August 26th, 2007
01:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama invokes Bible in NOLA

Obama attends church service in New Orleans.

(CNN) - Speaking to Sunday church congregants in New Orleans, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama invoked Jesus' Sermon on the Mount days before the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

"Getting ready to talk to you today, I recall what Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount," Obama said at New Orleans' First Emmanuel Baptist Church. "He said, whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock."

"The rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house. But it did not fall, because it was founded on the rock," he continued.

That rock, he said, was a principal of brotherhood exemplified by the church during Hurricane Katrina - but not the federal government.

"Something was wrong in America. Our foundation wasn't built on the rock," he said.

Obama blasted local, state and federal response to the storm, and touched upon ingredients necessary for the city's rebuilding, namely more employment opportunities for residents to rebuild, community-based law enforcement to tackle the city's crime epidemic, and improved health care.

President George Bush and several presidential candidates plan to visit New Orleans this week to commemorate the hurricane's anniversary.

Obama spent Saturday in Miami, where he brushed aside criticisms of running his campaign on the intangible platform of hope, calling himself a "hope monger," and proposed easing travel restriction with Cuba.

- CNN Political Desk Editor Mark Norman

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. pl, at the UN, for a while.

    I am not American. I cannot vote. I believe in Christ; I also believe in Mohammad.

    I note that the comments so far here are, strangely, all over the proverbial map.

    But Obama a prophet? He studied Islam for five years. Is that why his wife is invisible? Or is it because as a Christian observer he is taking Paul's Romans-II-8 literally?

    Can anyone please explain to the rest of baffled us what in the world was he trying to accomplish with those remarks?

    And I want to see his spouse on the campaign trail, just like the other spouses.

    August 26, 2007 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. Ciara, Paris France

    Dear PL at UN,

    You are missguided on Michelle Obama. Just go to and trype Michelle Obama and you will see the wonder of Mrs. Obama speaking. They have two children and both she and Barack have been focused on them.

    August 26, 2007 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Mark, Princeton, NJ

    Imagine the outrage if a Republican candidate quoted the Bible. Double standard.

    August 26, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. jen, cs colorado

    Does Obama realize that "the Rock" is Jesus Christ? If the senator laments not building our foundation on the Rock....will he takes steps to rebuild the foundation of America? Makes me wonder...

    August 26, 2007 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    Mark, you republicans quote from the bible all the time...too bad your actions never back up your words though.

    August 26, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Peter, Wausau, WI

    It's good to see that some candidates are willing to talk about the Bible in their efforts to win the election... perhaps religion in America can survive the attacks being made by people who are more concerned with political correctness than anything else...

    August 26, 2007 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  7. R Moore, Raleigh, NC

    The "rock" is Christ not brotherhood. Hope is lost if we hope in brotherhood. But Obama is right..."Our foundation wasn't built on the rock." How great it would be to build our foundation on The Solid Rock!!

    August 26, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Eric, Huntington Beach, CA

    Being a liberal atheist, I feel I can address your accusation of there being a double standard. I feel that the evangelical Christian right is eager to push its faith onto others, to legislate its articles of faith onto others, and otherwise generally take over the country. I also don't think that the political issues it represents are the ones that Jesus (in my understanding of his teachings) would really like to be followed. Peace, understanding, turning the other cheek, helping those in need, personal sacrifice – these are the true Christian values. Denying gay people their rights, fighting wars, and tax breaks for the rich are not true Christian values.

    I'm comfortable with Obama invoking the Sermon on the Mount because I like the underlying message, I don't think Obama takes the Bible literally (eg he doesn't believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old), he doesn't let religion dissuade him from critical thinking when it is necessary, and I don't feel that he thinks I am "less of an American" if I myself am not religious like he is.

    August 26, 2007 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Mandy, Elko, NV


    August 26, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. James, North Little Rock, AR

    Eric in Cali,

    I am an evangelical Christian and I must say that I couldn't agree more with your comment. I think your opinions represent an open-mindedness that is desperately needed in our public dialogue. I think your understandings of the teachings of Jesus are accurate and all of us, whether or not we choose him as Savior, can benefit from his Word. This doesn't give us an excuse to force it upon others. Peace to you.

    August 26, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. Shardule, Needham, MA

    I think Eric (Huntington Beach, CA) and Matt (Paris, Illinois) have had the best points so far.

    August 26, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. pl, at the UN, for a while.

    Dear Clara from France,

    Rest assured that I take no position with regard to American candidates in American elections. I only observe and describe. I don't fool myself about righteous ethics. That is the field for now appropriated by "metaethics".

    I did not ask for exceptions, only for an even playing field–which will be forced on all candidates sooner or later.

    I no longer log in to Youtube because is too politically exploited to engross or unfairly belittle. I do not find the helpful. I prefer basing my opinion simply on my own instinct of where to pigeonhole the populistic ethics of what I see and read.

    This morning, at church, Mr Obama ascended the pulpit and 'sermonized' the nation (this blog is the proof).

    If I recall well, Mr Obama has already been indicted, several times on this blog, of taking an "holier than thou" attitude.

    As a spectator, an observer, and a reader, my simple reflex is: "On the basis of what moral or metaethical endowment do you base your preaching?"

    August 26, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Emil, Franklin, TN

    Mr. Obama needs help with Biblical interpretation as well as foreign policy.

