Pres. Obama, “breakfast theologian”, dazzles again about the Lord’s doubts

Remember when Pres. Obama dazzled us with his theological insights at the National Prayer Breakfast?   He has been at it again.

I was sent to link the White House site about the 2012 Prayer Breakfast:


Now, I have to be careful, I am not going to stand up here and give a sermon.  [Oh yes?] It’s always a bad idea to give a sermon in front of professionals.  (Laughter.)  But in a few short days, all of us will experience the wonder of Easter morning.   And we will know, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus…and Him crucified.”

It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the triumph of the resurrection, and to give thanks for the all-important gift of grace.   [I wonder if the WH polled on this language.] And for me, and I’m sure for some of you, it’s also a chance to remember the tremendous sacrifice that led up to that day, and all that Christ endured — not just as a Son of God, but as a human being. [Hmmm…. what’s wrong with this … lemme think.  Could it be that pesky part about Christ being also God and not merely a human being? And, wait… “A Son of God”…?]

For like us, Jesus knew doubt.  [What, Mr. President, did the Lord doubt, exactly?] Like us, Jesus knew fear.  In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” [But… “doubt”?  He morphed from “doubt” to “fear”, however.]

So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, [“Doubt… fear” and now “anguish”…] conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection.  It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened — that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, “He is Risen!”

So the struggle to fathom that unfathomable sacrifice makes Easter all the more meaningful to all of us. [What?  Whose “struggle”?  I think he means our struggle.  Our struggle to fathom Christ’s sacrifice makes Easter more meaningful? Or does Obama mean that Christ (the “human being” was struggling to “fathom that unfathomable sacrifice”?  Christ didn’t know what He was doing?] It [the struggle?] helps us to provide an eternal perspective to whatever temporal challenges we face.  It puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems He was dealing with.  And it [the struggle?] gives us courage and it gives us hope.

We all have experiences that shake our faith. [So, we, like Christ, also struggle with experiences that shake our faith.  Was Christ’s “faith” shaken?] There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us — (laughter – [the royal plural perhaps]) — but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph.  [What doubts did Christ have again?  Did He doubt who He is? Did He doubt the reason for His Incarnation and upcoming Passion and death?  Did He doubt the providence and will of the Father?  Mere humans doubt these things.] Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.”  I heard an amen.  (Laughter.)  Let me repeat.  “In this world, you will have trouble.”


THE PRESIDENT:  “But take heart!”  (Laughter.)  “I have overcome the world.”  (Applause.) [I wonder if he is really talking about himself.  Wasn’t he supposed the make the seas roll back and the Earth’s climate to settle down?] We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live.  And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.


Let’s now review the President’s record on abortion.

This astonishing “constitutional law scholar” got an honorary law degree from Notre Dame.

Perhaps Georgetown will now give him an honorary degree in theology.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Emanations from Penumbras, The Drill and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Clinton says:

    “Perhaps Georgetown will now give him an honorary degree in theology”.

    Please, don’t give Georgetown any ideas!

  2. plemmen says:

    Fr Z, your comments show that you understand quite well what this disingenuous non-believer was saying and his meaning and diversions as well. [He may very well believe something. I am puzzled, however, about just what he may believe.]

  3. It looks like the same “nuanced” word usage common among many of those modernists who call themselves “theologians”. Maybe the honorary degree in theology from Georgetown would be fitting.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    Obviously, somebody else wrote that for him. A speechwriter who is familiar with the vocabulary of the preacher, but not its meaning – hence the facially familiar but somewhat disjointed and obscure language.
    Obama is simply an actor, delivering his lines. He has no earthly notion what it all means.

    By the way . . . this, today, from a professor (an actual professor) who was at UChi at the same time as the president:

    Obama and I overlapped for four years at the University of Chicago Law School, though he was rarely around. When Obama joined the school as a part-time lecturer, it was made quite clear to everyone that he was going to use the job to run for public office. Being a part-time lecturer with no research responsibilities left him with the opportunity to spend almost all of his week to go out and campaign for office.

    John Lott on Barack Obama

  5. Philangelus says:

    Off the top of my head, the only time I can come up with Jesus doubting something was when he asked, When the Son of Man returns, will he find any faith left on Earth? (Rough paraphrase there.)

