Obama attends church: the presidential profession of faith

By Elizabeth Tenety Like millions of Americans, President Obama and his family attended church this weekend. Unlike the millions who … Continued

By Elizabeth Tenety

Like millions of Americans, President Obama and his family attended church this weekend. Unlike the millions who worshiped this Sunday, the first family’s religious behavior was then scrutinized by the public and the press.

Some press reports characterized the president’s attendance at the service, held at the base chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, as ‘rare,’ although the Obamas, like George W. Bush and his family, attend services at Camp David.

(Michelle and President Obama leave Easter worship services at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House in Washington.)

The president’s religious beliefs and behavior have been the subject of enormous scrutiny and misinformation. The campaign outcry over his controversial Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright led the Obamas to avoid hitching their spiritual horse to a single religious leader. But, perhaps as a result of going underground with their faith, the public is largely unable to identify the president’s religion: In a recent Pew poll, only one-in-three Americans reported that they believe the president is a Christian and one-in-five believe he is a Muslim.

Today, some White House watchers see Obama’s recent displays of faith as part of a strategy to more clearly communicate what he believes to a skeptical public.

Religion News Service’s Adelle Banks’ story titled “Obama, in shadow of worrisome polls, embraces `Christian’ label” details several recent instances where the president’s behavior and language describing his faith has been “more open, more personal” than before. From Banks’ report:

When President Obama lit the National Christmas Tree behind the White House last year, he spoke of a “child born far from home” and said “while this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal.”

This year, Obama referenced that same “child born far from home,” but added a more personal twist: “It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians.”

Three days later, at a Christmas benefit concert, the president again talked about how the story of Christmas “guides my Christian faith.”

In September, when asked why he is a Christian at a campaign event in New Mexico, the president responded by calling himself a “Christian by choice” and gave a personal testimony to the crowd (and gathered reporters):

“Understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed, we make mistakes . . . And that we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

In reading his more recent comments, do you think that President Obama is changing his public approach to his faith? Should his religion matter?

More On Faith:
Panel question: Obama’s Muslim dilemma


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • Carstonio

    Should presidents have to make this kind of profession of faith before swearing an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution? Anyone who would ask that question in seriousness lacks a fundamental understanding about the nature and purpose of secular government. In reading his more recent comments, do you think that President Obama is changing his public approach to his faith? Should his religion matter? I hope Obama is not making the mistake of letting himself be defined by his opponents, hoping that changing his public approach will silence the Obama-is-a-Muslim crowd. First, I suspect most of them use “Muslim” not literally but euphemistically for him, referring not to his religion but to his ethnicity or his father’s Kenyan heritage. Second, people who seriously believe that Obama is lying about being a Christian won’t be swayed by any change in his public approach, because that position is not based in rationality or evidence. They’ll just accuse him of putting up a front.

  • slowe111

    No American should have to make a profession of faith – ever, anytime. His religion should NOT matter. Only his actions behavior and his spoken words as regards his role as President should.

  • cpameetingbook

    Obama simply has to reveal when he was baptized, or when he will be baptized. The reason he does not talk about baptism is …

  • carleen09

    This while feeble attempt to spin comrade Kenyan Barack Hussein Obama as a Christian

  • qqbDEyZW

    When politics enter Faith God will cry. Bush said God told him to be President we learned that was a lie. Bush said he didn’t attend church because of the extra security needed yet Faith groups praised him. Obama didn’t add extra security and set with regular folks praying and this is the attack again on his faith. No matter how the religious groups attack Obama it seems he’s getting approval by God as we saw how he helped all American people with Bills that Republicans fought against. Jesus said God isn’t involved in man’s politics and give to God what is God’s. We’ve seen how evil has infested in the US Government sence 2001 and every famous Church got to big and wild free spending is effecting America. When a Church ask for money saying God wants to you, it’s clear Satan is in charge. Obama would do well to continue on the path of the real God and let others follow the fake God.

  • lefty_89

    “Where’s your Christian BaptismI was baptized at the age of 17, by choice, when I understood the seriousness of the commitment I was making. I am a Christian through and through, and have read the bible cover to cover several times. . . I have no “Baptism Record.” Does that mean, I too, want to destroy America?

  • tinyjab40

    This is a media-generated issue.President Obama attended a Christian church regularly long before he started to run for president. He and his family need to live their faith, and we all need to let them do it without having to know every little thing about it.

  • areyousaying

    The man goes to church during the holidays and it’s hate fodder for the rabid theocon right.What the hell happened to this country and why do we let these Huckabee thugs bully us so?

  • areyousaying

    Obama simply has to reveal when he was baptized, or when he will be baptized. Posted by: cpameetingbookWHY?