    August 26, 2007 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Tim H, Madison Wisconsin

    Paper thin record? Are we only talking about bills that have been passed? You can't base someone's record on how many bills have passed; that shows a fundamental ignorance of how the legislative body works. Furthermore, his bills have consistently been aimed at helping the common people, not just bills to name a highway after himself, as other Senators are keen on doing. Just a few of the 152 bills he's sponsored and 427 he's cosponsored:

    -Higher Education Opportunity through Pell Grant Expansion Act
    -Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act
    -Amended the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act
    -Secure Fense Act
    -Lugar-Obama cooperative threat reduction expansion
    -Coburn-Obama Transparency Act
    -Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act
    -Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act
    -Iraq War De-Escalation Act

    By the way, for any of you who rail on Obama for "not having enough experience," please remember that both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (until his resignation) have been in major governmental positions since the Nixon era. Boy, that "experience" sure worked well, didn't it?

    August 26, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  15. R. Phifer Mpls,MN

    Don't Hate.

    August 26, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    Oh Emil, care to enlighten us since you are such an expert?

    August 26, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. Wiley

    With Barak displaying his lack of knowledge of God's Word, and his lack of respect for what is "the absolute truth".., he's given me every reason NOT to listen to him at all.

    August 26, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  18. David, Salinas, CA

    Like many Americans I don’t accept a literal interpretation of anyone’s creation myths, but I do have great admiration for the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. As I read those teachings, the emphasis is on loving our neighbors, helping the sick, the poor and the afflicted, judging not lest we be judged, being our brother’s keeper, and turning the other cheek.

    It looks to me as if Senator Obama (and Senator Clinton as well) have political positions more in keeping with their professed faiths than our current President.

    I’d like to know how Christians reading this blog can reconcile their beliefs with the actions of the current Republican administration in regards to uninsured Americans, Katrina victims, civil rights, environmental destruction and the wholesale slaughter of innocents excused as collateral damage.

    I’ve come to the opinion that many members of the so-called Christian right are neither right nor particularly Christian.

    August 26, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. Don Houston, TX

    Wiley, you are an idiot. He pointed out the obvious, and all he was saying was that during their time of struggle more could've been done (at all levels, local, state, and federal), but wasn't. Let's not miss the major point here. People's lives were destroyed, and regardless of whether or not you believe it we are all citizens of America so we "owe" it to each other to help those less fortunate than ourselves, especially in the time of need. When the Tsunami's came and killed all those people overseas (God rest their souls) we couldn't have rendered aid faster, but in the middle of what could be considered the greatest natural disaster to hit American soil we couldn't even get water to the Superdome. C'mon man, use common sense! Obama is a very smart man, and he was metaphorically speaking when he said what he said about the rock. That comment in no way, shape, or form was a sign of disrespect to Jesus Christ. Use your brains people. Use your brains! Do you honestly think that Iraq is better off today than itt was before we invaded? Do you honestly think that the billions that we invest in fighting this war for oil could not be better spent on improving our own country? But yet, we sit here and post meaningless comments on this obviously biased blog and wonder why countries like England consider us to be idiots?

    August 26, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  20. David C. Powell

    All the praying in the world to god didn't do New Orleans a bit of good. The "church" is far from being a rock. Christianity and Islam are scams perpetrated by con artists on deluded people.There is no god and prayer does nothing. Who or what are people praying to? 200 years before Christ, Epicurus said: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
    Show me any evidence that there is a god at all and I'll consider beliieving. Until then there is no god. Period. Same goes for Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. They worked when we were three but no more so get real and grow up! There is no god!

    August 26, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. rea,sunnyvale, ca.

    obama is too biased/sarcastic/chauvenistic/complaceny/dogmatic/nagger/easily agited/eccentric/hot-tempered/stubborn/phony/selfish and greddy-thats my reading about him-hes an ox year born-this is a phsychic lady commneting his real triats- eside america is not ready for black american like him-besides ehs muslim

    August 26, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. maqita

    Obama is an admirable American. He should be president and unify our country. Bring us all together as one. A people working together for the common good of all in a democratic way, Blacks and Whites. And of course all others under the American umbrella. Let's shame the powers that be by voting him the next President of the United States. He has the tools to do what he was placed on this earth to do. "GOOD" The world will then see America in the light of GOODNESS as a new beginning in this relatively new century. Amen....can't hear you.....Amen? That's the American way....Right? Let me hear you sa: Obama...Obama!

    August 26, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. sonya, atlanta, ga

    Some people may have to re read the Sermon on the Mount. Obama is correct. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus teaching Christians not only how to behave but the attitude or spirit one must convey to live righteously. We are our brothers keeper.

    August 26, 2007 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  24. Terri, Plantation,FL

    The lack of knowledge some commentors show by their posts criticizing Senator Obama is pretty sad.

    Perhaps everyone, cozy in their homes with very short memories, forgets watching days and days of our fellow human beings squandering in sewage, bodies afloat everywhere, while the president was strumming a guitar somewhere, and Condi was off buying shoes..and cheney was off, who knows where. It was BEYOND a national disgrace. That the city STILL is not put back together in some form of normalcy is an abomination considering we spend $275,000 a minute in a trumped up war in Iraq that is doing nothing more than causing more suffering, death and destruction. Yes, there is something absolutely wrong with our 'foundation' when we see where our president's priorities lie.

    The words from the Sermon on the Mount were entirely appropriate regarding Katrina's aftermath. He was, after all at a church, and everyone understood the appropriateness. Wise words are wise words regardless of where they come from. Give me a break with the 'separation of Church and State' nonsense. It's YOUR Constitution, and I suggest you might try actually reading it before making such ridiculous statements.

    Oh, and to the person who stated Obama studied Islam for 5 years, and that his wife is invisible, apparently you haven't bothered to do even the slightest research on either. Both statements are false. I'd suggest a visit to his website for the facts rather than continuing to spread misinformation.

    August 26, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  25. Dale, Plano, tx

    New Orleans still has no leadership.
    Incredible. In a supposedly 1st
    world country. Why should people return? The city has no mayor.

    August 26, 2007 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
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