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. Rod

    Lincoln had his detractors also. So I guess Obama is in good company. I hope you enjoy being on the wrong side of history.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  2. empresstrudy

    Obama is God. HE is risen.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  3. humtake

    Haha...wow. Now the Messiah is also Lincoln reincarnated. The Dems will stop at nothing to make sure whoever they have as President is known to everyone as the master of everything. I'm just waiting for King Obama to finally push legislation through that turns him into Emperor Obama.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Primewonk

      Um, Sparky? You do know you teabaggers lost, right?

      January 22, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • God

      I really dislike all of you

      January 22, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  4. Douglas

    Dr. Martin Luther KIng would have rejected the notion of "gay marriage".

    This is because, as a Christian minister, Dr. King understood the BIble prohibitions against gay coitus and
    the sin of LGBTQ fornication.

    The idea of Dr. King supporting a "Pride Parade" where n@ked men and women cavort...where people are chained like slaves...and where acts of fornication are simulated..soils the memory of Dr. King and is an insult to the dignity of his legacy.

    "Gay marriage" is a sin in the Christian church...case closed.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Mike

      That is why you are a part of this world but should not be a part of this world, as Jesus said. You live in this system of things but you separate yourself from it. Just because it is popular now and many churches says it is ok, does not mean God approves, Plain and simple stay away and don't follow the crowd because that is the way. It is your life and soul. Up to you. Take care Brother....

      January 22, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Rod

      The Christian church and the bible was used as an excuse to support racisim, slavery, unequal rights for woman and a host of other man made twisted notions. Perhaps, if some of these so called Christans were not so off base with there zealous embrace of these other ideas then there message might have greater weight

      January 22, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • A Godbodian

      While we can speculate about what Mr. King beliefs may have been we do not truly know. As for the fact that he was a great man but in keeping that some great men have issues with fidelity, I personally don't believe that he would make too much of an call for issue regarding "fornication".

      The point is instead of utilizing the memory of Dr. King to sow the seeds of divisiveness and oppression, understand that while HE may not have intended his words to apply to that community, if we TRULY love him and uphold his legacy we must apply that which he believed to all and not those we think he'd approve.

      The latter is differential treatment and the EXACT CONTRADICTION OF EQUALITY.

      January 22, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  5. Sagebrush Shorty

    Hero worship can be nauseating.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  6. Conrad Shull

    Lincoln's 3rd Inaugural? Gush much, do we?

    January 22, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  7. merlinfire

    Whether the preservation of the union was in fact righteous or not is up for debate, the end of slavery certainly was a good thing.

    But comparing Obama to Lincoln? On what possible grounds? The media's propensity for kissing up to Obama really knows no bounds.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Rod

      Would you prefer That we kiss up to Karl Rove, Shawn Hannity who only carry a negative message? Oh no, I bet you like the message that George Wallace and Ross Barnett use to deliver. I for one like this Presidents heart, he is not perfect, but ten again none of us are. But he is trying to make a more perfect union and that's all any of us can do is try.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Logic

      A more perfect union, as long as you're not some inconvenient unborn baby or a devout Christian, that is.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Logic

      And since it's timely, just a quick reminder that this year marks 40 years of legalized abortion in this country, with over 55,000,000 killed. And no other president has been more supportive of this than President Obama.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Please explain your....logic (Damn, I was in trouble like 2 words into that).

      Christian have the easiest in this country and possibly the world. This pesecution complex you have is really astounding.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Logic

      1) Abortion. President Obama has provided more unabashed support to abortion providers (Planned Parenthood got over half a BILLION dollars last year of taxpayer money, and their PRIMARY service is abortions) and pro-abortion people than any other president in history.
      2) Devout Christians (those morally opposed to abortion and contraception) and Catholics, thanks to the ACA and its HHS mandate, are being forced to choose between violating their consciences or paying crippling fines. The "religious exemption" that he granted is extremely narrow, and he is unwilling to negotiate in the slightest. This law will eventually force people like me to close our businesses, and possibly end up on federal assistance programs.

      Doesn't sound like unity to me.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  8. Brent Laney

    You're an idiot!

    January 22, 2013 at 6:20 am |
  9. hopelessinseattle

    Rather amazing blog considering Lincoln in no way believed in the equality of the black man to the white man. I think he believed slavery was fundamentally wrong but even upon releasing the black race from such a grievous state he did not believe blacks could be on the same level as whites and strongly advocated the colonization of the entire race to Central America or Africa upon the end of the Civil War. It was only because of 'radical' white (and black) abolitionists in the North that squashed that idea. Read your history man, not write what you want us to believe to suite your agenda.

    Over time as Lincoln became more and more exposed to blacks he came to see their value as humans on equal terms with any other race. His positions were more out of ignorance than hate. You have to be very careful using Lincoln's 'big speeches' as the basis of saying this is what he believed, Lincoln was the consummate politician and used words to shape public and private opinion to advance his agenda.

