My Take: Obama delivers Lincoln's Third Inaugural
Obama took the oath on two Bibles: one used by Lincoln in 1861, the other the “traveling Bible” of Dr. King.
January 21st, 2013
04:32 PM ET

My Take: Obama delivers Lincoln's Third Inaugural

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Equality. That's what today's inauguration was about. And we have Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to thank for it.

President Obama took his oath of office on two Bibles: one used by Lincoln during his 1861 inauguration, the other the “traveling Bible” of Dr. King. And during his second inaugural address, Obama read U.S. history through the words and actions of these two men.

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln turned to Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence to argue that the United States was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King argued that our national commitment to equality demanded that we emancipate ourselves from segregation as well as slavery.

In his second inaugural address, Obama began with an extended quotation from the Declaration of Independence. At least five times he referred to equality as our common "creed." And he repeatedly challenged his fellow Americans to act on that creed - to turn the United States into King's "beloved community" and Lincoln's vision (borrowed from the Constitution) of "a more perfect union."

The emotional heart of Obama's inaugural address came when the president connected the civil rights struggles of our own time back to Lincoln’s efforts to free the slaves and King’s efforts to end racial segregation. And he included among those struggles the movements for women’s rights, civil rights and gay rights:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

In other words, the struggles for women's rights (at Seneca Falls), civil rights (at Selma), and gay rights (at Stonewall) are American struggles, efforts to put into practice our "common creed."

Today's inauguration itself also put that creed into practice, featuring a black president, a white vice-president, a gay poet, a Hispanic female justice, a Cuban-American priest, and the first woman to ever deliver an inaugural prayer: civil rights icon Myrlie Evers-Williams.

The monopoly of the English language was also broken twice, once in the poem by Richard Blanco - which included words in Hebrew, Italian, Sanskrit and Spanish - and again in the benediction by Luis Leon, Episcopal rector at St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., who asked for God's blessing on the president and vice president in Spanish, then translated it to English. Leon said that, with God's blessing, we can see that all of us - "whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation immigrant American or Daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor" - are made in God's image.

The 2012 election has been widely (and rightly) hailed as a diversity election in which the votes of blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans turned the tide. This was the diversity inauguration. But notice how traditional Obama's address was. Yes, it made the case for gay rights, and it channeled Dr. King. But the words of our 44th president were animated throughout by the vision of our 16th. This was Lincoln's Third Inaugural.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Bible • Black issues • Latino issues • Obama • Politics • Race • United States

soundoff (651 Responses)
  1. empresstrudy

    Obama makes Jesus look like a loser and his inauguration puts to shame the Sermon on the Mount. Obama for Creator of the Universe FOREVER!

    January 21, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  2. empresstrudy

    I see no reason why Obama shouldn't rule as a divine being for life. Lincoln? Oh please He Is God.

    January 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  3. Science

    Published on Oct 13, 2012

    How the Universe works – Birth of the Earth
    How the earth formed? How the earth like planets formed?
    What are the odds to find earth like conditions elsewhere in the Universe?
    find the answers in the film

    Science & Technology


    January 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  4. Yikes!

    Tom, Tom the Idiot's Son is back!

    January 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Akira

      Aw, you like her.
      I can tell.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • nobody in particular

      Dr. Carl Segan, a leading teacher of random evolution, estamates that the chance of life evolving on Earth is 1 followed by 2 billion zeros. Dr. Emil Borel (an expert in mathematical probably) formulated this irrefutable law more than a century ago: The occurrence of any event where the chances are beyond one followed by fifty zeros is an event which we can state with certainty will never happen, no matter how much time is alotted and no matter how many concevable opprotunities could exist for the event to take place.
      qouted by Dr. Rex Russel, M.D.; 'WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HEALTHY LIVING' pp 67, 68

      January 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      and why do you think Dr. Carl Segan was right in his estimation?

      January 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • nobody in particular

      @ Mohammad A Dar: I think it rather strange that a teacher of evolution would make an estimate which says,. in effect; evolution could not have taken place. However, the probably of the events to happen for evoltion to have happened is higher than 1 followed by fifty zeros. Do you know how many componets there are in the most simplest life form, and what the chances are for them to come together to be incapsled in a mebraine which is only one of the componets? Do yo know what the estimates of the universe evolving from nothing may be? The chances, you can be sure, are higher than 1 followed by fifty zeros.

      January 21, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  5. Reality

    As usual, Stevie P forgot to cover how BO got to be president:

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country did not help the "pro-life" presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?
    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    2012 Presidential popular vote results
    65,899,660 for pro-abortion/choice BO 60,929,152 for pro-life MR
    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.


