During last year’s boisterous, historical, and sometimes hysterical presidential election, campaigners spared no words to elevate their man or woman. One of the lofty pontifications flowed from the tongue of world famous Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and known for his Million Man March on Washington D.C. a few years back. Extolling the virtues of Barrak Obama he launched deep into the unexplored frontiers of hyperbole with accolades falling from his lips comparing Obama to the Messiah, the Chief Corner Stone. It sounded good, his listeners loved it, and if Obama ever got wind of it, he certainly never made any attempt to deny the charges.
Messiah means Anointed One, usually understood as one anointed to be a king. Obama is no longer a candidate, he’s president of the US. Sometime back, about two hundred and thirty three years ago, a bunch of guys governed by a political sovereign by the name of King George, decided that life under so-called divinely appointed monarchy was less preferable to a life lived as free men. One of them had the audacity of hope to declare, “Give me liberty or give me death.” They declared independence from the British Empire and founded the United States of America. They knew that presidents come and presidents go, that no man is perfect and that no man is a Messiah or a Chief Corner Stone, other than the one who already perfectly fulfilled those roles. They set up a government with three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial, so the three could check and balance one another. Driven by a sort of Judeo-Christian understanding of human nature, they keenly understood that imperfect men, no matter how sincere or hopeful, could be allowed to govern a country making decisions unilaterally. No one should have a monopoly on power. No one should be king.
In some strange twist of events, the United States has drifted from this democratic heritage. It is only a slight drift. We still have three branches of government and a constitution. But it is there nonetheless. Obama’s inauguration symbolized the drift as the media and entertainers perpetuate the myth that Obama is a Messianic figure. Musicians have released an album with songs praising the Anointed One. Expectations have driven hope to a fever pitch among so many people that finally a Kingly figure, has ridden into the palace ushering in a new Camelot, the era of peace and harmony in the kingdom.
Obama is not a Messiah or The Messiah, he’s not a king or a Corner Stone; he is a democratically elected public servant in the office of president. That does not make him levitate, walk on water, or turn the water he just walked on into wine. He seems pretty bright, but he still makes odd staff appointments, choosing people of questionable professional qualifications and morals. He can stir up a crowd with an eloquent speech, but he can also forget all his campaign promises about fiscal responsibility. He has a lot of hope but also a lot of audacity, trying to spend taxpayer money on everything from a high-speed rail-way between Disneyworld and Las Vegas to an extensive expansion of government birth control programs. He is after all, only a man, and not only that, but one that seems to show concerning lapses of judgment and lack of leadership skill beyond gathering crowds and winning the approval of Oprah. With such a man in the White House, expectations for the beginning of a new age of global harmony and prosperity should lose their warm glow. We can certainly hope for the best during his presidency, while admitting that good things might have to happen in spite of the new president.
Some have compared Obama to Franklin Roosevelt. Let’s hope the comparison fails at certain points. Roosevelt was one of the few presidents who would hardly let go of power, staying in office beyond two terms. Kings can stay for life, presidents, as public servants, can run for two terms at most. George Washington very wisely started that precedent, styling himself as a countryman, not a king, choosing to end his presidency after two terms. Obama has only been president for one month and has already led the passing of the most expensive government package in history. Now that his–that is, our—pockets are empty, he should aim for some of that fiscal responsibility he spoke of before November. If not, four years will be more than enough of “hope.”
The founding Fathers worked hard to avoid having America ever become another despotic monarchy. They worked hard to found a country where the people take responsibility for themselves, rather than living like serfs under a heaven-sent personage. Whether or not Obama has believed all the gross exaggerations about his personality, he would do well to choose words and actions that convey he knows who he really is. And all the people who have carelessly or blindly bought into Obama’s Messianic myth should ponder this: the real Messiah doesn’t throw friends and family under the bus when he thinks they have become a hindrance to his personal advancement.
Ron Coody is a Ph.D. candidate in Intercultural Studies at Concordia Seminary. From 1993-1998, he lived and worked in Kazakstan doing environmental work. Since 2002, Mr. Coody and his family have resided in Istanbul, Turkey.
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