    Lincoln battled to preserve the Union....Obama....he battles to make the perfect birdie putt, take the next multi-million dollar vacation, and to recreate the Union as he thinks it should be. In no way is this Lincoln's third inauguration and the premise is hardly worth discussing

    January 22, 2013 at 6:06 am |
    • Patricia Fredrich

      Thank You!

      January 22, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  10. Aristocles

    This is insane. They are trying to raise Obama to the level of a political saint. To put it another way, calling his speech Lincoln's "Third Inaugural" is akin to calling a book another Gospel of the Lord.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:43 am |
    • Sane Person

      Except most rational people do not equate "Gospel of the lord" and Lincoln as equivalent. You see, Lincoln really existed. Yes, Obama's equality speech was similar to the equality speeches of Lincolns.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:16 am |
  11. Sxience

    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 22, 2013 at 4:23 am |
    • It is Called

      It is called No god(s) required for the birth of the earth above watch video I did.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  12. mansa

    the only thing i disagree with is 'gay rights'... gay people are not discriminated against; all they want is 'special' treatment.
    the government should not mandate or recognize a lifestyle.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:37 am |
    • The Truth

      the only thing i disagree with is 'married rights'... married people are not discriminated against; all they want is 'special' treatment.
      the government should not mandate or recognize a lifestyle.

      January 22, 2013 at 3:29 am |
    • Sane Person

      Identical is not special you ignoramus.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:17 am |
    • thewiz71

      Now, replace the words "gay" with "black" in your comments, and you'll see how wrong you are. I remember hearing those precise words said about African-American people not all that long ago.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:26 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      mansa: When did being straight become your lifestyle?

      January 22, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Logic

      A "gay" person doesn't ever have to tell anybody about it. A "black" person doesn't have that option. Hardly the same thing.

      January 22, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • sam stone

      "A "gay" person doesn't ever have to tell anybody about it. A "black" person doesn't have that option. Hardly the same thing."

      So what? Gay people are deserving of the same rights as all citizens

      January 22, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  13. TheAntiChrist

    I would rather use an encyclopedia in hard bound. I would have to get a female body builder to hold it for me.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:17 am |
  14. Matt

    Yet another attempt to make us believe Obama is in the class as Lincoln as a speaker and writer. He is not. His words are not poetic. There has not been another president who was capable of communicating exactly the correct sentiment in the exact right amount of time and number of words as Lincoln. Inaugurals have become rambling statements of ideology. Lincoln's greatness lied in the brevity of his words, and the poetic language he used.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:07 am |
  15. realbuckyball

    Nope. A black pastor from At;anta will NEVER preach equality for gays.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  16. Common Sense Blogger


    January 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  17. Reality

    Once again:

    Obama rode to the Blood-Red House on the backs of 50 million aborted womb-babies!!! (See the Guttmacher Inst-itute's on-line reviews)

    He says abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO's sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he says he is a Christian. And where is his sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 9% as per the Gu-ttmacher Inst-itute statistics. Using these and other Gu-ttmacher Insti-tute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.
    And do males use co-ndoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth "control" method is 18%!! Again using Gu-ttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    Bottom line: BO is still not aware of the basics of birth control and still remains the leader of the Immoral Majority and will remain so until he becomes a true Christian and one who respects and protects human life in all its forms and who at least emphasizes the proper use of birth control methods!!!

    January 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, get off it with the "womb-babies" crap, you moron.

      If you aren't adopting any unwanted kids, you have no business whining about what women do. Blow it out your ass.

      January 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Reality

      There would not be any unwanted kids if men and women practiced safe, intelligent s-ex.

      January 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Reality

      The Mothers' Home, Darby, PA

      Give today as many of us do to provide shelter and care for a homeless pregnant woman and her baby.

      Donate online at mothershome.org

      or Donate by mail:
      Donations can be mailed/dropped off to:
      Mothers’ Home
      51 N. MacDade Blvd
      Darby, PA 19023

      United Way Donor Designation Number 07357


      Reality, father of three with a brother who has four adopted children, three with special needs.


      Donate to the Mothers' Home:
      Give today as many of us do to provide shelter and care for a homeless pregnant woman and her baby.

      Donate online

      Donate by mail
      Donations can be mailed/dropped off to:
      Mothers’ Home
      51 N. MacDade Blvd
      Darby, PA 19023

      United Way Donor Designation Number 07357

      January 22, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • Akira

      BO is the President of the United States, not your biology teacher...or the Surgeon General...and you are in no position to judge his level of faith as you are agnostic yourself.
      While I understand your desire to get the word out about birth control, the editorial opinion "Bottom line: BO is still not aware of the basics of birth control and still remains the leader of the Immoral Majority and will remain so until he becomes a true Christian and one who respects and protects human life in all its forms and who at least emphasizes the proper use of birth control methods!!!" is absurd.
      He remains the leader of The United States Of America, not the reproduction police; for goodness sake, did you c/p all of this with other Presidents, or is he the only one who earns your contempt merely because he espouses ideas that you disagree with?

