Neither Christ Nor Antichrist: A Reflection on the Election of Barack Obama

Storyimage_sized_hopehopehopeEdward Blum in Religion Dispatches:

After the election was called for Senator Obama (thank goodness it didn’t go into the next day or weeks), it felt like the biblical “day of Jubilee” was upon us. Pro-Obama crowds were euphoric as the revolution was seemingly televised. There was dancing and singing. Tears flowed. Everyone commented on the “historic” moment. Senator McCain sought to wash the historic story as one for African Americans, but he was only partly right. The entire campaign—for both Democrats and Republicans—was an historic event. It was an emblem of how far the United States has changed, and we should all be proud of that. One hundred years ago, an African American man was lynched in the United States every five days. National votes for women were still a dozen years away. One hundred years ago W. E. B. Du Bois had to defend the “souls” of black folks against claims that African Americans were soulless beasts. One hundred years ago, divorce laws made it next-to-impossible for women to divorce their husbands.

Without downplaying these historical changes, we should be wary. In many ways, Senator Obama has been transformed into a symbol. He has become a totem, representing hope, change, and even salvation. During my interview with NPR, one caller exulted as he referred to Obama as a “sublime mystery.” The caller was right. Mysteries can be wonderful. They can be exciting. They can be comforting. “The body and the blood” of Christ have led billions to feel connected to God and to other Christians; Our Lady of Guadalupe inspired (and continues to inspire) Christian faith for so many. The narrative of the deathless state of Guatama Buddha has led countless to seek enlightenment. I do not believe President-Elect Obama is a mystery, but I am certainly frightened by those who do and those who want a mystery to have control over the United States army and have access to nuclear weapons.

Mysteries can be dangerous and days of Jubilee do not always end with eras of sublimity.