    Not doubting himself, then, and certainly not doubting his Father. Doubting us. Which, given the state of the world, I think is perfectly reasonable. But even then, I’m not sure it’s “doubt” in the same sense that our president is framing it.

  6. digdigby says:

    Don’t know much about history (too many gaffes to count(
    Don’t know much about geography (57 states?)
    Don’t know much about the0logy (see above)
    But I do know that I love me
    And if you would love me too
    What a wonderful world this would be.
    (apologies to Sam Cooke)

  7. GregH says:

    This actually isnt that bad

  8. markomalley says:

    Perhaps he got his theology degree from the back of the same cereal box as the Chief Theologian of the House, Nancy “Stretch” Pelosi.

  9. Tradster says:

    I think you missed the heretical part about “not just as a Son of God,… ” instead of “as the Son, etc.”

  10. cblanch says:

    Ah, I’m laughing and getting sick at the same time. The Georgetown line was great. So funny and so sad.

  11. AnnAsher says:

    Ok I could not read past “*A* Son of God” . There you have it folks just one of many sons. Like muhhamed.

  12. smad0142 says:

    I guess the “My God, my God…” on the Cross can be mistaken for doubt.

  13. Gus Barbarigo says:

    Others are noticing The Won’s dime-store theology, and inferring infernal innuendo therein:

    “All orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is the only Son of God and that, ‘There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.’ (Acts 4: 12).

    “But the world is being prepared to believe differently. Many are now willing to abandon the only Son of God for the new religion which will proclaim the divinity of man…What is this but the spirit of Antichrist?…[Cf. 1 John 4: 2-3; CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church, 441-445.]”

    I tend to agree with Desmond Birch, that there will be a Chastisement, followed by a period of peace (the peace promised at Fatima), before there will be a final tribulation with Antichrist. But since Engel v. Vitale (SCOTUS, 1962), with prayer removed from public school, enough people are theologically ignorant, and thus defenseless against error, so that the seeds of perdition seem to be sown even today.

  14. Gaetano says:

    “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.”
    Bl. John Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua V, p. 239.

  15. Kerry says:

    Honorary degree…does that mean a pretend degree? Or is it like “lovely parting gifts”?

  16. pm125 says:

    Good thing there was no arrow to replay what you mercifully wrote. The laughter. Using Easter, the Passion, for his administration ‘apologetics’ at a prayer breakfast for ‘professionals’ who work to remove evidence of the public worship and reverence for God in practice.

  17. AnnAsher says:

    Much to my angst I read the rest. I think he is trying to rally us to accept suffering inflicted by his regime state. I also note : “a savior” at the end. A. Just a.

  18. Captain Peabody says:

    This really isn’t that bad. Yeah, talking about Jesus doubting is heretical, but the overall thrust of it is fine, if shallow. It at least shows Obama’s a Christian, if not a particularly knowledgeable one. I’ve seen and heard much, much, much worse from those who do claim (and are recognized) to be knowledgeable Biblical theologians with the ability and right to pontificate on the meaning and weight of Scripture.

    Wait…was that “a Son of God”? Okay, forget all of that. That’s…uh…if he really meant it…that is, if it’s not just a typo or a gaffe, which it might be…then, well… it’s…uhhh…well, it’s certainly not Muslim, anyway. And isn’t that what matters?

  19. Matt R says:

    I wonder if his messed-up theology has anything to do with the fact he attended a Unitarian church with his grandparents while he lived in Hawaii…
    Your comments said it all Fr Z.

  20. robtbrown says:

    Obama’s is a Christology from way down below (PI).

    Once Christ is reduced to the status of an ethical teacher or political figure, the question of His Divinity (and His Priesthood) tends to lose it importance.

  21. jm says:

    I am no Obama fan, but the comments here seem overdone. His theology or vocabulary may be off, but this was essentially an affirmation of the Resurrection. Do you honestly expect him to nail the finer points of Christology? Come on… As for the poster who said someone had to write this for him, I am rather sure Obama knows some rudimentary theology and has mixed that together with Reinhold Neihbur (like Carter and Clinton both did): this really smacks of a “Black Church” motivational sermon, and I imagine it is his. The man has plenty of target areas, i.e. abortion, but this is a decent Easter commentary, and any honest Catholic knows it is no more heretical than the homilies heard on a weekly basis across the USA in over 50 percent of parishes. Take downs like this are atypical of the normally excellent fare here, and I think they simply make conservatives look bitter (which they have reason to be, but it is still unattractive). The President is not a Catholic–nor has his status as the Anti-Christ been confirmed by magisterial pronouncement–so the umbrage over his theological inexactitude seems misplaced. Better to smack Cardinal Schonborn over the head for his mainstreaming of gay marriage if the need to vent is so pressing, or are only Democrats fair game for this severe of a commentary? As I said, normally a fan, but found this over the top. My twelve cents.


