Articles: The Obama Cult


Do you remember president Obama’s eight scandal-free years?  This question, posted on an acquaintance’s Facebook page, drew my astonished attention.  My immediate “LOL” response received a reprimand for expressing “disrespect.”  Among other responses to this lead question were rapturous expressions of “love” and even “worship” for The Great Leader Barack Obama.  As the furor ignited by the Trump election continues to burn and blow, the melancholy longing for an alleged Golden Age is arising.  The longing is deep, and accompanied by swooning ecstasy at the reappearance to public life of Mr. Barack Obama.

I suspect that such expressions are representative of a significant population.  This occasion, in which I drew the rebuke of some of the faithful also offering comments, refreshes the perception that there is in America a continuing embrace of a bizarre personality cult that has found a deep resonance within the nation’s political culture.  This cult was manifest as early as Barack Obama’s 2007-2008 candidacy and is unique in its promotion and protection by major cultural institutions.  Apparently, it did not end with a change of national administrations; rather, it continues in the form of retrospective longing for imagined wonders of a lost decade of grace, intelligence, and integrity led by one who serves as receptor for spiritual and emotional projections.

The Cult of Obama made its initial appearance with graphic designer Shepard Fairey’s famous “HOPE” poster, during Obama’s initial manifestation as a presidential candidate.  The artistic imagery draws upon a tradition of totalitarian art celebrating the persons of fascist or communist political messiahs of the past.  The linkage to the concept of “Hope” significantly draws upon a spiritual absolute.  It is wide open, transcending any specific national goal or particular political idea.  It is beyond context.  It is pure emotional appeal, the essence of propaganda’s power.  The viewer’s perspective is set as if looking upward at the calm, remote, and distanced vision of the face (recalling royal images of pharaohs, the god-kings of ancient Egypt).  This artistic structure invites more than mere support for a candidate for office.  It is an invitation to belief.

Things did not stop, with Fairey’s poster.  Subsequently, we found Oprah Winfrey’s suggestion that Barack Obama was “the One.”  The One (with a capital O) is a transcendent reference suggesting a reality beyond all particularity, a unifying, all-synthesizing, reconciling essence.  The reference is rooted in ancient Gnostic spirituality, the core and origin of universal Truth from which we mere mortals are separated through materiality and error.  Make no mistake about this: Oprah Winfrey is no dope.  She knew what she was saying and was certainly aware of the implications and connotations of such a reference.

Shepard Fairey and Oprah were just the beginning.  Other images expanded on Fairey’s fascist-style heroism.  A painting by Alex Grey, featured prominently on the website “obamamessiah.blogspot.com,” depicts the serene frontal face of Barack Obama with the globe of the Earth, emanating rays of light, in his forehead.  What appear to be veins of energy running through his body traverse the face.  The Great One’s head is then also framed in light, with beams continuing to radiate white, glowing energy.  A similar icon was created by artist Ray Noland, in which Obama looks out in full frontal gaze, while seeming to look beyond us, framed in a halo and radiating light rays.  This latter image clearly draws upon historic icons of Christ in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and is reminiscent of many images of Christ the Pantocrator (the Cosmic Ruler of All) that appear in church mosaics and devotional icon panels.

Anyone interested in the cultic status of Barack Obama will find much on the website noted above, as it catalogs images and statements regarding the One that leave no doubt about what is promoted on his behalf – i.e., his Messianic character and the notion that he in some mysterious way stands apart from normal humanity.  Of special interest is the assertion by Michelle Obama that Barack “has brought us out of the dark and into the light,” invoking imagery of the dynamics of Creation and raising suggestions of the beginning verses of John’s Gospel.  Indeed, Barack Obama himself indicated his own belief in the mythos surrounding him when he stated that the day of his nomination constituted “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”  There, in that statement, you have self-asserted cosmic significance.

One of the more bizarre contributions to the Obama cult is a book, authored by an academic by the name of Barbara A. Thompson, titled The Gospel According to the Apostle Barack.  Here, the author asserts nothing less than Obama’s having possessed answers to unlocking the “keys to the kingdom of heaven here on earth” for those who believe in and follow him.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Obama cult was revealed early on, during the first campaign, in which a worship song, “Sanctuary,” was adapted to the promotion of the One.  In this song, the worshiper pledges to make himself a sanctuary, pure and holy, for the Lord.  In the video adaptation, Obama is substituted for Christ as the object of honor and worship.  The words of the song are regularly interrupted with images of people exhorting viewers to “say the word – Obama!” and similar invitations.  The song itself says: “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.  With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”

That people, even longstanding church members, were more than willing to accede to this idolatry became apparent to me as I sought to alert friends to this emerging cultish devotion.  It made no difference, and my “look at this” exhortation was met with dismissal or blind eyes.  In one instance, a rock-solid, decades-long leader in my church, after receiving a message from me about these expressions, simply replied, “I believe in him.”

The Obama cult does, in fact, insert itself into the problematic arenas where religion and politics meet.  There has never been, in the U.S., a clearer flash point providing Christians with an opportunity to embrace or turn from lurid idolatry.  It constitutes, as it were, a test of allegiance, and Mr. Obama and his wife seem to have wanted it that way.  For many people, even among the “churched,” the substitute Great One seems to have won the day.

I guess I’d feel better about it if I could detect, somewhere, just a little bit of embarrassment about it, something of a “yeah, but…” qualified support.  But I don’t.  Barack Obama is a singular figure in the sense that his persona has been promoted and protected by major cultural institutions as no other political figure in our national history, to the extent of inviting moral indictments against anyone bringing any critique forward.

This is, in essence, a true definition and characterization of worship.  The concept is not ill used or wrongly applied with regard to the Obama Cult.

