It is a very messianic thing to be. One might wonder whether any deliverer would dare to be anything but; for to be something other than a bridge-builder -- a uniter -- is to be something less than a messiah. Messiahs bring people together; they are conciliatory, appeasing; they understand compromise and concession.
But this is not the least a messiah can do. A messiah can also reveal his or her salvific message once every four years or so, at least in America. He (or she) can remind us all -- once again -- what life can truly become -- if we but believe, if we but thrill in the audacity of hope.
Barack Hussein Obama has lifted his head from his pillow and in the silence of the night, he has heard a call, a voice, the voice of the people; and he has responded. His message? He wishes to bring together that which has been torn asunder; to mend the torn veil; to build on those things which unite rather than divide. In other words, he wants to deliver a message of hope, of optimism in the power of the human will when it works in collective concert. Mr. Obama believes that it is not the enormity of the issues before us, but the smallness of our politics in addressing those issues that has failed us all. Such issues can be rendered small, no doubt, by a politics that is larger than anyone has heretofore dreamed possible. It is all about a brighter vision in a darkness deceptively dark: things are not as black as they seem. Nor are they as white. For such simple distinctions betray us when confronting dire challenges: our tried yet failed policies based on categories of good and evil, light and dark, black and white, north and south, have proven themselves tired, myopic, weak; senescent.
And now, in the juvenescence of the year, in the season of Janus (the two-faced deity that guards against war), Barack Obama is a great light in the deep and lonely solstice of Northern Hemispheric politics. He is the newcomer with the right attitude, speaking new beatitudes. His name means blessed. He brings a message.
Two things, really. First, the message Mr. Obama brings is utterly old and not the least bit spry or sprightly. It is what we have heard in the United States from leaders ad infinitum: we have long been given empty promises that there shall be no more empty promises. We are promised an end to partisan bickering, to gridlock, to more of the same. We are promised the "setting of a new tone in Washington," of "forging a new direction for America," of coming together to "take America back" and building anew a "government for the people by the people." We are promised an end to rancor and discord; we are promised unity in a United States on the threshold of disunion. It is time to cease the fearmongering, the backbiting; the good-old-boy backroom favoritism; the special interest plundering of American goodwill and industriousness.
In short, we have heard all of this before, said the same way, at the same time of year, and even for the same reasons.
But what we have not heard enough is that a real messiah -- perfectly presented in the Christ of the Christian faith -- is the only religious figure in history who built a religion on the self-revelation that He came to divide, not unite; to separate, not combine; to winnow out, and not to blend; to cleave asunder and not to mend. Jesus the Christ is indeed exactly the sort of politician we need to hear from, though not on the airwaves or from the podium, or on the breakfast news shows or a podcast from the Jesus 2008 website. We need to hear from Him in our hearts, if for no other reason than to stop this insanity.
The messiah has already come, and He will come again. But He is not a politician from Illinois, or a president from South Africa, or a megalomaniac from Venezuela. He is not a man with a gun, nor is a he man with a Texas swagger. Nor is he a man with a soft, bipartisan voice.
"I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. ... The poor you shall always have with you. ... I have come to set brother against sister. ... You have no part in me unless ..." This is what a deliverer says; these are the words of a real leader, a real revolutionary. He does not coddle his base, or stroke the hair of those eager to pronounce him god.
Just a few thoughts in this season of Hosanna Politics.
©Bill Gnade 2007/Contratimes - All Rights Reserved.