  23. StJude says:

    **A*** son of God… say what?!

  24. jflare says:

    “His Excellency” never ceases to amaze me.

    jm, if you’re peeved about the reactions that many of us have with regard to the President’s remarks, you might bear in mind that many of us have suffered through the ravages of his views, the views of many an idiot Republican OR Democrat, AND the actions and views of various prelates.
    You might be interested in knowing that many of us have vigorously critiqued the actions of all of the above at one time or another. You may be correct in thinking that his analysis isn’t all that horrid.

    For what it’s worth, his analysis ISN’T all that long as you don’t mind being tortured by a sermon from a man who has made his determined views quite plain for the past 3+ years. He may not be an avowed secular progressivist–or whatever other label you care to exploit–but he definitely does not share the values that many of us hold dear. I see no reason why we should not offer our disgust.
    I will suggest that most of the comments I’ve read reflect a view much like mine: I know VERY well that the President thinks I’m an idiot and a rube, this speech reads to me like he’s suddenly found religion and wishes to share his enthusiasm. ..And I ALSO know very well that he’s going to be assaulting my very capacity as a knowledgeable human being quite soon again.
    In short, I find this speech relatively patronizing.
    It looks like something that perhaps he didn’t really wish to do, but did so because he or someone near him thought we’d be expecting it.
    I wasn’t and I’m not impressed.

    If this speech reflects his genuine comprehension of the Resurrection, I must say I fear for his soul.
    I also fear for mine, because he’s prone to direct something that might well force me to refuse to follow the law. ..And I dread where that will ultimately lead.

  25. Rachel K says:

    It sounds to me as if Mr Obama is making a metaphor for his own sticky situation with the healthcare bill. Isn’t he comparing himself to Christ, having to struggle against all these pesky Catholics who are making life difficult for him as he makes great sacrifices to pursue his grand crusade of providing free death services for the unborn etc?? Obama wishes that “this cup” will be taken from him, but knows that he will persevere until the end….. I think this is shot across the bows for those he sees as opposing his great work of salvation….

  26. JonPatrick says:

    I don’t know that by saying “a son of God” he meant he thinks there are multiple sons of God like the Mormons do. I tend to agree with jm above. I have heard worse heresies in sermons at Catholic churches unfortunately. This is not to say I do not think Barack Obama is a threat to religious freedom in the US as has been demonstrated by his policies.

  27. Dax says:

    Thanks to his staff this is a only a little better than a 2005 interview he did with a Chicago newspaper where he described Jesus as “a very important historical figure and a great teacher.” Obama then described sin as “being outside my values.”

    Now, Jesus is a son of God just like Obama. No wait. It really isn’t better.

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Whoever wrote this (someone else, Mr. Obama, or Mr. Obama and ‘ghost writer(s)’ together, all seem possible), I do not see that much can be decisively said about the indefinite articles, one way or another.

    E.g., First, where St. Luke reports the Centurion as saying, “Vere hic homo iustus erat” (23:48), St. Matthew reports “Vere Filius Dei erat iste” (27:54) – and in the Greek the word for ‘Son’ has no definite article: about which I have the impression that a certain amount of scholarly speculation has been popularized in the course of the Twentieth Century, along the lines of, what did the Centurion actually mean, how much was he then given to perceive, etc.?

    Second, when St. Luke reports that the angel said, “quia natus hodie Salvator” (2:11), here, too, in the Greek the word for ‘Saviour’ has no definite article – and if Handel’s text in his ‘Messiah’ – “a Saviour which is Christ the Lord” – is ringing in your ears at this point, you are not the only one.

