Obama's Support Steeped in Messianic Terminology

Evan Moore | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - A cursory look at coverage of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign run shows that many reporters and observers describe his persona and rallies as near-Messianic or Christ-like. This phenomenon has prompted some analysts to describe the campaign as cult-ish and fueled by emotion.

On Feb. 23, The Dallas Morning News reported that Obama's campaign events often take on "a religious fervor." On Feb. 24, The New York Times reported that a band played "Obama-lujah" at a "rapturous" rally. And on Feb. 26, The Dallas Morning News again ran a story, quoting Rev. Jesse Jackson on Obama: "He's running a theological campaign. At some point, he took off his arms and grew wings."

The Obama campaign "is not a political movement - it's a rock tour," said conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh on Feb. 20.

"It's a rock concert tour. And if you don't show up at the concert when it happens in your town, you're not hip. It's a cult. It's a religious movement ... These people, I'm telling you, that are gravitating to Obama ... are people desperately seeking meaning in their lives because they don't have any," he said.

"We all want to matter," said Limbaugh. "We all want to have meaning in our lives. We all want to be relevant to something, and a lot of these people don't feel that about themselves. They feel empty, and they're trying to fill the emptiness, fill the void. And Obama does."

However, Michael Pfau, chairman of the University of Oklahoma Department of Communication, told Cybercast News Service that he thought it was "inappropriate to use, or think in terms of, messianic terminology to describe [Obama]."

Obama "is an outstanding orator, along with John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, one of the best in the post-World War II era," Pfau said, adding that "great oratory is relevant. It inspires."

Jonathan Stein, who blogs for the leftist publication Mother Jones, echoed Limbaugh, saying: "Obama's rhetoric makes an undeniable suggestion: that his election, not an eight-year administration that successfully implements his vision for America, would represent a moment in America of the grandest, most transformative kind. And that's a bit much."

Online collations

The left-leaning political Web site, Slate.com, launched a periodic "Obama Messiah Watch" column under the aegis of senior writer Timothy Noah last year.

However, one blog - which asks, "Is Barack Obama the Messiah?" - has compiled a comprehensive listing of the use of such terms in the media over the past two years.

For instance, Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam - who has called Judaism a "gutter religion" and said Jews are "bloodsuckers" and "wicked deceivers," according to The New York Times - recently said that Obama was "the hope of the entire world" and was transforming his audiences by the effect of his speeches.

Also featured on the blog were remarks by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that Obama's candidacy "is not a campaign for president of the United States" but instead "a movement to change the world."

Geoff Elliot, Washington correspondent for The Australian , also remarked: "The atmosphere at his events is such that one wonders if Obama is about to walk out with a basket with some loaves and fishes to feed the thousands."

One eyewitness account came from a native of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, who attended the Feb. 10, 2008 Obama rally at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

In her blog on HamptonRoads.com, the eyewitness said, "Those faces. It was raw, naked, complete worship; love; heart-whole, passionate, stunned and almost unbelieving but desperately wanting to believe him - adoration."

Cult criticism

In an interview with Cybercast News Service, Christopher Blosser, who runs the Obama Messiah blog from his home in New York, admitted that his site was a parody, designed to "provoke some of Obama's more ardent disciples among the masses - and the media - to re-evaluate their actions and speech."

"The kind of language being used to describe this man is simply ridiculous," said Blosser.

"The idea for the blog was born after encountering this kind of rhetoric in several online interactions with Obama supporters and subsequently after hearing family and friends - even some more ideologically liberal than myself - express their uneasiness and/or outright disgust with what they were witnessing," Blosser said.

Obama's fervent following is what Blosser calls "a very curious - and yet, troubling - phenomenon. On one hand, every political race has some degree of enthusiasm (to be expected) - but what I've read and chronicled regarding the Obama campaign is something else entirely.

"The left has typically decried the mixing of faith and politics among the right," he said, "and yet they have wholeheartedly embraced Obama with religious fervor, forming what seems to be, in some cases, a 'cult of personality' - embracing him as a secular messiah of sorts."

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