People mocked Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney for their religious backgrounds often during the presidential campaigns, but at least they never claimed to be on a mission to save the souls of Americans through government action. Oh, people accused them of wanting to do so -- to impose Southern Baptist or Mormon theology on an America that wants relentless secularism, but in point of fact both men gave stirring speeches on how their faith informs them personally but not their governance.Jay at Stop the ACLU calls the phenomenon "the Obamassiah"; Mark Steyn agrees, adding that Barack's being hailed as, "the new Kennedy, the new Gandhi, the new Martin Luther King."
One campaign really has explicitly claimed to be on such a mission, however. Michelle Obama gave a speech at UCLA earlier this month in which she told supporters that her husband was the only man who could fix American souls -- if we elect him President first. Here's the transcript:In 2008, we are still a nation that is too divided. We live in isolation, and because of that isolation, we fear one another. We don't know our neighbors, we don't talk, we believe our pain is our own. We don't realize that the struggles and challenges of all of us are the same. We are too isolated. And we are still a nation that is still too cynical. We look at it as "them" and "they" as opposed to "us". We don't engage because we are still too cynical. ...[This] is the religion of statism distilled to its essence. Only a government can rescue people from the consequences of their own decisions. Only government programs can provide for your every need, and only government can use your money wisely enough to ensure that your needs get covered. Individuals cannot possibly manage to help their neighbors through their churches or community organizations, let alone encourage people to do for themselves.
Americans are not in debt because they live frivolously but because someone got sick. Even with insurance, the deductibles and the premiums are so high that people are still putting medications and treatments on credit cards. And they can't get out from under. I could go on and on, but this is how we're living, people, in 2008.
And things have gotten progressively worse throughout my lifetime, through Democratic and Republican administrations, it hasn't gotten better for regular folks. ....
We have lost the understanding that in a democracy, we have a mutual obligation to one another -- that we cannot measure the greatness of our society by the strongest and richest of us, but we have to measure our greatness by the least of these. That we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. That is why I am here, because Barack Obama is the only person in this who understands that. That before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.
And all you need to enter the statist Utopia is to sell your soul. So that it can be fixed.
No, thank you.
The MSM would never let accept such accolades about the right, reminds Michelle Malkin:
When Republicans talk about broken souls in the context of civil society, the nutroots start screaming about the obliteration of the church-state line.MORE:
When the Obama campaign uses the same rhetoric to get him elected to the White House, everyone swoons.
Charles Krauthammer in Friday's WaPo:
And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.Joe Klein in Time magazine:
This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity -- salvation -- for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a "salvational fervor" and "idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria."
"We are the hope of the future," sayeth Obama. We can "remake this world as it should be." Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country -- nay, we can become "a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest."
And believe they do.
[T]here was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism — "We are the ones we've been waiting for" — of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. "This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It's different not because of me. It's different because of you." That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.MORE & MORE:
Obama is the new "Numinous Negro." The term comes via Richard Brookhiser in a 2001 National Review article:
Who is the Numinous Negro? He is everywhere, especially in our hearts, and if we are lucky he is our friend. The dictionary defines "numinous" as "of or pertaining to a numen," which was a Roman term for "the presiding divinity . . . of a place." "Numinous" also means "spiritually elevated." Jungians and literary critics love the word, but normal theologians use it too. The Numinous Negro is a presiding divinity. The place he presides over is America, and contact with him elevates us spiritually.(via Instapundit, Right Wing News, Anti-Idiotarian Rottwieler)
You see him in the gooey prose of white liberals whenever a Negro appears ("Negro" was the accepted word when blacks first became Numinous). Dozens of examples could be culled from the work of the late Murray Kempton, though his humor operated as a brake on his piety. The work of Garry Wills, who has no humor at all, would yield thousands of examples. The Numinous Negro need not be a man. Toni Morrison and Oprah are Numinous Negroes (Ms. Morrison is a seer; Oprah is a sage). Marian Anderson was also Numinous.
Art and entertainment, always eager for shortcuts to characterization, make frequent use of the Numinous Negro. When we see a Negro in movies or television, we not only know he is Numinous (unless he is Thuggish- see below), we can judge the other (white) characters by how they treat him. The saintly Death Row hero of The Green Mile was so Numinous that even movie reviewers noticed the technique. . .
The most Numinous Negro of recent history is, of course, Martin Luther King Jr. The real Martin Luther King was a man of many talents-patient, shrewd, eloquent, and brave. He knew what he wanted, and he had faith in God and (ultimately) in his white fellow Americans that his program of civil disobedience would secure it. The real Martin Luther King, like other real heroes, also had flaws and limitations-he plagiarized part of his doctoral dissertation, he strayed from his wife. With the passage of time, we can see that some of the rhetorical flourishes of even the "I have a dream" speech are cornball: "curvaceous peaks of California," indeed.
But all that is lost in the glow of his holiness. The debunkers, and the intelligent admirers who follow them, have not yet done their work. Martin Luther King Jr. is still the divinity who shoved Washington and Lincoln into one holiday, and who is the only non-medical degree- holder, besides Samuel Johnson, who is always referred to as "Dr."