Our Obama is an Awesome Obama

supermanAwesome. It’s kind of fun to find out that the culture warriors over at Slate have created a new feature that would be perfectly at home here at GetReligion.

The name of this standing feature says it all, proudly:


The Obama Messiah Watch: Introducing a periodic feature considering evidence that Obama is the son of God.

The whole idea is that, even for people on the political left, it is kind of embarrassing to watch the mainstream press melt into a little emotional puddle in the face of the wonder of Obama. Emotional puddle or spiritual puddle? Ah, that is the question.

Thus, here is the first installment of this new feature at Slate. Click here to go to the text with all of the URLs intact. (I’m too lazy to do them all right now because, hey, it’s my birthday and I feel like taking it easy.)

By Timothy Noah
Posted Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, at 6:23 PM ET

Is Barack Obama — junior U.S. senator from Illinois, best-selling author, Harvard Law Review editor, Men’s Vogue cover model, and “exploratory” presidential candidate — the second coming of our Savior and our Redeemer, Prince of Peace and King of Kings, Jesus Christ? His press coverage suggests we can’t dismiss this possibility out of hand. I therefore inaugurate the Obama Messiah Watch, which will periodically highlight gratuitously adoring biographical details that appear in newspaper, television, and magazine profiles of this otherworldly presence in our midst.

Today’s item, from a Los Angeles Times profile by Larry Gordon about Obama’s two years at Occidental College (before he transferred to Columbia):

In [political science professor Roger] Boesche’s European politics class, [classmate Ken] Sulzer said he was impressed at how few notes [italics mine] Obama took. “Where I had five pages, Barry had probably a paragraph of the pithiest, tightest prose you’d ever see. … It was very short, very sweet. Obviously somebody almost Clintonesque in being able to sum a whole lot of concepts and place them into a succinct written style.”

Readers are invited to submit similar details — Obama walking on water, Obama sating the hunger of 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes — from other Obama profiles. And also, of course, to repent, just in case the hour approacheth nigh.

This raises an interesting question, in light of Obama’s own accounts of his spiritual journey into progressive Christianity. On that day when he answered the altar call at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and “declared a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” does this mean he expressed faith in Himself? To paraphrase the usual evangelical language, did Obama, at that moment, enter Obama’s heart?

Meanwhile, journalists are not the only people struggling to learn all the words to the new political anthem, “Our Obama is an Awesome Obama.” According to Newsweek, stand-up comics are having trouble, too. Some are taking different approaches to this theological problem. Here’s my favorite:


“Obamamania” has become absurd. “Daily Show” viewers heard a heavenly noise — “a choir of angels,” host Jon Stewart said. “It can only mean one thing: Barack Obama did something.” Jay Leno’s line: “The big story, of course: ‘American Idol.’ But enough about Barack Obama.”

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    I guess, if Leno is making fun of Obama Jesusesque qualities we can’t take him seriosly as a possible Antichrist, either.

  • Carol McFarlane

    Actually, Barack Obama’s style is extremely succint, etc. His novel is the most fluently written book (or other prose) I’ve read recently. I’m not surprised he can pack (or precis) many words into a very few. He clearly has skills that some folk can’t aspire to, hence the backstabbing. Why don’t you all just get off this sort of thing and really look at what people are about?

  • Tom

    Carol’s post is indicative. She points out that Obama writes fluently and concisely. She asks us to examine what he’s really about. But, this is exactly the kind of reporting we are not getting about Obama (at least not habitually). We are getting pieces on his style rather than his substance (his fluency of presentation, rather than the ideas presented).

    To sum up, it’d be nice to know in what we are supposed audaciously to hope.

  • Joseph Fox

    This blog seems to be more political than religious.

  • evagrius

    Gee, does anybody remember what the write-up about Bush was? I seem to remember he was “chosen” by God.

  • Michael

    I’m not sure Obama needs to talk so much about the specifics of his faith, although reporters are welcome to try to figure it out. He’s not trying to woo the Evangeilcal right, who expect a “Come to Jesus” conversation containing all the appropriate code words with a candidate before they can support him.

    He’s a Democrat, and arguably a liberal Democrat. Liberals and moderates have different expectations of candidates than social conservatives and arguably too much God talk is a risk for a liberal.

    Unquestionably, it’s an interesting story. But it’s a dramatically different religious story than we have heard over the last 25 years of politics. Reporters will have to understand a whole different religious dynamic, given the road to Obama’s faith isn’t through Colorado Springs or the Vatican.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Terry, you say it’s your birthday? Happy birthday to you! (with apologies to The Beatles)

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Obama is standing in front of the awesome statue of Superman (another messiah-figure) from Metropolis, Illinois! Metropolis, Illinois was also name-checked by Christian singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens in his “Illinois” CD.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    * Some readers may have noticed that religion has played a rather important role in American politics in the last three decades.

    * I think Obama will receive quite a few evangelical votes from the middle and left of the evangelical spectrum. I am very interested in the rise of the evangelical left.

    * Obama can speak for himself and I hope we all quote him accurately.

    * Since when did Slate.com become part of the right-wing conspiracy?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Oh, Jason, great catch!

    Superman is one of the classic American pop culture messiahs.

    The photo was intentional….

  • Stephen

    As the Slate feature points out, the Obama-worship is getting ridiculous.

    Fortunately, the night-time comics (and, I suspect, other Democrats) will soon bring out the Kryptonite.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    That would be the same Sufjan Stevens I get to go see at the Kennedy Center on Monday night!

    My awesome husband camped out in the freezing cold for the tickets on Friday night.

  • Jerry

    There’s a real hunger for the hero as all the Obama-mania demonstrates and as you chronicle. I suspect that sooner or later we’ll realize that he does not walk on water and then we’ll wonder how we ever thought he did. On the other hand, if he can resist the overweening pride that the adulation could cause, he might just prove to be a hero after all albeit without raising the dead.

    The fuss about Obama does provide an interesting example of how religious feeling gets attached to political and other figures. I do wonder if there is something uniquely American about our looking at various political and other people as if they were the second coming.

  • Michael

    That would be the same Sufjan Stevens I get to go see at the Kennedy Center on Monday night!

    So very lucky. His Christmas CD got me through the holidays and Illinois is the most played thing on my iPod.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    OK, let’s take your pop-culture-hero backslapping into private emails instead of putting in the comments section of this dead-serious journalism blog.

    I mean, for pete’s sake, there are people here who don’t have tickets!

  • Hans

    The Superman in this photo looks much like the 7′ Superman you can buy at the Sharper Image for $5,000. If I had $5,000 to spare, I would definitely buy that Superman. Not for myself, though. I’d probably have it set up in a random person’s bedroom while he/she was out just for kicks.

    How much do you think the Sharper Image would charge for a 7′ Obama statue?

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “That would be the same Sufjan Stevens I get to go see at the Kennedy Center on Monday night!”

    Indeed, you lucky woman, you.

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  • Bob Litzenberger

    There is no separation between God and His world. The message we so long to hear is the sound of Truth manifested into word and deed. The allegedly most religous amongst us are too often the most cynical. God does speak to us through each of us, and although I don’t believe Barack Obama to be the second coming, I do believe he speaks to a deeper part of me and does raise certain hopes that stem far more from my spiritual beliefs than from my political fears. If God were to touch our politics, this is how I might imagine it.

  • http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com Nicholas Stix

    Sorry for the ice water bath folks, but the rush to canonization has little to do with religion, and everything to do with race.