      And he's pretty darned smart about bc also, being that he and Michelle only have 2 children...
      Immoral majority, indeed. Meh.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • The Truth

      Fact: 40% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Apparently your God doesn't mind aborting nearly every other fertilized egg and no one seems to care... no one pickets God.

      January 22, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Not only that, but has anyone ever noticed that the Bible says nothing – NOTHING – about abortion. Not one thing. Nada Nichts. Nichevo. Zip. In all of the hundreds of extremely explicit and detailed laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, not one mention. Lots of stuffon such abominations as touching the skin of a dead pig, working your fields on the Sabbath, eating shellfish, or trimming your hair (all forbidden, often with severe penalties), but abortion – not a thing.

      The closest thing is found in Exodus 21:22-25. If a pregnant woman suffers injuries that cause her to miscarry from a fight between two men, the normal penalties for harming another human being come into play: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. Killing the woman is murder.

      However, the miscarriage is treated as property loss, not murder. The assailant must pay a fine to the husband. The law of a life for a life does not apply.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • thewiz71

      Actually, the commandment is better translated as "You shall do no murder". There is a, granted arguable, difference between killing someone and murdering someone.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:29 am |
    • JimNasium

      The day conservatives show as much compassion towards the living as they do towards the unborn is the day I start taking them seriously on this issue. In the meantime, cry me a river.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:58 am |
    • Reality

      Dear BO,

      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 22, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  18. jjon

    Oh yes....Obama compared with Lincoln....that makes a lot of sense. The sad thing is, I believe this writer really thinks the two men are both great Presidents!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • Akira

      Oh, you're right.
      Lincoln was a horrible President; what were they thinking?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  19. Dhimmi Jones

    America is deeper in debt than ever before, more Americans are out of work, millions more are on food stamps, Obama is trying to force government restrictions on Christian companies, supports gays and abortion, is attacking the consti tution which he vowed to protect, hates whites and America, and is completely incompetent.

    Did I miss anything?

    January 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Zingo

      You missed truth, sanity and reality, but that's what we have come to expect from hysterical zealots like you.

      January 21, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • Seve

      Nope, except the part where we all pull out a funnel and pour all that liberalism down your throat. In case you haven't noticed, trying to work with Republicans got us nowhere. So now, its time for a new methodology, called force feeding. We're going to make the liberal agenda happen whether you like it or not, trampling right over your fat abdomens if necessary. Its the Bush II agenda in reverse. You're gonna hate it, and that only makes us like it more.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Akira

      Yes, you forgot to add "the preceding message was brought to you by Fox Entertainment...er...News" to your post.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Bob

      Just reading the comments in this article shows just how far we still have to go to meet the goal of the of equality for all.

      January 22, 2013 at 3:17 am |
    • The Truth

      "America is deeper in debt than ever before" – factually correct, but we have also never been wealthier.

      "more Americans are out of work" – more than what? 5% yes. 10%? no. 39% like during the 1930's? Um, not by a long shot.

      "millions more are on food stamps" – the majority of food stamp recipients are children and the elderly with 35% going to white households while only 22% goes to black households.

      "Obama is trying to force government restrictions on Christian companies" – No, he is attempting to enforce equality in a health care plan for all companies in America for the health of our women and our nation.

      "supports gays and abortion" – Both perfectly legal you moron.

      "is attacking the consti tution which he vowed to protect" – I fail to see where you read it's not okay for everyone to buy rocket launchers and grenades but for some reason common sense rules when it comes to clip size and gun types is an attack on the constltution. Your logic fails the sniff test plain and simple.

      "hates whites and America" – your bull shlt opinion and you know it you dishonest racist.

      "and is completely incompetent." – arguably one of the most successful first terms with rescuing a country in financial free-fall and passing major healthcare reform all while the republicans from day one chose to play obstructionists because they decided they did not like this "Boy" in the white house telling them what to do, so their constltuents and the country be damned.

      "Did I miss anything?" – No, you opened your mind on these boards and showed everyone just how little there was inside...

      January 22, 2013 at 3:53 am |
    • sam stone

      dhimmi: the 14th amendment provides for equal protection, and that includes "gay rights". if that bothers you, too damn bad

      January 22, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  20. Dhimmi Jones

    Another Stephen Prothero masterpiece showcasing that you can be blind as a bat, but as long as you support Obama and anti-Christian themes, you too can be featured on CNN!

    January 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Akira


      January 22, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • Sane Person

      More than half the country disagrees with you. Sit down.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:20 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
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.