  • JkPA

    This is just another piece of evidence that reveals the crippling affect of partisan politics on the public servants, on both sides of the aisle. In the beginning it was because then-Senator Obama was criticized for having what was perceived as a radical Christian minister as his regular pastor. While not ideal, these complaints were justified. Now, he is suffering from a wide-spread misinformation campaign that questions his religious belief, especially with the pushing of the belief that the President is Muslim, which should not matter anymore.In response to the first question, the President is sworn into office on a Bible – or can choose to not.

  • Chops2

    “This while feeble attempt to spin comrade Kenyan Barack Hussein Obama as a ChristianWow……welcome to Glen Beckistan

  • shermaro1

    Many of the above posts appear unaware of Article VI Section 3 of the Constitution: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

  • TraderX

    ” The first bill he signed in office extended US taxpayer funds to abortion clinics around the globe…and you a liar, bearing false witness. Where is the proof? May God save your soul from the hatred in your heart,Amen.

  • dragondancer1814

    Shermaro1, well said! It shouldn’t MATTER what religion a person is, if any. That is between an individual and the deity or deities s/he worships (again, if any). I tend to trust people more who actually LIVE their faith instead of shoving it in everybody else’s face or being like “church Christians” who spend every Sunday at services, yet spend every other day of the week doing anything but following their faith (no, using Jesus as an excuse for being close-minded, bigoted buttheads does NOT count!). Hypocrisy has no place in this world.What difference does being baptized make as far as holding public office goes? Personally, I think that infant and child baptism shouldn’t be considered binding anyway. Babies and children are incapable of giving consent to belong to a specific faith, so baptism should always be postponed until the person is old enough to understand the tenets of the religion and make an informed decision as to whether or not this is a path they actually WANT to follow! Not to mention there are plenty of people whose parents had them baptized as babies who now follow other religions that are right for them-are they still Christians even though it wasn’t their decision to be baptized? I think not.It’s all about how you treat others, not whether or not you follow the “right” religion. I don’t give a rat’s hat which one you follow as long as you live and treat others by some form of the Golden Rule and not force others to live by your religion or beliefs. People got their knickers in a twist when Obama and his family didn’t join a church in DC, but chose to worship privately instead. Believe it or not, he WAS thinking of other people over himself! Think of the security nightmare that having Obama and his family worshipping at a church would’ve caused. Secret Service everywhere, metal detectors and cops scanning everybody, the line going in being held up, getting into church possibly taking HOURS. Imagine going through that every Sunday, then you’d maybe be GLAD that Obama chose not to put the public through that kind of aggravation! Consideration for others, people.


    His religion is nobody’s business. Part of what makes the U.S. the greatest nation on earth is the Constitution, including the document’s First Amendment which provides for the free exercise of religion while simultaneously barring an established religion. That means that any individual is free to believe, or not believe, in any religion he so chooses. The state cannot favor any religion over another, nor can it force a citizen to engage in any particular religious activity. That is a fundamental essence of what makes this country a great nation and unique in the history of the world. Those who want to focus on Obama’s religious activity, or lack thereof, obviously don’t understand what this country is all about. So let’s stop talking about the religion of politicians. It is completely irrelevant to their jobs.

  • go2goal

    I’m ready for a gay, atheist, anti war, pro American people, anti big corporation President….and not from either one of our 2 christian political parties.American theocracy….Read the book: Godless….especially all the blind eyed church goers.

  • peterroach

    Character is what matters as measured by the natural law from a Christian perspective.

  • lepidopteryx

    There are plenty of people who consider themselves Christian and only attend church on major holidays. I’m more interested in how a person treats his fellow denizens of this planet on a day-to-day basis than on how often their derriere warms a spot on a pew. I couldn’t care less if the president (or any other public official) worships Ieshua, Allah, Gaia, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I don’t care if he believes that he has Thetans living in his brain.

  • JamesK1

    “No Religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” –Article VI of the Constitution of the United States of AmericaIt saddens me as both an American and Christian that it’s come to this. Mind you, this is a nation where a sizable bunch consider Ronald Reagan a better Christian than his predecessor, a born-again evangelical Baptist who taught Sunday School while in office.I’m an ordained officer in the Presbyterian Church. One of many reasons I support the separation of church and state is that if we ever do become an actual “Christian Nation”, it will not be MY brand of Christianity, and believe it or not kids, Christianity is a religion with very diverse opinions. I was baptized as an infant, and believing in one baptism, I do not see the need for and would not allow myself to be baptized again as an adult. Am I now ineligible to run for public office?All this with the President reminds me of a conversation I had with my 81-year-old Wisconsin grandmother (who hated both FDR and George W. Bush with equal ferocity) in 2008:

  • thebump

    The Messiah hasn’t got a prayer.

