The divinized President

It’s the most natural thing in the world, paganism being the natural religion, to turn one’s king or emperor–or now, one’s president– into a god.  From the American Spectator‘s George Neumayr:

Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign inspired a level of euphoria that almost seemed cultish. Obama was going to “usher in a new way of being on the planet,” gushed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford. He is a “Lightworker, a rare kind of attuned being.”

After Obama won, the cult moved from pundits to public schools. At a New Jersey elementary school, second-graders were taught to sing the spiritual “Jesus Loves the Little Children” with Obama’s name substituted for Jesus’s. “He said red, yellow, black, or white,” chanted the kids. “All are equal in his sight: Barack Hussein Obama.” Parents couldn’t believe their ears and expressed outrage to the press. “We don’t want to praise this guy like he is a god,” said one.

Another public school showed students a video that urged them “to be a servant to our President.” Arne Duncan’s Department of Education even organized a day on which all public school children had to listen to a speech by Obama and answer such questions as: “What is President Obama inspiring you to do?” and “How will he inspire us?” . . .

No sooner was he reelected than liberals resumed the gushing. Appearing at the Soul Train Awards in Las Vegas recently, actor Jamie Foxx said, “It’s like church in here. First of all, give an honor to God and our lord and savior, Barack Obama.” . . .

The press reported this week that a painting on display at the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery in Boston depicts a crucified Obama with a crown of thorns standing before the presidential seal. . . .

When the state replaces God, politicians are the only beings left to worship.

via RealClearReligion – Is the Cult of Obama Back?.

Obama as Messiah

The cult of Obama is back.  A big-selling (but non-official) calendar at the Democratic National Convention includes this photo of President Obama’s birth certificate, along with the title “Heaven Sent.”  Then it applies John 3:16 as if it were referring to Barack Obama!

photo (13)

From Slate:  DNC 2012: Still Kitschin’.

Compare with the divinization of  Obama in his first campaign.

I’m not blaming the president for this.  It’s just a stark example of how people with a religious void will sometimes turn to charismatic human beings to fill it.   Consider the religious devotion–the shrines, the reliquaries, the pilgrimages, the raptures–that some people have for Elvis Presley.   But to divinize a ruler is especially dangerous since the worshiper accepts the unlimited power and the immunity from moral limits in the adoration of this earthly god.  Christians were persecuted in the early church precisely for refusing to burn incense to the divinized emperor.  Don’t be surprised if that becomes an issue again.  Cultures can’t stay godless for long, but the god they turn to, by nature, will tend to be a cultural god.

The Apotheosis of Steve Jobs

CNN’s religion blog asked several experts if they thought that the recently departed Steve Jobs has been turned into a secular saint.  I liked what Gary Laderman of Emory University had to say:

Steve Jobs the man is dead. But Steve Jobs the myth is only growing in stature and will only continue to grow as a cultural point of reference as an inspiring model for aspiring entrepreneurs, as a compelling success story with perplexing moral commitments and as an appealing icon whose life, death and products will, for many, cross over the line from profane to sacred.

In a USA Today review of Walter Isaacson’s new book, “Steve Jobs,” the author rightly suggests that no Silicon Valley figure has attained the “mythical status” of Jobs and notes his “almost messianic zeal” for work.

Why the religious language to characterize his life and death? How does a mere mortal transform into a superhuman, glorified cultural hero?

Jobs has been the object of numerous memorials, and tributes – more than a million – are being posted on Apple’s “Remembering Steve” webpage, with condolences as well as testimonials about how Jobs and his products have touched and indeed transformed the lives of countless individuals.

Make no mistake about it, the veneration we are seeing in the aftermath of Jobs’ death is religious through and through – not “kinda” religious, or “pseudo” religious,” or “mistakenly” religious, but a genuine expression for many of heartfelt sacred sentiments of loss and glorification.

It is not tied to any institution like a church or to any discrete tradition like Buddhism; it is, instead, tied to a religious culture that will only grow in significance and influence in the years ahead: the cult of celebrity.

As more and more people move away from conventional religions and identify as “nones” (those who choose to claim “no religion” in polls and surveys), celebrity worship and other cultural forms of sacred commitment and meaning will assume an even greater market share of the spiritual marketplace.

In life Jobs may have been something of an enigma who maintained his privacy and generally stayed out of the public limelight. In death, Jobs now is an immortal celebrity whose life story, incredible wealth, familiar visage, and igadgets will serve as touchstones for many searching for meaningful gods and modes of transcendence.

via Short Takes: Are we turning Steve Jobs into a saint? – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

I would say that it isn’t just that Jobs has been turned into a saint.  In our newly-minted paganism, he and other celebrities have undergone apotheosis.  That is, they have been turned into gods.  The parallel is what would happen in the Roman Empire.   An accomplished emperor dies.  So the Senate votes to proclaim him a god.  Whereupon he enters the pantheon and citizens are enjoined to perform sacrifices to him.

Laderman’s point about celebrity worship in our current spiritual void is very acute.  The most dramatic examples are the shrines and religious devotion that some acolytes give to Elvis Presley.  We are seeing something similar with Michael Jackson.  The devotees of Steve Jobs are arguably more sophisticated, but still. . . .

What are some other examples of celebrity worship?

HT:  Joe Carter


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