Bill Muehlenberg

On the Obama Cult

To be honest, I am getting a bit nauseous. I have seen so much sentimental sop, sycophantic personality worship and liberal drooling in the past 24 hours, that I really do feel ready to lose my breakfast. With the convergence of two things – an ultraliberal American president and an ultraliberal mainstream media – one could be forgiven for thinking that the Messiah has in fact arrived on planet earth.

The appalling personality cult that has arisen over the new president, along with the irrational expectations that these adoring throngs have elevated around him, is really a very worrying spectacle. One recalls similar scenes of almost hypnotic cult worship in recent history, and many of these political demigods turned out to be really bad news for planet earth.

Indeed, the worship of Obama as if he were some sort of god who is even now bringing heaven on earth has reached fever pitch. But before the leftists get too carried away, let me point out just one fact: when the real Messiah came, he was not met with an adoring press, drooling rock stars and loving masses.

In fact, wherever he went, we read that he caused division. And the true mark of his genuine messianic status can be seen in the fact that people ultimately responded to him as they do to true Christians today – he was rejected. Indeed, he was crucified. That is how the world reacted to the true messiah. Quite the opposite of what we are witnessing at the moment.

Of course that the American and Australian media is overwhelmingly leftist is simply a given, so when one of their own becomes the leader of the free world, one can expect such nauseous worship and rapturous adoration. The media was meant to be a sort of independent player, providing objectivity and critical discernment. But much of it has lost any such ability, and many in the media are now simply acting like crazed teenyboppers at a Miley Cyrus concert.

With this overwhelming wave of adulation and worship, I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person left on the planet who felt decidedly queasy about all this. But fortunately there seem to be others who have not been taken in by this global frenzy. A few writers have also noted their amazement at this cult of personality. Let me briefly mention three writers from three continents.

The first, from the US, offers a bit of balance to my remarks. Mona Charen acknowledges that of course many people are genuinely elated about the new president. Not all this mania is cult worship and adolescent rock-concert hysteria. Many have legitimate hopes and expectations about the new president:

“I did not vote for the man who today becomes the 44th president of the United States, and in fact, advocated for his opponent. But I am not immune to the happiness of those who did support him, particularly African-Americans, and – to slice it a little thinner– particularly older African-Americas who actually lived through the contempt and cruelty of Jim Crow America. I do not for minute deny the symbolic greatness of the moment, and despite my wariness of President Obama’s policies, it makes me happy to see so many of my fellow Americans in a celebratory, patriotic mood. (If the shoe were on the other foot, however, I doubt that they would reciprocate these sentiments.)”

But after making these conciliatory remarks, the rest of her column points out some sobering truths about the world we live in, and how Obama will have to come back down to earth and face these tough challenges. That will be the real test of his messianic pretentions. From the UK Gerald Warner also asks hard questions, after noting the media hysteria surrounding the inauguration:

“This will end in tears. The Obama hysteria is not merely embarrassing to witness, it is itself contributory to the scale of the disaster that is coming. What we are experiencing, in the deepening days of a global depression, is the desperate suspension of disbelief by people of intelligence – la trahison des clercs – in a pathetic effort to hypnotise themselves into the delusion that it will be all right on the night. It will not be all right.”

He also wonders how all this mass adulation and this new messiah-figure will translate into any genuine change: “It is questionable whether the present political system can survive the coming crisis. Whatever the solution, teenage swooning sentimentality over a celebrity cult has no part in it. The most powerful nation on earth is confronting its worst economic crisis under the leadership of its most extremely liberal politician, who has virtually no experience of federal politics. That is not an opportunity but a catastrophe.”

Finally, Australian commentator Janet Albrechtsen begins her piece with these words: “You  know that something is amiss with rational judgment when economics Nobel laureate Amartya Sen describes events surrounding Barack Obama’s arrival as US President as ‘turning an exceptional human being into almost the kind of godhead that he has become’. Sober analysts must be standing aside, wondering about the role of emotion in politics and its implications for critical scrutiny of Obama’s presidency. But many other observers have metaphorically cast aside their crutches and accepted that Obama has made them whole again.”

She concludes this way: “Progressive politics is essentially an emotional, rather than rational, pursuit. Its foundations rest on altruistic, even utopian, beliefs about the perfectibility of man and society. For progressives, hope triumphs over experience. That causes leftist politicians to place a large premium on myth-making, rhetoric and romance. And leftist journalists swallow it whole. Results matter much less to both of them. That’s one reason, for example, that Gough Whitlam is still a demigod to the ALP and to its media adherents. In a tough world, however, we will need more from Obama and from his press gallery. What will matter is whether Obama does a good job, not whether he’s black, good looking and speaks well.”

Obviously much more will be said about all this in the days ahead. Hopefully some of the emotion and frenzy will subside, and a bit of rational and objective analysis will emerge. I will probably write more on these issues myself. But I for one am glad that the inauguration is now history. Sure, there will be days of media summations to come, but sooner or later the real world of politics will descend, the rapturous praise sessions will quiet down, and the reality of dealing with tough issues in a fallen world will kick in.

Let me conclude by saying that of course many people feel genuine happiness over the election of Obama. Many think he is a breath of fresh air. Many think he will bring real change. I do not bemoan such sentiments, although I believe they are in fact mistaken. Obama got elected by promising change, although he never really spelled out what this change would be. Now he has reality staring him in the face. I do hope he can make a go of it. And I will pray for him. But I certainly have no messianic expectations about him, and in fact I tend to fear the worst. Time will tell.

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