Obama the Divine

by Derrick G. Jeter

You may not have heard, but on June 5, 2009, President Obama was deified. Apparently, mere humanity and the presidency is too small and banal for Obama, at least according to Newsweek editor, Evan Thomas, who in an interview with Chris Matthews elevated Obama as “a sort of god.”1

Thomas and Matthews were discussing Obama’s recent Cairo speech and his upcoming D-Day address at Normandy in comparison to Ronald Reagan’s address at the 40th anniversary of D-Day. Here is the relevant exchange:

Chris Matthews:  Evan Thomas is editor-at-large for “Newsweek” magazine.  Evan, you remember ’84.  It wasn’t 100 years ago.  Reagan and World War II and the sense of us as the good guys in the world—how’re we doing?

Evan Thomas:  Well, we were the good guys in 1984, felt that way.  It hasn’t felt that way in recent years.  So Obama’s had, really, a different task.  We’re seen too often as the bad guys.  And he has a very different job from—Reagan was all about America.  And he talked about it.  Obama is, We are above that now.  We’re not just parochial, we’re not just chauvinistic, we’re not just provincial.  We stand for something—I mean, in a way, Obama’s standing above the country, above—above the world, a sort of god.

Chris Matthews:  Yes.

Aside from the blasphemy of Thomas’s comment, and every other theological problem with it, I find it silly and foolish. But because I’m not in the habit of giving what is holy to dogs nor casting pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) I’ll let Thomas’s deification of Obama lie where it is. God—the One who rules the universe, including Obama and Thomas—has already spoken clearly about who is and who isn’t God (see Isaiah 45:21). God isn’t mocked—everyone will get what is coming to them (Galatians 6:7).

However, other things Thomas said should be disturbing to all who love America. Thomas was right in saying that Reagan “was all about America”; he was, I suppose, one could say, “parochial,” “chauvinistic,” and “provincial”—that is, Reagan was narrow in his love for America and exhibited an extreme patriotism for his country. It is clear, however, that Thomas, in his comparison of Reagan and Obama, doesn’t use these words positively, but in a way that has come to mark too many in the media. Thomas uses these words to perpetuate the worn out myth that Reagan was an unsophisticated simpleton when it came to the ways of the world. President Obama, on the other hand, stands for something greater, something transcendent and godlike. To simply be about America—to be so parochial, chauvinistic, or provincial—is too small for the likes of Barack Obama.

The era of Reagan is over, we’ve been told. Reagan was a time of the “clinched fist,” of “[ramping] up the cold war”; it “was about fighting”, Thomas intoned. But the era of Obama is about “reconciliation . . . trying to sort of tamper everything down. He doesn’t even use the word ‘terror.’ . . . He uses ‘extremism.’ He’s all about, Let us reason together. I think he has a much tougher job, frankly, because . . . He’s the teacher. He is going to say, Now children, stop fighting and quarreling with each other. And he has a kind of moral authority that he can do that.” I suppose, if Obama is a sort of god he can stand above the fracas that take place between mere nations and teach us how to get along. Unfortunately, Kim Jong Il of North Korea, who is testing multi-staged rockets and detonating subterranean nuclear devices, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who is rushing headlong to procure nuclear weapons and killing election protesters, didn’t receive the memo of Obama’s promotion and the moral authority that goes along with it. These two bullies don’t what to play with the rest of the children in the international community, and the godlike Obama seem strangely powerless to get them to play fair. This leaves me wonder then: Who is the naive one?

During the campaign we heard that Barack Obama was the next Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt; that he was a citizen of the world and would be a transformative president. Henceforth, we should hear no more comparisons with these mere presidents of the United States—they were bit players on the small stage of America. Rather, Obama must be compared to the standard of God. Fortunately of us, that job has been capably filled since eternity, and there will never be an opening for a new candidate. Unfortunately for us, everyone who thought they could do a better job than God soon found themselves humiliated—and their countries along with them.

We who haven’t drunk deeply from the poisoned well of such nonsense that spewed from the mouth of Evan Thomas, and who are all about America as Reagan was, must pray that God would spare our country from fools who would make an American president into an idol, because in the end, all idols are stupid and so are those who follow them. And this is not time for stupidity.

1. All quotes from Evan Thomas, Hardball with Chris Matthews, June 5, 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31173133/ns/msnbc_tv-hardball_with_chris_matthews/ (accessed June 15, 2009).