Last week The Australian reprinted an article from Gerard Baker of The Times which was in my view a very incisive analysis of the current American Presidential election campaign. As Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight it out to secure the Democratic nomination, a cult of personality seems to have developed around Obama, where the mostly favourable news media coverage he has received has become almost idolatrous, with him becoming a pseudo-Messianic figure. If this article is to be believed, this is not a new phenonemon, stretching back to the days of Robert Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, and in more recent years, to Bill Clinton. Had Kennedy not been assassinated in June 1968, he may well have become President, and probably would have served two terms. For their part, Presidents Carter (1977-1981) and Clinton (1993-2001) turned out to be flawed and human after all, which would have come as a disappointment to those journalists who canonised them at the time.
Despite our mistrust of authority figures and the tall poppy sydrome, we in Australia have often fallen into the same trap. Despite leading one of the most bold and progressive, but also inept governments in Australian history, former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (1971-1975) remains a hero to many from the non-conservative side of politics, as is Bob Hawke (1983-1991). As a Christian, I need to heed Scriptural counsel about respecting our political leaders and praying for them, but not to the extent of hero worshipping them, which would be sinful. In the end, we voters need to be objective and informed about politics and politicians. We need to see through the lofty rhetoric of election campaigns and not allow ourselves to be carried away by the grand promises we often hear at these times.