The Dialectic Religion of Barak Obama
“…he who is arrogant is as if he were worshipping idols”—Sotah 4
Like a meteor streaking through the great abyss of the solar system on a winter’s night, Barack Hussein Obama arrived on the national Presidential scene as furtive and striking. Seemingly, from the depths of vacuity, an unaccomplished politician filled a void for the amorphous desire for change and hope to vaunt himself into the Oval Office. After months of campaigning, even his most ardent supporters were hard pressed to describe what he believed in, his core values, his formative mentors or his ideological philosophy. As Boston-based Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman succinctly states, “There was this expectation that this was going to be like a Hollywood movie. He was a candidate almost fictionalized from day one…” (from article, “Obama Here for Coakley” Boston Globe, Jan. 17, 2010). Obama maintained an aura of the enigma, as Senator John McCain fought furiously to detail every political position he had taken since his early years in the United States House of Representatives. Obama became to his followers whatever they projected onto him, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” (Audacity of Hope, p. 11). Obama became the nation’s Rorschach Test, a grand projection of the voter’s hope for the future. The alter ego of millions was presented on giant screens, surrounded by Greek columns and the enthralled masses heard in the soaring rhetoric the answer to their souls’ quest. He could never be wrong, for they (the enlightened ones) now had found him, for whom they had been waiting. This was not a mere politician but a supra-human, and for some, a god. Having forgotten or never known the humbling and liberating truth of theistic transcendence, millions of Americans longed for a reality beyond the present but were side-tracked onto an illusionary realm where one man positioned himself as the foci of the nation and world’s future. “Historians of the future, seeking to understand this enthusiasm, may well conclude that it was a kind of despair, the despair of those who, having lost their faith in the traditional remedial institutions of their culture, embraced a mirage.” (Michael Knox Brand, article “Obama’s Core” from National Review, November 3, 2008). The election of Barack Obama was more akin to a coronation, the investiture to a kingly office, not a mere presidency. But in the succeeding months, millions now realize that this one, “who would become king,” is not in concert with their vestigial beliefs of the nation’s history, ethics, economy and religion. His words, actions and appointments are foreign to America’s past. There is a growing sense within the nation that there is a cleavage between the president’s cherished hopes and theirs. The loss of valued rights, not only in the business but in the domestic sphere haunt many Americans less than one year into Obama’s presidency. Many now realize he is no longer a “blank slate.” They discern that he was purposely manufactured to conceal an alien philosophy.
“For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”
—II Cor. 11:4
Obama realized early in his political career that the Democratic Party and socialist doctrine was weakened when the language of faith was extracted or demeaned. He would purposely inject testimonial language into his speeches, structured as sermons, to awaken the deepest element in the heart. “…we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people.” “When we abandon the field of religious discourse…when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced… when we shy away from religious venues and broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome, others will fill the vacuum.” (Audacity of Hope, p. 215). His campaign speeches were crafted in a revivalist style of delivery with salvific themes, “Because we know what we have seen and what we believe—that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different from all the rest.” (Barack Obama, speech delivered in South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2008). In Elmer Gantry fashion, Obama promised the impossible. Though there is no direct mention of God, for Obama is the subject of the sermon, the fervor of a Sunday night service in a revivalist church permeates. He is the conduit (the new prophet) and his followers are the new converts of the new religious movement. “The 2008 campaign was an event that unfolded on an entirely different plane from ordinary politics. It signalled the emergence on a world-wide scale of the ‘Religion of Humanity,’ for which Obama became the symbol.” (James W. Ceaser, from article “The Roots of Obama Worship” from The Weekly Standard, Jan. 25, 2010). The vaporous extractions of a civil religious framework would hide a political agenda focused on an autocratic state, not the Kingdom of God. The cadence was attuned to a Southern preacher and the words would sound biblical to the emotive political rally that had now become his congregation. Thus the icon was born and a form of idolatry had entered the American political system. Our souls are now saved by the collective action of the aroused community focused upon a self-styled political redeemer, not the atoning death of Christ. “…my individual salvation is not going to come about without a collective salvation for our country.” (Barack Obama, quoted from Eye on Books, August 9, 1995). In Obama’s thought, the “collective self” replaces the singular act of the vicarious atonement of Christ. God is replaced with the global community, and Obama becomes the embodiment of all men. “The aim of this religion without God was to build a global community that assured the betterment of man’s lot.” (James W. Ceaser). Obama seems to believe that he was not merely running for the Presidency of the United States but that he had been called to a much grander position, ruler of a new world community.
“Together Black religion and Marxist philosophy may show us the way to build a completely new society.”
—James Cone, “My Soul Looks Back”
To understand Barack Obama’s political and theological orientation, a lineage of Black Nationalist mentors; James Cone, Jeremiah Wright and James Meeks predominate. When Black Nationalism is conjoined to Christianity it recasts the “Gospel of the Kingdom of God” with a Marxist-socialist philosophy that redefines God and Jesus Christ. Evil is no longer in the hearts of all men but resides in the white establishment and is endemic to America. Assimilation is condemned and Black racial superiority is proclaimed. The Bible is utilized to garner an audience in the Black community but the message is racial-centric not theocentric. The message of Martin Luther King is set aside by Black Nationalists as an accommodation to white society. King’s refusal to stray from a Christo-centric theology is viewed as antiquated and parochial to the world-view of Black Nationalism. The god of the Black Nationalist is in the image and likeness of a retributive Black Supremacist articulated by Malcolm X and his convert James Cone. “Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the Black community. If God is not for us, and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of Black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the Black community…Black theology will only accept the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of Black People to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means of their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.” (James Cone, “Black Theology and Black Power”, p. 27).
James Cone was the dominant intellectual and spiritual influence upon Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Barack Obama for over 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. “I do not in any way disagree with Dr. Cone.” (Jeremiah Wright, National Press Club, April 28, 2008). James Cone had taken the separatist and supremist doctrine of Malcolm X and gave it a “Black Christian” robe to hide the inner core of Marxist teaching calling for the destruction of the Capitalistic system. “The Black church cannot remain silent regarding socialism, because such silence will be interpreted by our Third World brothers and sisters as support for the capitalistic system, which exploits the poor all over the earth.” “We cannot continue to speak against racism without any reference to a radical change in the economic order. I do not think racism can be eliminated as long as capitalism remains intact. (James Cone, “My Soul Looks Back”, 1982). James Cone advocates the redistribution of wealth by any means under the guise of Christianity. But the god of this movement has become a coercive autocratic state, not the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. James Cone invokes a God of wrath against white society who will exalt a new Black consciousness and destroy the vestiges of White culture.
“Trinity United Christian Church is a church whose theological starting perspective starts from the vantage point of Black Liberation Theology being its center.”
—Jeremiah Wright, “Talking Points”
Jeremiah Wright’s influence on Barack Obama cannot be overstated. The intravenous diatribes for over 20 years has taken root in the heart and