Obama’s Shot At Immanentizing The Eschaton


What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it a heaven.  Friedrich Höderlin, German poet (1770-1843).

 Conservatives have relegated President Obama’s standing with his leftist progressive/socialist base to a party joke. The left provides the ammo since they laughably refer to President Obama as their “messiah”, “the anointed one”, and their “Lord and Savior”. Conservative’s certainly enjoy mocking liberals, but what’s disturbing is these are actual accolades from the left praising the president. Conservatives are pretty clever, but they can’t make this stuff up. They can certainly take credit for ridiculing these preposterous tributes but not for concocting them. That dubious acknowledgment belongs solely to the left, and one doesn’t have to search far and wide for the sources of the left’s anomalous adoration for Mr. Obama. Remember, Mr. Obama is the leader of the political party that booed God!

The left’s regard for Mr. Obama’s awesome “messianic-ness” is ubiquitous, and sharing only a few examples of their god-like worship reveals their eerie obsession with the president’s cult of personality. Newsweek’s January 18, 2013 cover has a right-sided profile of the president (I guess it’s his good side) with the caption “The Second Coming”. Numerous celebrities have weighed in on the president’s ability to stroll on water, most notably Jamie Fox declaring Mr. Obama as his “Lord and savior”. If you’re in the market for one-stop “Obama the Omnipotent” shopping there is a website called “Is Barack Obama the Messiah?” devoted solely to the “prophet of the progressive” replete with “Obama conversion stories”. I’m not sure if this website is a gag since it’s effusive worship of Mr. O is so over the top, but given the transcendence conferred on him by his admirers I’m betting it’s for real. If so it captures quite well how Mr. Obama’s acolytes have faith that he will “immanentize the eschaton”.

Immanentizing the eschaton is a phrase lifted from philosopher Eric Voegelin’s book The New Science of PoliticsVoegelin devoted much of his life’s work to exposing what he called a gnostic attack on modernity. Voegelin conducted very intricate work in the field of gnosticsm and, at the expense of oversimplification, interpreted the “gnostic personality” as one that seeks to end history in some everlasting realm here on earth in an attempt to perfect man. Whether the gnostic achieves that goal is of no consequence, it is the effort and the intention alone to achieve a worthy outcome that is of importance to the gnostic.

 Voegelin wrote, “When a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton, however, is a theoretical fallacy.” Translation: any attempt to create a utopian heaven on earth through the instrument of some politician and/or political means is an effort in futility; ergo it is an attempt to immanentize the eschaton. Voegelin explained that these efforts are usually undertaken through tyrannical efforts resulting in totalitarian regimes.

William F. Buckley Jr., after encountering Voegelin’s New Science of Politics, popularized Voegelin’s criticisms of Gnosticism by proclaiming, “Don’t Immanentize The Eschaton”. In fact Buckley’s young followers in Young Americans for Freedom, the organization he founded, proudly wore buttons and T-shirts declaring their mentor’s warning. I’m not sure how Prof. Voegelin would have thought of reducing a significant portion of his life’s work to a catchphrase, but Mr. Buckley’s slogan was popular and it certainly was a conversation starter.

Ironically sloganizing was antithetical to Voegelin’s sensitivities. As Gene Callahan writes in his essay “Know Your Gnostics: Eric Voegelin Diagnosed the Neoconservatives Disease”, 

“The perception of the hollow core of the new social arrangements became the motivation for and the target of a series of modern utopian and revolutionary ideologies, culminating in fascism and communism. These movements evoked what had been living symbols for medieval Europe—such as “salvation,” “the end times,” and the “communion of the saints”—but as the revolutionaries had lost touch with the spiritual foundation of those symbols, they perverted them into political slogans, such as “emancipation of the proletariat,” “the communist utopia,” and “the revolutionary vanguard.”

Slogans brings us full circle to the messianic madness surrounding President Obama. Sloganizing has an interesting history when it comes to regimes that push an immanentization of the eschaton. Mr. Obama, of course, is not averse to advertising his utopian plans. His over-hyped ambiguous 2008 campaign jingles “hope and change” and “change we can believe in” ostensibly heralded a political era of bi-partisanship and transparency to be led by Mr. Obama’s Solomon-like wisdom. Instead those jingles portended an Obama administration that wrought governmental overreach, disdain for the Constitution, economic misery, criminal cronyism, international chaos and elevated political partisanship to unprecedented heights.

Of course every political candidate utilizes catchy slogans to slap on a bumper sticker to capture the essence of why they should be elected. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign slogan was his patriotic “Believe in America” message. But what differentiates Mr. Obama’s slogans from other candidates is how his messages seems to veer off from a belief in American exceptionalism toward some abstract version of America requiring radical change the details of which Mr. Obama keeps tucked away in his mind, not willing to share the sordid details with the electorate.
 For his 2012 re-election campaign Mr. Obama abandoned his “hopey/changy” mottos, probably because they were rife with ridicule given his atrocious record, e.g., “how’s that hope and change working out for you?” But he replaced his 2008 abstract axioms with a more direct but foreboding one-word mantra that has totalitarian and tyrannical political undertones: “Forward”. It is both interesting and understandable that the President chose “Forward”. Victor Morton of the Washington Times points out the motto “Forward” has a long history in socialist circles. Morton writes that, 

“The name Forward carries a special meaning in socialist political terminology. It has been frequently used as a name for socialist, communist and other left-wing newspapers and publications. The slogan “Forward!” reflected the conviction of European Marxists and radicals that their movements reflected the march of history, which would move forward past capitalism and into socialism and communism.” 

One would have to suspend disbelief to think it is simply coincidental that the president selected a campaign motto that has such a rich socialist/communist heritage. The Obama machine is very meticulous when it comes to planning their campaign strategies. Think manufactured GOP war on woman.  

There is historical precedence when it comes to sloganizing plans for a utopia. The French, Russian and Nazi revolutionaries also attempted to create nirvanas on earth. The French revolutionaries and communists shared slogans in promoting their plans for paradisos with phrases such as “human rights”, and freedom, equality and fraternity”. Nazi Germany put their campaign word “Forward” to a Nazi marching tune. Another coincidence for the Obama campaign? Hitler’s thoughts on creating the Nazi paradise  were made evident when he stated, “Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.” 

Michael Oakeshott once remarked, “The project of finding a short cut to heaven is as old as the human race.”  History has borne out the failure of those regimes that sought to create a heaven on earth. Now it’s Mr. Obama’s shot at immanentizing the eschaton. If his presidential record to date is any predictor of his version of heaven on earth, I’m all for a terrestrial hell.

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Dennis Gallagher

Dennis Gallagher is a Republican Committeeman and the founder and editor of Political Policy at www.politicalpolicy.net. He is a traditional conservative, and his chief inspirations on political thought are Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, Jr. Russell Kirk is widely regarded as the principal intellectual founder of the American conservative movement. To quote Kirk, “The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata.” Dennis Gallagher has a B.S. and M.S. in Business Administration from Drexel University and is pursuing a M.A. in History with a concentration in American History at American Public University.

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