*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***
Important information: We are currently experiencing technical issues with the webiste and it is currently running with reduced functionality, some category pages may not contain a full list of articles and the search is not currently working. We apologise for the inconvenience and should have everything back to normal as soon as possible.

A new saviour to set things right

by
11 February 2009

A dull President may be just what the United States needs, says Harriet Baber

I DO NOT LIKE Obama. He has no foibles or quirks, inordinate passions or peculiarities. He will not give his advisers silly nicknames. He does not play the saxophone and will not chase after plump young interns.

The man is dull. But, after decades of street riots, culture wars, scandals and impeachments, a terrorist attack, and economic collapse, dullness may be what we need. Like most Americans, I look forward to a new era of good government.

This represents a radical break with the recent past, when it was taken for granted that no government was good government.

Liberal or conservative, Americans were con­vinced that government was the problem, not the solution. They differed only in what they thought the alternative should be. Conservatives imagined a small-town America where neigh­bours were neighbourly, families took care of their own, and churches looked after the deserv­ing poor. Liberals, on the other hand, spun a fantasy of local associations, community clinics, and whole­food co-ops that would stock produce from urban allotments and rural communes.

It was, at bottom, the same thing: a revolt against modernity — against mass society and large, impersonal institutions, against bureaucrats and technocrats, formal procedures, regulations, and red tape. We believed that individuals left to their own devices would take care of each other, and that businesses freed from burdensome regulation would contribute to the community and make us all better off.

It did not happen. Now, spent and exhausted, we look for a saviour to set things right.

Barack Obama, the very model of a modern saviour, fits the bill. Black and white, he absolves us from racism. Preaching the gospel of post-partisanship and unity he will, we believe, usher in the peaceable Kingdom where political bicker­ing will cease, conservative Evangelicals will co-operate with secular liberals, and there will be no more culture wars.

He is the product of consumer research, perfectly packaged to hide the contrivance, and constructed out of logos, slogans, and colour-schemes that appeal to American tastes.

Americans do not want small towns, whole­food co-ops, or old-fashioned authenticity. They want conveniently located suburbs designed to simulate villages, and shopping malls cun­ningly contrived to look like town centres, with acres of parking out of sight on the periphery. This is the modernity that dares not speak its name.

We do not want to see the machinery behind Disneyland rides, or discover that the décor in mid-range chain restaurants was designed at corporate headquarters. And we do not want to recognise that President Obama was constructed.

But saviours are like that, including Jesus — prophet, priest, king, sentimentalised Victorian icon, and social activist and revolutionary, all made to suit diverse times and tastes. But I am not so sure that that is a bad thing.

It does not matter whether Obama Soter is cardboard or plastic; an allegorical figure or a hologram projected by his staff. He represents Americans’ quest for good government and a just society. President Obama’s team of bureaucrats and technocrats will, we hope, fix the economy and restore good government.

It does not matter whether Obama Soter is cardboard or plastic; an allegorical figure or a hologram projected by his staff. He represents Americans’ quest for good government and a just society. President Obama’s team of bureaucrats and technocrats will, we hope, fix the economy and restore good government.

There will be no scandals on this President’s watch, or even entertaining gaffes and mala­propisms. It will be a boring four years —and we look forward to that.

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)