    “A risen savior” goes a lot further than such Jewish scholars as Pinchas Lapide and David Flusser who seemed willing to take (the possibility) of the “risen” seriously without seeing it to imply “savior”. (Louis Gardet, O.P. , reports – unfortunately without further details – a Shi’ite reading of the Koran that accepts the Crucifixion and Resurrection, though again, without the further implication of Saviour.)

    How Mr. Obama means it, or what exactly he means by it, are still, so far as I can see, open questions (e.g., “a risen savior” could be variously snidely intended – a whiff of ‘myth criticism’, or ‘true, but unhistorical’ modernism – but need not be).

  29. JohnE says:

    Besides the part about “doubt” and “A” Son of God (which I could charitably overlook as a verbal slip), the rest does not bother me. Not nearly as much as paying lip service to Christianity while actively trying to kick it out of the public square.

    As far as the use of “anguish”, I just read some of Pope Benedict’s homily for Holy Thursday where he speaks of Jesus’ anguish and struggle with himself:
    “Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death.”

  30. AnAmericanMother says:

    Have you ever heard the president when he gets off the teleprompter?
    He flounders and stammers and says some fairly ridiculous things (e.g. “57 states”, “my Muslim faith”, etc.) To speak off the cuff you have to know your subject cold and be extremely well prepared. He doesn’t and he isn’t.
    I have stood up plenty of times before a court or a jury, so I can usually tell when an individual is reading from a script rather than speaking extemporaneously. A teleprompter helps with the obvious things like looking down at your script and posture, but when you’re reading aloud you use a different part of your brain and it still shows, but subtly. And stumbles like “a son of God” are the sort of thing that happens when you don’t know your script very well.
    He’s generally got a good delivery, but so do news readers.
    I don’t like the man and he is an affront to people of faith everywhere, but that’s a separate issue from his public speaking.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    I have heard better explanations of the Passion of Christ from sixth graders.

    The man is not really intelligent. This is not a good speech, much less good theology

    Ugh. What was for breakfast? He is dishing up…….

  32. Angie Mcs says:

    There was nothing in this speech that reflected Obama’s belief in his subject matter. A few changes here and there, and he can now say that he acknowledged Jesus and The Glory of Easter for his Prayer Breakfast. All very carefully done…yet he couldn’t resist a few laughs at the end using “Amen” to manipulate his audience. His statement of “I have overcome the world” in that context is somewhat chilling. Not having been there, it’s hard to tell, but I don’t understand the need for humor in this context. As the President said ” I have to be careful”. We all do, very, very careful.

  33. EXCHIEF says:

    Sorry but given his track record of lies and saying what he wants the audience to hear (entirely different positions on the same subject depending on the audience) I have absolutely nothing positive to say about his comments—then or ever. He is a deceitful Machiavellian Marxist

  34. DisturbedMary says:

    Michael Sean Winters at his fishwrap blog giggled with delight over attending the breakfast and breathlessly commented on the prominent catholics in attendance:

    Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington read from the New Testament at the prayer breakfast. Other prominent Catholcs in the room included Rev. Charles Currie, S.J., Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J., Rev. Clete Kiley, Rev. Anthony Pogorelc, S.S., Sr. Carol Keehan, Sr. Simone Campbell, Rev. Larry Snyder, and CUA Professor Stephen Schneck.

    Do you suppose they were yukking it up when Obama delivered his sermon? Is attendance by catholic clergy disturbing to anyone else? I’ve been told it is just “public civility” and should not rattle.

  35. While I am no fan of Obama, nevertheless let us not be too hard on our judgment of him regarding this matter. Many in the audience who call themselves Catholics or Christians probably were taught this kind of rubbish while in seminary or while in the “renewal” of the 70s and 80s. Eventually the chickens do come home to roost. Frankly the Cardinal leaves a lot to be desired!

  36. Marcus de Alameda says:

    The language the Obamanoid used is consistent with those who claim Christ was ‘A’ prophet (son) of God (one of several), and not ‘THE’ son of God ( Jesus Christ His only son our Lord).
    With this language, he disturbs no one ‘except’ those who are faithful to the traditonal Catholic creed. The premier religion Czar of the American christian church speaking to the faithful subjects.