  • bowspray

    The people who “scrutinize” Obama’s spiritual side are the media.Of course,if you go to church and invite a convoy of reporters and press photographers that will happen.Another photo op for the Great Pretender.

  • jobandon

    Turned spare bedroom into private chapel here.

  • morryb

    Obama’s attendance at a church reflects more on what is necessary to satisfy a country whose majority still believes in supernatural myths and in creation than what he really believes in. Too bad the country does not have leaders who are deists as some of the Founding Fathers were. Faith is simply the result of the indoctrination of very young children to believe in myths, angels, the devil and the rest of the superstition that there is a benevolent super being that cares for us, despite the floods, famines and diseases that kill so many. Maybe the country should invest in faith-based healing. After all, if so many are religious, their benevolent super being should be able to cure all and this would reduce the deficit.

  • jshay

    Barry could care less about church or religion in general. He simply does what is politically expedient at any point in time.

  • jobandon

    Residential profession of faith. No mortgage, have a Godgage. Equipped with aquarium for Jesus fish. They keep multiplying.

  • jobandon

    Have B-2 Spirit Operation Enduring Freedom poster and light up picture of Jesus from Great Grandma on wall. Power On High.

  • areyousaying

    Barry could care less about church or religion in general. He simply does what is politically expedient at any point in time.Posted by: jshayWhere in Leviticus did God deputize you to look into people’s heart and to judge their intentions?You must feel very special. Did He give you a badge as well?

  • CalifObserver

    Yawn…. It’s amazing that anybody cares enough to devote a part of this newspaper to this “story”

  • jobandon

    Pastor supplied seating. Reading old sermons and fire & brimstone stuff in La-Z-Boy. It works for me. He rocked grandkids in it.

  • robsmarq

    Frankly…I don’t think the President should have to prove ANYTHING about his religious to my juvenile countrymen and women. All of a s udden the President has to “prove” things to appease Joe Butthole and the follow the idiot-Palin crowd. His faith is his and that’s it. George W Bush was always “talking” religion and look what he did; led us into an amoral war likely on criminal grounds, and fiddled while people drowned and suffocated in New Orleans. President’s should not be beholden to the whims of 300 million different people. It’s ridiculous.

  • fishcrow

    Of course he’s changing his position because of public opinion. He’s abandoned reason, which is something you have to do if you’re going to be an atheist. It’s a superstition in the truest sense of the word.

  • fmjk

    No. Neither Obama’s faith nor the faith of any other elected official should or does matter. But if we are going to keep talking about it, the press has to stop doing him the enormous disservice of parroting the inaccurate description of his church visit as “rare.” He has been pictured going regularly throughout his Presidency — certainly more often than anyone else I know. There is nothing Christian or godly about santimonious humans setting themselves up as judges of the devotion of their fellow men and women. Why not leave the assessment in God’s hands, where it belongs? And why not recognize that there’s a lot more to being a real man of faith beyond showing up at the church door.

  • rlj1

    It’s better for a person to act in Christian faith than run to church every Sunday. The bills that Pres. Obama has proposed and signed show his Christianity more than going to church: Health care reform; equal rights for women-Lily Ledbetter Act; repealed DADT-don’t ask don’t tell; food safety; extended unemployment; college loan; expanded AmeriCorps; etc.

  • MarcusOne

    If Christianity can save the world as the Holy Father of Rome expressed recently then that Salvation may only come through Peace.Studying folklore and interpretations of symbolism recently, I notice that a “V” sign can be interpreted as “Victory” or “Peace”. A “V” symbol drawn in the sky can be viewed as an eagle or dove. And that, a “V” sign in the Heavens has been represented of a sign eluding to Alien wars recently (cough-cough. Of all interpretations of the “V” symbol noted throughout of ages, very few relate to the vision of the Ascension Angel or the Divine Angel of Peace that sits on the “right hand of God”.May The Creator continue to bless the Peacemakers of Earth and of our time in the coming New Year so that the promises of Christ’s Birth come to fruition, “Peace on Earth, Good will towards mankind”, God Willing.

  • joe_allen_doty

    A Believer in Jesus the Christ is NOT doing what he or she was called do if there is no public confession of Faith (that means every Believer is supposed to tell others about Jesus’ free gift of salvation.

  • krankyman

    The first bill he signed in office extended US taxpayer funds to abortion clinics around the globe.Jesus wept. The world shall know us by our works.

  • Freestinker

    He’s abandoned reason, which is something you have to do if you’re going to be an atheist. It’s a superstition in the truest sense of the word.Fishcrow, The dictionary describes faith as: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof” and “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof”Most of the major religions also describe religious faith this way, including Christianity.”Faith is acceptance of what we cannot see but feel deep within our hearts. Faith is a belief that one-day we will stand before our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”If reason, as you claim, is the hallmark of religious faith, then why do they call it faith instead of fact?

