‘The Bible’ viewers: Seeing Obama in Satan

Almost as soon as Satan appeared on screen in this week’s third episode of “The Bible” on television’s History Channel, … Continued

Almost as soon as Satan appeared on screen in this week’s third episode of “The Bible” on television’s History Channel, social media sites came alive with speculation about a similarity between the looks of the character in question and President Barack Obama. To be fair, there is more than a passing similarity between the two men, especially if one wants to see it, which of course is the key to understanding this whole story.

We are told that seeing is believing – that if we see something with our own eyes, we will believe that it is so, because our eyes will not deceive us. In reality though, the opposite is more often the case – believing is seeing. We interpret the reality with which we are presented, in light of that which we already believe.

While mind-changing information penetrates our thinking all of the time, at least it should if we consider ourselves thinking people, it’s not as easy as simply seeing new facts “as they are.” We humans are pattern-making, coherence-seeking beings and that means that we tend to integrate new ideas, images, etc., such that the patterns we know and the coherence we seek are generally preserved. That is exactly what happened Sunday night, and not only from those on the side of the political-religious spectrum who regularly link the president with that which is devilish, if not thinking that he is the Devil himself.

The Obama-Satan story got traction from both sides of the spectrum. The similarity was seen and commented upon by people hostile to the president (like Glenn Beck), by people who because of the their general political opinions, found it quite “obvious” that the Devil and the president should look so much alike. In fact, many of them thought it was one of the show’s highlights. They were however, not alone in noting the similarity.

Plenty of the president’s biggest fans also saw the similarity and went to social media to spread the word about it. Why? Because, according to them, it was all part of the producers’ plan to smear the president and appeal to the “Bible thumpers” who oppose him.

In other words, both groups saw the president in the Devil – one group because they see the Devil in the president, and the other because they see the Devil in those who strongly oppose the president. Perhaps it’s time for both groups to see fewer devils, whether in the White House or in white houses across the heartland of the nation.

None of this means that all objectivity is a sham, or that no image is truly dangerous or grotesque. It simply reminds us that we humans are remarkably adept at finding what we are looking for. So we should be skeptical of what we think we see, and question what we seek.


Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • persiflage

    “Bible viewers see Obama in Satan’

    Fundamentalists are a pitiful lot, aren’t they?

  • plattitudes

    And thus you prove one of the author’s central points: “we humans are remarkably adept at finding what we are looking for.”

  • persiflage

    not sure what your point is…………equating Obama with an actor from Moracco, who happens to be playing the make-believe role of Satan, is credible for 3rd graders……..not for adults.

Read More Articles

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.