  37. Charlotte Allen says:

    I’m siding with Jim. Yes, Obama’s record on abortion is dreadful, and the birth-control rule is appalling, but I read the speech as a genuine effort–even if carried out for the most cynical of reasons–to recognize the truth of Christ’s resurrection and the agony of his passion. Even the “doubt” that Christ, as a human being contemplating something truly frightening, might have felt. The Rolling Stones wrote in what is surely their very most most powerful song, “Sympathy for the Devil”:

    And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
    Had his moment of doubt and pain
    Made damn sure that Pilate
    Washed his hands and sealed his fate

    [Ah! Well! The Rolling Stones. Who can resist either their or the President’s theological insights.]

    Ordinary lay Christians [the POTUS is not one of these…] unschooled in the finer points theology can easily make mistakes of discourse that can sound heretical: They’ll say “a Son of God” when they mean “the Son of God,” for example. It’s unfair to hold them to the same standards as a University of Notre Dame professor. Give Obama credit for at the very least not trying to portray Jesus as a wise Galilean sage who got crucified by mistake and whose resurrection was a figment of his grieving followers’ wishful thinking.

    And this is written by someone who can’t stand Obama.

  38. Marcus de Alameda says:

    “Do you suppose they were yukking it up when Obama delivered his sermon? Is attendance by catholic clergy disturbing to anyone else”

    Why else would they be there other than to bask in the glory of political power and fasion?
    Sr. Keehan and the Jesuits aside, if the bishops were really united and as seriously opposed to this Obama regime, it seems a prudent teaching moment for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to gracefully indicate he is too busy for this event. When will they draw a solid line in the sand and hold their ground? If someone lies to you directly, continuously, and strives to oppress you, you don’t keep going back for more. I’m sick of being ‘A’ door mat of this POTUS and his anti-Catholic regime.

  39. AnAmericanMother says:

    I think you’re making the same error the bishops did (and that Card. Wuerl continues to make).
    You are assuming that there is something genuine about this man and his administration, that they really are well-meaning, that somehow we can reach a rapprochement with them, even when it is all too obvious that they loathe all Catholics and indeed all Christians and people of any faith.
    Somebody in the administration speech-writing stable put this together in an attempt to keep some percentage of Catholics and other Christians either in the fold or at least just on the sidelines. There is no genuine impulse here, no desire to reach out, no desire to compromise — just a cynical effort to divide and neutralize the Church.
    The sooner you understand that radical socialists are not only objectively evil, but also that they abhor all competition and will stamp it out by whatever means necessary, the sooner you will realize that there is no compromise with these people for those who worship any God beyond The State.

  40. jm says:


    “Michael Sean Winters … Rev. Charles Currie, S.J., Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J., Rev. Clete Kiley, Rev. Anthony Pogorelc, S.S., Sr. Carol Keehan, Sr. Simone Campbell, Rev. Larry Snyder, and CUA Professor Stephen Schneck.”

    O.K. I guess you win! LOL.

  41. mwk3 says:

    The problem with the honorary degree, you see, is that Obama actually, albeit dubiously, used terms such as ‘Jesus’, the use of which automatically disqualifies him from consideration for an honour from Georgetown.

  42. Charlotte Allen says:

    Actually, American Mother, I have no illusions about either Obama or socialism. In fact, I wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times castigating the birth control rule as an assault on religious freedom that even liberal Catholics were protesting (that was just before the phony “compromise” that brought the liberals quickly back into the Obama fold).

    I was merely pointing out that ordinary lay people who are not theologians shouldn’t be held to account when they use language that could be construed as heretical. Calling Christ “a son of God” instead of “the son of God”–or using the word “doubt” to describe the human feelings that Christ had in Gethsemane fall into that borderline category for which speakers should be given the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. I know that Fr. Z disagrees with me on these points–but I respectfully disagree with him.

    I think that all of us would agree on one thing, however: Given the slap in the bishops’ face that the birth control rule is, Cardinal Wuerl should not have attended that prayer breakfast. I don’t know what possessed him to do so. [He did?]

  43. DisturbedMary says:

    Father Z, does your [He did?] mean you did not realize Cardinal Wuerl was there? If so, here’s the report from Sean Winter:

  44. TZ says:

    I have no trouble believing that when the man says ” a Son of God,” he means just that. To my knowledge he has never been quoted as saying that Christ is THE Son of God. (And like every other successful politician, he is careful not to spell out what he actually thinks, save for open mike accidents.)

  45. Pingback: My B16 Birthday Album: Freedom as Challenge

Comments are closed.