  • Fabrisse

    joe_allen_doty said:A Believer in Jesus the Christ is NOT doing what he or she was called do if there is no public confession of Faith (that means every Believer is supposed to tell others about Jesus’ free gift of salvation. I was brought up that only Pharisees stood on the street corner and proclaimed their faith publicly.

  • secularsquare

    Our Constitution does not require a formal religious test for holding office. Why should there be an informal test in a Christian testimony of some kind? Moreover, professions of Christianity from our presidents does not seem to contribute much to their success. Jimmy Carter and George Bush II both professed orthodox but somewhat liberal Christianity and discussed more openly than any other recent presidents how their faith informed their politics. They are both decent men yet also proved to be ineffective presidents who left their successors formidable challenges. Both are overshadowed by Reagan, whose religious faith was neither clearly conceived nor openly articulated. And Christianity does not bring much to the (at one time) private lives of our presidents. Clinton and Kennedy were nominally Christian and performed fairly well as chief executives. But their personal lives were morally vicious.

  • carlbatey

    Obozo’s profession of faith is called the Shahada, ” there is no god but Allah and the child rapist(aisha) is his prophet”.

  • shewholives

    If it’s politically expedient, Obama will do it.

  • JamesK1

    DragonDancer, your views on baptism, believe it or not, have NEVER been held by a majority of Christians. In light of an almost 2000-year old religion, “believer baptism” is a relatively new development (ca. 1525). I believe that as an infant, I was sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of my baptism into the family of God. Scripture proclaims there is one baptism. Yet, growing up Presbyterian in Georgia, Baptist and Pentecostal classmates (themselves baptized at the accountable age of 7) used to hound me for being baptized as a baby since “it doesn’t count”.Not all Christians accept the Apostles’ Creed. In fact, arguably the only confession we share is “Jesus is Lord”. Anyone who tells me they believe that is a Christian.To the larger point of this column, sadly, it doesn’t matter how much he proved his Christian faith, the President would still face angry calls that he is “The Wrong Kind of Christian” by a noisy minority of Christians. And frankly, I’d follow Christ’s own lead in Matthew 6.5 as to how sincere his faith would be were he to publicly talk endlessly about it.

  • ThishowIseeit

    Pres. Obama is up for re-election soon, this why he’s attending religious services.

  • VirginiaConservative

    America knows all it needs to know about Obama’s “faith” by looking objectively at the house of racist diatribe, led by Wright, that Obama worshiped in for 20 years.That is Obama’s religion. That is disgusting.

  • eezmamata

    American politicians have been lying to the gullible fools, the believers, since the beginning of our country.Sure, some of the morons we had for president actually believe this crap, just like you, but how many do you think just accepted lying about their religious beliefs as just another one of the Big Pile Of Lies they had to mouth just to get your vote?Religion is useful. If a politician claims to be a good christian, you believe him.Holy crap, what morons you are.

  • OdinoftheNorth

    The Dear Leader is not a Christian.He said “I’m rooted in the Christian tradition, I believe that there are many paths to the same place, …. [1]” Christians believe the ony way to salvation is through Jesus Christ.The Dear Leader is not Christian or Muslim, he is a socialist, which is antithetical to Christianity.1]

  • OdinoftheNorth

    gimpi, in case you missed this.The Dear Leader said “… I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” [1] which is the same notion as “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. [2]1] 2] French journalist, historian, and socialist politician Louis Blanc (1811-1882) greatly influenced the evolution of French socialism and modern social democracy.

  • raid1

    Remember the Beatles hit song, Imagine???? We need more of that

  • JamesK1

    Odin, the notion of “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” IS BIBLICAL:”Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2.43-4, NRSV)—MHawke: Fundamentalist Christianity is a fringe sect of Protestantism. President Obama never claimed to be a fundamentalist (neither did George W. Bush for that matter), so why hold him to that standard?Unless you keep strict kosher, follow all of the Levitical restrictions including clothing and hairstyles, and refuse to put money in an interest-bearing savings account (Deut 23.19), then you are in no position to lecture anyone else about the Bible being the “absolute word of God”.And yes, as a Reformed Protestant, I put Christ–his life, his teachings, his death and his resurrection–squarely at the center of my faith. If saying that the entire Bible “hangs on” the twofold commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” makes one a “radical liberal”, then call me a radical liberal who humbly tries to follow the one who was the original “bleeding heart”. Literally.

  • schnauzer21

    Posted by: go2goal “I’m ready for a gay, atheist, anti war, pro American people, anti big corporation President….and not from either one of our 2 christian political parties.”

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