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Is Obama the Messiah? People are asking these days and it’s not so hard to understand why: the desperate throngs, the tears, the great awakening of a slumbering demographic. All that larger symbolism.
The emotional landscape of many American voters is calamitous of late — frightened by our Babylonian war, unhappy with our President and depressed by the cleansing crush of the credit crunch — so it’s not surprising that the coming presidential election would take on a certain biblical coloring.
The Messiah question is a loud one coming from all corners. Even a blogger for Mother Jones, the hot heart of the far left, worries that the Obama-passion will be used for nefarious purposes by right-wingers, he himself writes “Barack Obama has a messiah complex and no one will convince me otherwise.”
The salty 62-year old Chris Matthews of MSNBC puts the phenomenon of Obama on the good book scale, telling the NY Observer that “I’ve been following politics since I was about 5. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament. This is surprising.”
Timothy Noah has been on his “Messiah Watch” for over a year now for online magazine Slate though he says he doesn’t suggest it is Obama that believes in himself as the second coming but rather “that a few excitable souls in the media bear the apparant conviction that Obama is the Redeemer.”
And of course, in case you doubt how deep into the zeitgeist this has gone, the blog “Is Barack Obama the Messiah?” is bursting with visual evidence.
I turned to my friend Joel Stein, who wrote a column for the LA Times last week on Obamaphilia — the notion that many, including Joel, have developed an unbecoming infatuation with the Senator from Illinois.
ME: So Joel, did it ever occur to you that it wasn’t a crush you were experiencing with Obama but a religious revelation?
Joel: I’m pretty sure my feelings for Obama is a crush, but maybe it’s a relgious revelation. I’ve never had one of those….
ME: Describe your feelings when you watch him.
Joel: When I see him, I actually don’t feel great. I feel like I do at a comedy club, only instead of “Make me laugh, asshole” it’s like, “Make me care.” And then he does make me care. Which shocks me even more, because my guard is up. Dude is good. Like Dave Attell good.
ME: Do you think a messiah would work well as a president?
Joel: The messiah would make an excellent president. I had a photo above my desk at Time of Reagan campaigning for President, and he’s standing on the bumpers of two parked cars with his arms out, just radiating. That’s half the job, making people feel saved. And Obama does that. If you make people feel like you can save them, half of them are already saved. You’ve seen There Will Be Blood. You know how it works.
ME: Being Jewish, Joel, how would that messiah as president shake out for you?
Joel: Being Jewish, I don’t feel good about feeling moved by any speakers. I’m programmed so I’m only comfortable if they’re boring the crap out of me. Preferably in an ancient, unattractive language. My Mom, who’s a huge Hillary supporter, keeps saying he’s a preacher, which she means negatively. And it makes me feel uncomfortable from a racial perspective when she says it. But she’s not entirely wrong. And I kind of like it. Maybe I’d like church.
ME: One last question — your mom compares him to a preacher and says it’s negative, and all these articles out there say coverage is too positive, and
you yourself worry about your girlish crush. So is it wrong to be so positive in politics?
Joel: It’s scary to be positive about a politician. You know you’re going to regret it because no President in my lifetime has ever even met the limited expectations I’ve had – and now I have huge expectations. It’s like joining a cult or the PTL Club. You’re going to have to explain your enthusiasm for the rest of your life when it all unravels. I’m sure someone was as passionate as I am about Obama about Richard Nixon.