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?"
Four dismal years later, as Obama ran for reelection, chastened liberals acknowledged that he hadn't live up to the hype and that such silliness wouldn't continue. But it has. 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."
Obama once referred to Jesus Christ not as "the" Son of God but "a" son of God, inviting the question: Who are the others? Perhaps Jamie Foxx considers Obama one of them. But Foxx is not the first liberal to place Obama in the godhead. 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.
Unlike the "Innocence of Muslims" YouTube video creator, the artist behind this painting, Michael D'Antuono, isn't worried about a knock on his door from the Justice Department. "We should celebrate the fact that we live in a country where we are given the freedom to express ourselves," he has said.
Not all liberals, of course, compare Obama to God. Some think it more modest to compare him to Abraham Lincoln. "From Lincoln to Obama," CNN titled one of its documentaries on him after he won in 2008. Now with Steven Spielberg's movie about Lincoln out, the comparisons have started up again. Obama's progressive agenda is treated by liberals as an extension of Lincoln's abolition of slavery.
But Obama's Thanksgiving message last week didn't sound very Lincolnian. He offered thanks to plenty of people, particularly Americans who had reelected him, but God didn't make the list. The press reported that it was the fourth year in a row that God went unthanked.
Compare that with Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamations, which almost read like theological treatises. In 1863, Lincoln urged Americans to thank "our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens" and "fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."
Drawing upon the rhetoric of revolution, Obama has encouraged Americans to see him as a transcendent figure. His campaign slogan "Forward," with its Maoist echo, fired up his starry-eyed supporters, who still see him as the one they "have been waiting for." Gone are the days when Democrats could mock him, as did Hillary Clinton in 2008, for his ludicrous conception of himself. "The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect," said Hillary, sarcastically summarizing his campaign promises.
Don't be surprised if Arne Duncan's public schools crank up their chants for Obama again. When the state replaces God, politicians are the only beings left to worship.