Thursday, 4 June 2009

Barack Obama - the new messiah?

President Obama's speech in Egypt sounded positively messianic. Obviously designed to flatter his Muslim audience, he quoted liberally from the Qur'an, but also (with an eye to his religious audience at home perhaps) from the Talmud and the Bible. Nevertheless, let's not be too cynical because what he said sounded a completely new start in American - Muslim relations. I have read elsewhere that the President is perhaps naive in thinking that Islam is some homogeneous movement (rather like the Roman Catholic church). Islam is as divided as 'Christendom', with its fundamental faultline of Sunni and Shia (comparable to the Western and the Eastern church after the Great Schism of the 11th century).

But I think Obama should be applauded for such a strong speech, delivered with a winsome blend of authority and humility.

It would be great to think that he will succeed where other presidents and leaders have failed. Probably one speech won't do it alone, but at least it's a start.

I said that I thought the speech sounded messianic in tone. Well, this is what the true Messiah said, quoting from the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Sovreign Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

Let's hope and pray that the president's words bring good news to Israelis and Palestinians who feel both threatened and oppressed by each other; to women in oppressive Muslim states; and to all those who are imprisoned by the hatred of those they don't trust.

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