Do you remember president Obama’s eight scandal-free years?  This question, posted on an acquaintance’s Facebook page, drew my astonished attention.  My immediate “LOL” response received a reprimand for expressing “disrespect.”  Among other responses to this lead question were rapturous expressions of “love” and even “worship” for The Great Leader Barack Obama.  As the furor ignited by the Trump election continues to burn and blow, the melancholy longing for an alleged Golden Age is arising.  The longing is deep, and accompanied by swooning ecstasy at the reappearance to public life of Mr. Barack Obama.

I suspect that such expressions are representative of a significant population.  This occasion, in which I drew the rebuke of some of the faithful also offering comments, refreshes the perception that there is in America a continuing embrace of a bizarre personality cult that has found a deep resonance within the nation’s political culture.  This cult was manifest as early as Barack Obama’s 2007-2008 candidacy and is unique in its promotion and protection by major cultural institutions.  Apparently, it did not end with a change of national administrations; rather, it continues in the form of retrospective longing for imagined wonders of a lost decade of grace, intelligence, and integrity led by one who serves as receptor for spiritual and emotional projections.

The Cult of Obama made its initial appearance with graphic designer Shepard Fairey’s famous “HOPE” poster, during Obama’s initial manifestation as a presidential candidate.  The artistic imagery draws upon a tradition of totalitarian art celebrating the persons of fascist or communist political messiahs of the past.  The linkage to the concept of “Hope” significantly draws upon a spiritual absolute.  It is wide open, transcending any specific national goal or particular political idea.  It is beyond context.  It is pure emotional appeal, the essence of propaganda’s power.  The viewer’s perspective is set as if looking upward at the calm, remote, and distanced vision of the face (recalling royal images of pharaohs, the god-kings of ancient Egypt).  This artistic structure invites more than mere support for a candidate for office.  It is an invitation to belief.

Things did not stop, with Fairey’s poster.  Subsequently, we found Oprah Winfrey’s suggestion that Barack Obama was “the One.”  The One (with a capital O) is a transcendent reference suggesting a reality beyond all particularity, a unifying, all-synthesizing, reconciling essence.  The reference is rooted in ancient Gnostic spirituality, the core and origin of universal Truth from which we mere mortals are separated through materiality and error.  Make no mistake about this: Oprah Winfrey is no dope.  She knew what she was saying and was certainly aware of the implications and connotations of such a reference.

Shepard Fairey and Oprah were just the beginning.  Other images expanded on Fairey’s fascist-style heroism.  A painting by Alex Grey, featured prominently on the website “obamamessiah.blogspot.com,” depicts the serene frontal face of Barack Obama with the globe of the Earth, emanating rays of light, in his forehead.  What appear to be veins of energy running through his body traverse the face.  The Great One’s head is then also framed in light, with beams continuing to radiate white, glowing energy.  A similar icon was created by artist Ray Noland, in which Obama looks out in full frontal gaze, while seeming to look beyond us, framed in a halo and radiating light rays.  This latter image clearly draws upon historic icons of Christ in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and is reminiscent of many images of Christ the Pantocrator (the Cosmic Ruler of All) that appear in church mosaics and devotional icon panels.

Anyone interested in the cultic status of Barack Obama will find much on the website noted above, as it catalogs images and statements regarding the One that leave no doubt about what is promoted on his behalf – i.e., his Messianic character and the notion that he in some mysterious way stands apart from normal humanity.  Of special interest is the assertion by Michelle Obama that Barack “has brought us out of the dark and into the light,” invoking imagery of the dynamics of Creation and raising suggestions of the beginning verses of John’s Gospel.  Indeed, Barack Obama himself indicated his own belief in the mythos surrounding him when he stated that the day of his nomination constituted “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”  There, in that statement, you have self-asserted cosmic significance.

One of the more bizarre contributions to the Obama cult is a book, authored by an academic by the name of Barbara A. Thompson, titled The Gospel According to the Apostle Barack.  Here, the author asserts nothing less than Obama’s having possessed answers to unlocking the “keys to the kingdom of heaven here on earth” for those who believe in and follow him.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Obama cult was revealed early on, during the first campaign, in which a worship song, “Sanctuary,” was adapted to the promotion of the One.  In this song, the worshiper pledges to make himself a sanctuary, pure and holy, for the Lord.  In the video adaptation, Obama is substituted for Christ as the object of honor and worship.  The words of the song are regularly interrupted with images of people exhorting viewers to “say the word – Obama!” and similar invitations.  The song itself says: “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.  With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”

That people, even longstanding church members, were more than willing to accede to this idolatry became apparent to me as I sought to alert friends to this emerging cultish devotion.  It made no difference, and my “look at this” exhortation was met with dismissal or blind eyes.  In one instance, a rock-solid, decades-long leader in my church, after receiving a message from me about these expressions, simply replied, “I believe in him.”

The Obama cult does, in fact, insert itself into the problematic arenas where religion and politics meet.  There has never been, in the U.S., a clearer flash point providing Christians with an opportunity to embrace or turn from lurid idolatry.  It constitutes, as it were, a test of allegiance, and Mr. Obama and his wife seem to have wanted it that way.  For many people, even among the “churched,” the substitute Great One seems to have won the day.

I guess I’d feel better about it if I could detect, somewhere, just a little bit of embarrassment about it, something of a “yeah, but…” qualified support.  But I don’t.  Barack Obama is a singular figure in the sense that his persona has been promoted and protected by major cultural institutions as no other political figure in our national history, to the extent of inviting moral indictments against anyone bringing any critique forward.

This is, in essence, a true definition and characterization of worship.  The concept is not ill used or wrongly applied with regard to the Obama Cult.

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