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. David A. Paszkiewicz

    Senator Obama, the "Rock" in the Mathew passage is Jesus Christ, not the federal government. Your statement made out of political expedience actually alienated you from from your target audience, true believers.

    August 27, 2007 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  2. Donald Lee, Little Elm, TX

    Vote for Obama. He'll lead us in the invasion of Pakistan to get Osama.

    August 27, 2007 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  3. R. Rosario Kings Park, NY

    As usual. A liberal politician standing in the pulpit where he doesn't belong taking scripture entirely out of context to make a political point instead of what the real meaning is, listening to the teaching of Jesus Christ and doing them. That is the foundation build on the rock. He is the rock! And unless you be born again you can't enter his kingdom. Here's another scripture for you. "Not everyone who comes to me saying Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heave."

    August 27, 2007 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  4. anredt, jacksonville, fl

    Obama making a "campaign stop" at a church?!

    Shouldn't you liberals be agog? Should you liberals be aghast? Shouldn't you be acting the same way as when you found out Mitt Romney was a memb. of the Mormon church? (I thought those who support Clinton and/or Obama and/or Democratics don't want the church to be mixed with politics.

    August 27, 2007 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  5. Dan W. Anderson, In.

    Barack Obama is probably the most decent man among the Dem. candidates, but those who are afraid of their Pres. candidates being the slightest bit spiritual and relgious can't stomach the thought of their President in an actual church.

    August 27, 2007 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  6. Timothy OFallon Palm Harbor, FL

    The first comment here, from Douglas Babb, was that the Sermon on the Mount was actually an Essene prayer dating hundreds of years before Christ. Mr. Babb, your contention is a myth. The similarities between the Sermon on the Mount and Dead Sea Scroll documents are in certain expressions and one or two beliefs expressed in the Sermon, which of course can be said of virtually any Jewish body of literature.

    According to Gaster, one of the original editors of the DSS [The Dead Sea Scriptures, Theodor H. Gaster (ed.), Anchor/Doubleday:1976(3rd ed.), p.20].

    "In order to get this whole question into the right perspective, it should be observed that just as many ideas and phrases in the Dead Sea Scrolls as can be paralleled from the New Testament can be paralleled equally well from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament–that is, from the non-canonical Jewish 'scriptures' that were circulating between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D.–and from the earlier strata of the Talmud. Moreover, many of them find place also in the ancient doctrines of such sects as the Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran and the Samaritans, so that even if they have not come down to us through Jewish channels, we can still recognize in them part of the common Palestinian thought and folklore of the time. Accordingly, to draw from the New Testament parallels any inference of special relationship is misleading. "

    Now, I do think a case can be made for some Sermon on the Mount sentiments being present in nearly all religions. This is because Moral truth, Mr. Babb, is a reminder – never an innovation.

    As far as Mr. Obama's use of Scripture in his campaign, I think its application was misguided in this instance. Jesus likened the man who built his house on a rock to someone who listened to Jesus' words in the preceding verses/chapters and put those words into practice. Among those words was an exhortation not to worry about what to eat or drink 'like the gentiles do' or the cares of tomorrow, but to focus on the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, Mr. Obama's criticisms of the Federal Government following Katrina mostly involve lack of preparation, including not thinking ahead to the food and drink requirements of the victims. The Senator would have done better to paraphrase a different Scripture, since in this instance Obama of Illinois and Jesus of Nazareth seem to be speaking of different issues.

    August 27, 2007 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  7. Sid Wells Warner Robins, GA

    Is this the same guy that sponsored the do not resuscitate bill allowing babies born alive after an attempted murder to be left for dead; the man that attends a denominational church which advocates homosexuals in the pulpit, and the same man which believes it's ok to steal someone's money in order to give it to someone whom the federal gov't thinks may need it more?
    By the way, the correct interpretation of the "Rock" is revelation into God's Word not brotherhood but nice try my communist friend.
    I know America is changing fast but I do not believe our Spiritual eyes are that dim yet. Pray for revival in this nation.

    August 27, 2007 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  8. troy, waldorf, md

    How unfortunate, those who profess to be Christians allow the time meant for worshiping Christ to be used for political propoganda. Does anyone who is a Christian see the problem with allowing that which is not Holy to be substituted for that which is Holy? The church leadership should be ashamed and the worshipers should pray for discernment to know the difference because if they did they would not worship at that church. Rather they would find a real church.

    August 27, 2007 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  9. Dan, Trenton NJ

    more people taking the bible out of context. Christ was speaking of those whose foundations are built on faith in Him. Thats exactly what the dems are stripping the US of, identity with Christ. Hyprocrisy.

    August 27, 2007 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  10. Modd the Bodd Cincinnati

    Obama...another LIB darling with the press.He can do no wrong.And he's articulate! And clean! Oh wait...that was Biden talking about him.Maybe Barack can have Biden as his Veep if he gets the nomination...or at least have him be his valet.

    August 27, 2007 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  11. Eynav Benjamin stormville ny

    Obama is a faults prophet, a man how said he is a christen and yet supports parcel birth abortion .

    August 27, 2007 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  12. Dan, Trenton NJ

    there is and was never seperation of church and state.

    August 27, 2007 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  13. bill

    Hey Linda, I am not particlarly relgious but, show me where the Constitution seperates church and state. Which article, what clause? Your post is nothing more than a Deomcratic talking point based on a fiction.

