Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Obama comically depicted as savior
Religious groups and conservative pundits are apparently bent out of shape over comedian and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx's reference to President Obama as "our lord and savior" during the BET Soul Train Awards that aired last week. Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said, "Foxx's epiphany is startling." Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church called the comment "blasphemy." 

On his show last week, Fox News host Sean Hannity said Foxx's remark is a “reminder of how obsessed left-wing celebrities really are with President Obama.” And radio host Mary Walter said of the comment, “It’s about a societal religion as opposed to a church religion, because if the government gives you everything, the government becomes your religion, and he’s our leader.”

Fans have flocked to Foxx's Facebook page to condemn him and, in very unChristian-like fashion, call him every offensive name in the book. Carole Sue Buttke wrote, “I will be boycotting anything you do, along with all the other idiots who think Barack Obama is Lord and Savior.” 

But here's the thing: it was a joke! If you really think Jamie Foxx believes Barack Obama is God, you might want to take a few very deep breaths into a paper bag. Trust me, he doesn't. But I do believe that some of Obama's critics believe the president is the Anti-Christ.

The fact is, references to American presidents as Christ-like saviors are as old as America itself. The media has lazily ignored this in its breathless coverage of the so-called Jamie Foxx controversy, but from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan, presidents have routinely been likened to and characterized as messianic figures. 

"The only thing new about Obama being depicted this way is that he is the first black president to be associated with the sacred," suggests San Diego State University history and religion professor Edward Blum, co-author with Paul Harvey of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America

Blum cites numerous examples of serious comparisons between presidents and messiah figures. After Washington's death in 1799, for example, the "Father of Our Country" was widely considered to have Christ-like powers. Seriously. Washington has even been called "the savior of the states."

In Lincoln's time, former slaves and leading Republicans found many parallels between Lincoln's assassination and Christ's crucifixion, say Blum, who notes that upon hearing of Lincoln's death, one former slave in Charleston, SC, remarked, "Lincoln died for we, Christ died for we, and me believe him de same mans."

Here's a drawing of Lincoln being ushered Christ-like into heaven:

In the 1930s, one businessman asked forgiveness for having voted for Herbert Hoover instead of FDR because he considered Roosevelt the best leader "since Jesus Christ." Blum says that in a private letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, Mrs. M. L. Brantley from south of Memphis wrote, “Surely he (FDR) is God’s child to have been spared and brought to this day, to try to help the world in these trying last days.”

As for Kennedy, Blum points out that in a sermon, Rev. O.L. Holliday, a prominent leader of the African-American church movement in the 60′s and 70′s, compared the assassination of JFK to the crucifixion of Christ.

And finally, Blum says, Reagan's followers have "created a Jesus-like cult around his blood and memory." This has been written about by many journalists, including my Daily Beast colleague Lee Seigel, who called Reagan an "American Christ."

Let's all calm down a bit and put Jamie Foxx's comments into perspective, shall we? He's a comic who made this declaration on an awards show. If the comment genuinely offends you, then you should be equally troubled by all of these other examples of American presidents being compared to God, no? 

I remember back in 2009 when my former Newsweek colleague Evan Thomas referred to Obama as "sort of Godduring an interview on MSNBC. Thomas took a lot of heat for that remark, just as Foxx is now. But neither of them meant it literally, folks. It's called hyperbole!

This entire controversy is bogus. Laughable, even. And you know who's laughing loudest at all of this right now? Yep. God. Clearly, no one has a better sense of humor than He... or She.

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