Obama, the Messiah, and the Real Power to Change

Okay, let me begin with a few caveats. First, this is not meant to be a political post. Yes, it involves politics but my motivation is not to necessarily endorse any particular person. So, in the sense that I am not advancing a specific political agenda, this post is not political.

Second, I am not a racist. I know that is an odd caveat to make, but it seems necessary these days. I was listening to an NPR show last week and the assumption that was made by the round-table forum was that if people in mid-America weren’t for Barak Obama, it was because – knowingly or unknowingly – they were racist. What an assumption to make! Let me say from the get-go that I would be more than happy to vote for a person with dark skin, light skin, or anywhere in the middle; a person with Asian, Native American, African, or European heritage as long as I thought they would make a good president. Despite my standing in the WASP club of America, let me assure everyone that it’s possible to have a divergent opinion and not be racist.

Okay, all of that being said, what this post is really about is politics and race. And the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was quite bemused by Gerard Baker’s hilarious send up on the London Times. There, with tongue firmly stuck in cheek, he spoofs much of the excitement and press-fawning over Obama like it’s the coming of the Messiah. Biblical language aside, he seems to have a point. It’s amazing that so many people (from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds) look to Obama as the great salvation of America. They speak as if America is on the verge of moral collapse and he is the one person who can save us. Perhaps many believe that this is some grand apex to the struggles of the civil rights movement of the previous decades. Perhaps they believe that if we vote in a black president it will cleanse us from past sins and allow us to lose the latent guilt many feel about how people were treated (still treated?) in a country where we profess to believe “all men are created equal.” Regardless, many will gush about Obama and never speak a word about what he actually believes, or whether he’s qualified to be the leader of the free world.

But there are others who look to Obama as a Messiah-like figure, not because of his skin color, but because of his political views. These people believe that all our personal and national problems can be solved by government. Regulate this, deregulate that, pass this bill, make this law, ensure this freedom, take another away in the name of real freedom – salvation, as it were, comes through politics. And so it’s not surprising that Obama’s one-word campaign slogan – CHANGE – has been so amazingly effective in rallying people to his side. It gives them hope (another great campaign word).

In the end, you have people making these kinds of statements about Obama and what he would do as President of the United States of America:

“When that happens, it will change everything. … You’ll have to measure time by `Before Obama’ and `After Obama . . . It’s an exciting time to be alive now . . . Everything’s going to be affected by this seismic change in the universe.”Spike Lee

“Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve.”Mark Mortfold

“I cried all night. I’m going to be crying for the next four years . . . . What Barack Obama has accomplished is the single most extraordinary event that has occurred in the 232 years of the nation’s political history. … The event itself is so extraordinary that another chapter could be added to the Bible to chronicle its significance.” – Jesse Jackson, Jr.

“[I]f we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.” – Barak Obama

So what are we to make of this? As a Christian, I am forced to say that many have invested too much hope in Obama specifically and politics more broadly. Though it’s seems a little extreme with Obama, many people were thinking similar things when Bush was elected. In the end, politics is not the solution to our problems, the gospel is. That and that alone has the real power for change. A change that is not imposed by some external force, bringing everyone into artificial conformity. But a change that begins in the heart, transforming a person from the inside-out. The gospel is not a message about what we can do for ourselves, but about what God has done for us. It’s a message about the only real Messiah, Jesus.

This is why the apostle Paul can say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The gospel brings salvation. What does that salvation look like? Through faith in Jesus Christ one receives a changed heart (Ezek 36:26), forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:8-9), cleansing from sin (Isa 1:18), freedom from sin (Gal 5:1), the righteousness of Christ himself (2 Cor 5:20-21), spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3), and the promise of a life with God in his glory in the new heavens and the new earth (rev 20-21).

Sorry, but no politician – not even Barak Obama – can offer that. That is why I do not put my faith in kings, or armies, or education, or politicians. I only put my faith in the incarnate Son of God who died for me that I might be freed from the power of sin and worship the one true and living God from now until eternity.

Despite the fervent beliefs of Michelle Obama, her husband cannot heal the souls of Americans. Only Jesus Christ can do that.


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