, Science provides an analytical method for our mere human minds to come to grasp with that which is the beauty of the infinitesimal universe around us. That is, until ignorant folks attempt to squash, main, and silence the voice of reason.

    Take the South and Midwest, where ignorance is the fashion of the day and any droplet of intellectual curiosity is squandered by the religious right. Free thinkers are herded by the sheep of the masses into conforming to the norm. From a young age children are taught not to question authority, not to question morality, not to question the essence of life. Scientific methods are obfuscated in favor of Creationist dribble.

    It is not unusual for a “teacher” in the South and Midwest to be incessant that evolution is wrong and to try to prove to students that the geological record supports the theory of a great flood while abridging the great 4,600,000,000 year span of geological time into a mere 6000. Religion seeps into the classroom to perverse the minds of the student body. Christianity is a moral puppet and anyone who had a different world view was ostracized. Furthermore, many children can't grasp the basic fundamentals of modern science that allow us to live in such a technologically progressive society. How are they to be imparted upon lessons of logic and analytical reasoning when they believe in the fairy tale of god?

    October 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  20. Religion is for dummies.

    @TheEyeofGodisWatchingYou

    God has eyes LOL.

    October 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • OTOH

      "God has eyes"

      So does a potato.

      October 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Ramon

      Howard... Kudos to you ... Maybe we can remind these Oblama sheep. And CNN wonder's why their rating are at all time lows? As in Dead LAST!

      He spent 23 long years in the anti-semite racist church of Jeremiah Wright. The same "Church" and "Pastor" who gave the vile and disgusting Louis Farrakhan a LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, for crying out loud! His "Pastor" has been buddy buddy with good old Louie for over 40 years, they even traveled to meet with Qaddafi (what do know, another anti-semite). This is the same 'Pastor" Jeremiah Wright who Vladimir- Oblama said that he would listen to his TAPES to reinforce his thinking. Also, speaking of Louie, Vladimir- Oblama once stated in Chicago Newspaper interview back in the mid 90's that he attended this disgusting vile man's (Louis Farrakhan) rally in Washington DC as a "Spectator"!

      Now only this, but also, where is the evidence of him being a "Christain"?

      The Bible says for those "Christains"

      "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." – Matthew 5:16

      "Therefore by their fruits you shall know them" - Matthew 7:20 ...(4 years of him and we know all to well of his fruits)

      "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee" – Proverbs 23:7

      Now for thou Oblama sheep for your "Dear Leader":

      "Wisdom rests in the heart of him that has understanding: but that which is in the middle of fools is made known.
      " – Proverbs 14:33

      October 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • OTOH

      Ramon = another one who thinks himself to be wise...

      October 24, 2012 at 1:30 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.