    January 21, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Another deadly dull post from a deadly dull ass.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Blair

      Recreational abortion should be protected as speech. The hell with condoms BALLOON MAN!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Akira

      He didn't cover it because the it was an opinion piece on the Inaugural Speech; I realize that's simplistic, but why would he bring up your opinion on why he was elected, especially when that isn't the reason?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • I don't think so

      I do not care to verify any of your made up election numbers. You are simply wrong. That is NOT why President Obama was re-elected. This is not a one-issue presidency, nor is this a single issue populace. If your focus in life is so narrow, then that is YOUR problem. I am looking forward to our President helping us to eliminate or ameliorate some of the problems that plague our great nation, so we may all thrive in peace, and most Americans agree that President Obama is the man to work best with us to accomplish that.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Reality

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

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

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

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

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

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

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

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

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

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

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

      The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":
      – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
      – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)
      Followed by:
      One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
      Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
      The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
      Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
      IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

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

      January 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
  6. i get it

    Some will not understand what going on the history of this day if you real young you have to do your history to see what it all about so please keep some things to yourself

    January 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • i get it too

      If you bleed red you can be President.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  7. chuck wagon

    When I speak of equality it's in reference to each individual as a human being, person, & people. It has nothing to do with opinion, lifestyle, social status, etc. Why is it so difficult to understand?

    January 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  8. Ron Miskelley

    I have heard today..."the 2nd Gettysburg Address", the "3rd Lincoln Inauguration". The last time I heard non-sense like this, Jim Jones was passing out koolaid. For me personally today reminds me of a movie. Dumb and Dumber. Just keep drinking that koolaid you morons. Everything is going to be just fine.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • ytman

      I think someone is bitter ^-^

      January 21, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • i12bphil

      Its actually quite scary, almost to a level of delusion. Literally, no world leader received so much undeserved adoration, worship and celebrity from his public since 1933. What followed was a country that threw the world in to turmoil while following their leader blindly, all the while praising him as their savior.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • jvburrows

      I understand, Ron, so keep passing the word so someone will do there homework and realize this guy doesnt deserve anything except impeachment. But they want a smooth talker, and they go one. Spends trillions on other countries and our country's lazy, and demands that our workers pay for it. Its how he bought votes and now how he will bankrupt this country into a depression with no defense to keep invaders out. These are facts, plain and simple.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  9. Tim Tom

    Equality...seriously? How is it that this President who claims he seeks equality keeps spending money we don't have and has let our education system slide to 17th in the world? Clearly equality to Obama means a dumbing down of America and a Government that takes control from the people.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Ron

      Congress passes budgets. Education happens locally in communities within STATES, not at the federal level..

      January 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Here's a little clue, idiot: It isn't 17th in the world.

      You might try to do some REAL research before you poof your pudendum.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • Akira

      Clearly you do not know the meaning of the word "equality".

      January 21, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • Akira

      "Before you poof your pudendum."
      Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
      That cracked me up!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      😉 @ Akira. I thought it might tickle an intelligent funny bone.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm |

    KKK , clueo clux clan is hinduism corruption of truth absolute 360*, word of Sanskrit language, meaning noble limitations, based on hinduism illegality of hindu racist Pharaohs of Egypt of hindu dark ages, invented by hindu sanatans, filthy goons Plato etc, foundation and justification of hinduism , criminality of existence of kings and their hindu criminal prophets, fortune tellers as hindu sanatans, filthy man gods of hinduism dark ages.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      No it isn't, you as>b>s.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • wejie

      100% guaranteed the fake muslim is Bob the Smart butt.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

  11. What might the fantastic silicon minds that know that even they do not rule the universe be thinking as we declare that gobs of meat are made in God's image?

    January 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  12. obama's middle east bum buddy...check it...


    January 21, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  13. Bob the Smart butt

    Stupid democrat (Party of the KKK) trying to copy a republican's speech. Priceless!

    January 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No, the KKK hated blacks or did you miss history class the day they taught that?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Bob the Smart butt

      Hi you're a stupid Black apparently that hasnt been given enough welfare to read so I will educated your stupid face. Democrats founded the KKK, enjoy the truth stupid tard tard.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Akira

      My, you're quite the angry bigot, aren't you? Blacks, the menatlly challenged...well rounded.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Bob the Dumb Ass: I'm not black and the KKK were supported by both Dems and republitards. They are primarily made up of far-right fundamentalist christards.
      As for welfare and not reading...you make a few assumptions that are probably better applied to you than they are me.
      I get the fact that having a black president scares the bejeezus out of you but suck it up ole racist one, this is the 21st century, not the 19th-you can no longer get away with enslaving blacks or killing them for thrill.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Akira

      And although the First Klan 1865–1874 had some democrats as members, it was primarily made up of disgruntled and displaced Confederate soldiers...today, they describe their political affiliation as being "far right".
      Please...stop listening to Ann Coulter and cut the disingenuous crap.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • jvburrows

      Lots of haters on here, but the only ones on here who are truely idiots spreading false lies are the ones that are following Al Sharpton and Obama and saying the KKK is full of "far right" christians. try again, no true christian and true conservative follows the KKK, but the principles and policies of the KKK mirror those of Sharpton and Obama and the Black Panthers, all registered and proud democrats.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Akira

