Holy Trinity Oil Anointing for Obama the King?

I’m an agnostic, and believe strongly in the separation of church and state.

And I also think that it is dangerous to talk about presidents in the language of royalty.

But I actually found this ritual to be sincere—and even a little bit moving.

These three religious conservatives probably didn’t vote for Obama, and their prayers betray more than a little anxiety about him, but they seem to be doing their best to wish him well, and we’re a diverse country, so live and let live:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Holy Trinity Oil Anointing for Obama the King?

  1. Jared says:


    Interesting post as always.

    I’ve been thinking about your take (and Hedges’ and others’) on the nature of the Christian right. While I don’t deny that there is (was? Is the “Christian right” dying?) a definite tone of authoritarianism within the movement, I wonder if you have missed what I consider to be the real danger of the movement: that it was radically libertarian in ideology, not authoritarian?

    Have you read George Lakoff? I think he tends to agree with me here. If you haven’t already looked at it, his book “Moral Politics” offers a fascinating take on conservatives and liberals, their views of their fathers and God, and how this impacts their respective politics.

    Lakoff says that because American conservatives think of their fathers/God as strict disciplinarians, this leads them to adopt, not authoritarian political views, but radically libertarian views: i.e. “keep the government small and out of everyone’s business (including the business of regulation and social justice) because to do otherwise is to get in the way of God disciplining the poor and immoral for their slothful ways.” This has led to radical deregulation, underfunded programs of every kind, and even the detestable government response to Katrina.

    I couldn’t agree more with Lakoff, which is why I always find it curious that you, and Hedges, and others, see conservative Christians as an authoritarian threat to American values (granted, there is something to that view). I think the greater threat, by far, is the conservative Christian opposition to social justice programs, safety regulation, and programs for the underprivileged.

    This is a great lecture by Lakoff if you have the time:

    I’d be interesting to hear your thoughts—but no worries if you can’t spare the time.

  2. santitafarella says:


    It’s interesting that both people you bring up—Hedges and Lakoff—have been truly formative influences on my own thought.

    Of contemporary political-cultural observers, I would say that I find myself resonating most closely with Chris Hedges, secondly Christopher Hitchens, and thirdly Andrew Sullivan.

    As for Lakoff, I know his work primarily as a Berkeley linguist and have followed his academic books on CONCEPTUAL METAPHOR with a good deal of attention. He has books that range from analyses of poetry to philosophy (using CONCEPTUAL METAPHOR).

    I didn’t know about his analysis of the father figure in conservatism translating into libertarian politics. I’d have to think about that.

    And I’ll listen to the lecture you suggest, and get back to you on that after I’ve heard it and have thought about it some more.

    As for my perspective on conservatism and authoritarianism going hand in hand, I’ll recommend this book to you to put on loan at your library. It is by an academic, but written with verve and clarity, and it is a Harvard imprint: “The Authoritarian Specter” by Altemeyer.

    The amazon page for this book is here: http://www.amazon.com/Authoritarian-Specter-Robert-Altemeyer/dp/0674053052/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232334900&sr=1-1


  3. Jared says:

    Thanks. I’ll have a look at the book you recommended.

  4. Will D. says:

    santitafarella –

    I just stumbled across a few of your blogs and must say-
    ‘What a great place to fall into’. So thank you.

    Regarding Altemeyer- Are you familiar with the following study?
    (I haven’t read “The Authoritarian Specter” but would strongly speculate that following is in there.)

    SOURCE- Wikipedia- “In a study by Altemeyer, 68 authoritarians played a three hour simulation of the earth’s future entitled the Global Challenge Game. Unlike a comparison game played by individuals with low RWA scores, the simulation by authoritarians became highly militarized and eventually entered the stage of nuclear war. By the end of the high RWA game, the entire population of the earth was declared dead.”

    I came across this last year and couldn’t post it enough for all the intrepid intellectuals on Youtube calling for Obama’s death. (Not that it would help given that it’s probably the equivalent of calling out an alcoholic.) 😉

    But either way- Good Stuff.

  5. santitafarella says:

    Will D:

    Yes, the Altemeyer quote you offer above is a fair summary of one of the chapters in Altemeyer’s book, “The Authoritarian Specter.”

    He devotes a whole chapter, as I recall, to the earth simulation game.

    Hope you keep coming around to see what’s going on at this blog.

    I’ll try to keep it perky.


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