    August 27, 2007 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  14. Steve Wilson

    The Rock to which Jesus referred is not a "principle of brotherhood" but faith and trust in the living God. If the candidates are going to invoke the Bible, they need to get it right.

    August 27, 2007 08:50 am at 8:50 am |

    A few salient points:

    1) We are Katrina SURVIVORS, not victims.

    2) The storm was not a direct hit. We were not "destroyed" by it, but by failed levees, a responsibility shared by federal, state, and local authorities.

    3) Almost every area in this nation is prone to some sort of natural disaster. The current midwest floods, wildfires, earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis. There was a very deadly hurricane in NY in the '30s. Should we forbid building there since the area is vulnerable to them?

    4) It has become de rigeur for any nationally known political figure to use us as a backdrop in their political theatre. We make a compelling backdrop for what ever point they wish to make, and are forgotten as soon as the landing gear is up. It is they, and not the storm, who intentionally victimize the survivors.

    5) What has plagued us both before and after is a failure in leadership, mostly on a state and local level. It is not a federal responsibility that New Orleans had only 3 convictions for over 160 murders last year. It is not the Feds who chose to select an overpriced, highly inefficient, and probably corrupt organization to waste and delay the "Road Home" funds. It was not federal levee boards that merely went to lunch once a year for huge salaries, and never got around to actually inspecting the levees.

    6) Given 4 and 5 above, I consider any apearance here by a national candidate spouting the usual platitudes as JAFP. (Just Another Friggin Politician)

    7) All of the above is written from the perspective of not just a survivor, but someone who took part in the relief in the immediate aftermath and saw the glory, and ineptitude, firsthand.

    August 27, 2007 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  16. Gary, Goodlettsville, Tennessee

    Translations of Bible verses must consider the context, with the interpreter looking at verses before and after the verse in question. In this case, the first part of the verse tells us what the "rock" is – "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man that built his house on the rock." The rock, therefore, is the word of God ("these words of mine") and our putting them into practice. What the verse is saying is that those that are wise live according to God's word, the Bible. While Mr. Obama is not completely accurate in his interpretation of the verse, he's hit on one theme of God's word – he calls it "brotherhood" – neighbor helping neighbor during a time of crisis (as in Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan). I guess the church helping out during Katrina would be a good example of living by the word of God, wouldn't it?

    August 27, 2007 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  17. John, Harrisburg, PA

    Why not base your dreams on hope? New Orleans was a city of Hope. The immigrants who make up 90% of our population and ancestors came here for hope. America is the land of hope. We need a President that embodies it.

    August 27, 2007 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  18. David Watson, Montgomery, Alabama

    Why is it OK for a Democratic political candidate to speak at a church, but it's not OK for a Republican candidate?

    August 27, 2007 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  19. Bobby Coggins, Franklin, NC

    I guess Obama has no sense of irony using the house built on sand analogy...and what happened to New Orleans?
    Just let the portions that are below, or very close to sea-level go, another storm will just wipe them out, killing more people.
    Go find a rock to re-build New Orleans...not a sandy, low-lying swamp!

    August 27, 2007 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  20. Pilot Mount, NC

    Why should my money be confiscated to pay for misfortune of others? "Thou shalt not steal" – just because you are the government does not mean you are immune to the Bible's Commandments.

    Charity is one thing but for people to expect (demand!) money and help when they experience misfortune is backwards thinking. especially when their free "Help" does not get there in the time frame that they demand. Be thankful and count any help as a blessing and stop the blame game! This is just another polititian playing politics with our money!

    August 27, 2007 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  21. Sean, Naples Florida

    I see when Democrat Presidential canidates invoke religion and bring politics into church they are just speaking the truth, but when Republicans do this the country is on the path to a theocracy and the line seperation of church and state is preached ad nauseum.

    August 27, 2007 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  22. Anonymous

    Golly, a democrat campaigning at a church!!!! Guess he doesn't care about the atheists vote, eh? Oh, and where is that "rights watchdog" the aclu insuring "speration of church and state"?

    Hypocrisy is too good a word/

    August 27, 2007 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. Russ Gumm, Xenia, Ohio

    As a pastor I would like to know what "rock" Mr. Obama is referring to. I really don't like to see anyone take the Bible out of context to try to score politcal points. The rock Jesus is talking about is Himself not the government.

    August 27, 2007 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  24. JP, Fargo, ND

    ok... i think that Obama or any political candidate should be able to speak in a church... if that same right was afforded to conservative candidates and/or churches. The ACLU and others have threatened pastors with their jobs and churches with their non-profit status for having "church-sponsored political endorsement" for/against candidates and/or issues. If Romney, or McCain or anyone else for that matter spoke in a Church and quoted the Bible the would be accused of propigating religion for their campaign and the validity of the "non-profit" church would be called into question. I guess i just do get the double standard? If First Emmanuel Baptist Church wants to have Obama in the pulpit... that's fine with me. Lets just not have a double standard for candidates with other views and churches/pastors that want to speak their minds oni their convictions as well!

    August 27, 2007 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  25. Funky, Somewhere, US

    Time to change the Church's status from a religious to a political organization, and collect taxes.

    August 27, 2007 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
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