      I don't recall anyone saying anything about the KKK being Christians, only that today they describe their political affiliation as being "far right".
      I looked it up; you may also.
      I didn't make this up.
      As a matter of fact, they describe themselves as primarily Protestant; they also have a beef and have fought with the Roman Catholics.
      Personally, I do not consider the KKK to be faith-based at ALL; I think they are reprehensible in what they represent.
      Actually, Obama wasn't mentioned by name AT ALL in this thread until YOU brought him up, jvburrows; I was merely giving some much-needed education to the people who bandy about the KKK to suit their OWN agenda.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
  14. John Stefanyszyn

    Equality...equal rights...freedom of rights...to live by the way that confesses that it is right to be free to worship any god.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Rule what?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Reasonably

      So you don't believe in equality then. Thanks for playing.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  15. Rizzo

    John, for all your commentary, you know not true comprehension nor wisdom. They are just mere shrills.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  16. turtledove

    Forget Obama. What's this bible nonsense?

    January 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  17. John

    Today is an orgasm for liberals; let them have it. Obama's avalanche of failure rolls on.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • Akira

      My goodness.
      Let all the bitterness out; it cannot be good for you.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Repeating your hatred only proves ignorance. Stop watching FOX news, it's not real news!

      January 21, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I agree John.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
  18. TruthPrevails :-)

    Congrats to our wonderful neighbors to the South of the Border on such an amazing historical event...may Barrack's second term be even better than his first. You finally have a president who truly does appear to care about everyone within his country regardless of sexual orientation, belief, gender, color, etc and who cares about the other issues-getting the economy back on track, climate change and overall making your country the best it can be. Don't give up hope because he's not accomplishing all you wish him to, he only has so much to work with and a rather obnoxious opposition to deal with. Be thankful he cares about all of you and not just the few.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • John

      You liberals actually think "caring" matters. You believe all that emotional crap. Meanwhile, when the reality of his failure slaps you in the face, you blame others. Liberalism is childish.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Amadea

      Slow news day in Canada, eh?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Akira

      TruthPrevails is from Canada; I don't think he should be labeled as "childish"...but I know someone who can be.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      John: So what is it you don't like? The fact that he's black? The fact that he supports everything you have been brainwashed to believe is wrong? The fact that he saved the auto industry from complete failure? The fact that he supports gays and not oppressing the rights of women? The fact that he is making the republitards look even more delusional?
      Facts scare you, don't they?
      That's okay...go back to reading your buybull now little boy and living in your fairytale land...the rest of your country will do the work for you. Not all good American's are as blind as you thankfully.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Amadea: Ah an Xenophobe...gotta love it. Not a slow news day at all....just thrilled to see the proper party take power and uphold the true liberties of my wonderful neighbor's.
      I know you're upset...the republitards didn't get to force you to wear the magic panties you needed so badly. It's time to join the 21st century.
      You should read something other than your buybull and learn the importance of our countries to each other before spewing your stupidity over a National website blog.
      Btw: You're using this websitte...you do know that Don Lemmon and Anderson Cooper are both gay-right? You know that CNN hires a number of Canadian's right?
      Furthermore, you do realize that the USA is not the center of the world...right?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • US Christians

      "Furthermore, you do realize that the USA is not the center of the world...right?"

      WWWWHHHHAAAAATTTTTTT? Take that back!! Of course we are! This is the new promised land and stuff! This is the, um, you know, new Jerusalem and all that flowing milk with honeys...!! If God watches all of our NFL games, which i'm sure he does of course, he certainly will be in the center of our government controlling the hisouse, you know...fo sho...

      January 22, 2013 at 4:06 am |
  19. John

    How can a flaming-liberal secular religion "scholar" NOT think Obama is wonderful? Objectivity isn't even possible.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You should go get that weeping sore checked out by a doctor, honey.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • John

      Thanks for making my point.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Akira

      This is an opinion piece; you are welcome to disagree.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What "point," portajohn?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Or should I call you "obliviojohn"?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
  20. John

    What a blathering rush to worship almighty Obama. Never mind he didn't mean a word he said, as proven by his failed first term; all of his stated goals are WORSE today than when he started. To equate Obama with Lincoln is the height of nonsense. Obama is an INFANT compared the towering stature of a mega-man like Lincoln, who actually accomplished great things. And to invoke MLK anywhere within 100 miles of Obama is to insult King's legacy and accomplishments, since Obama is judged SOLELY by the color of his skin, while his shallow character is excused. You liberals are so blinded by your arrogance and phony self-righteousness you don't realize what fools you're making of yourselves.

    January 21, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

      I wish knowledge to befall you.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • Akira

      Hear that? That's the sound of President Obama's words flying right over your head.
      It seems that you are deaf to the message he was putting out; I don't think that self-righteousness is solely reserved for the liberals you are so contemptuous of.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • Amadea

      I agree, John. It's quite sickening, actually, all this fawning and gushing. How ironic is it that so many atheistic liberals rush to worship the Great O?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Akira

      Please look up what the word "worship" means.
      It does not mean what you think it means.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:24 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.