The Gnosticism of Barack Obama

Eric Voegelin, one of the great political philosophers of the last century (1901-1985), professed no religion, but he recognized its falsifications. After extensively studying early Christianity, he found “Gnosticism” to render intelligible certain twentieth century movements like Nazism. Gnosticism, as he understood it, spins an ideology within which all reality becomes refashioned and so falsified. Gnosticism is “existence in rebellion against God and man.” Gnostic ideology, which for Voegelin included Marxism, precipitates a “gnostic rebellion” whereby God becomes solely identified as a category of human consciousness. Once this step is taken, the “god of consciousness” can then be remade or simply “unmade,” thereby opening the way for a complete makeover of man, woman, and society. Pope John III published an anathema against them in the year 561: “If anyone introduces some other names of the Godhead in addition to the Holy Trinity because, as he says, there is in the Godhead himself a Trinity of the Trinity, just as the Gnostics and Priscillians have stated, let him be anathema.”

Early Christian Gnostics conceived a division in God prior to creation wherein the material world became the production of the “lesser god” of the division. It led Gnostics to devalue the material world within which a select few possessed a “spark” of divinity, experienced as longing for the “true God” beyond hapless matter. The escape route was gnosis (Greek) or knowledge, a type of “awakening” that not all were capable of undergoing. The Gnostics envisioned all men and women in three categories: the “spiritual” elite, the “psychic” or soul-full, and the “material” or materially immersed. Unlike the spiritual ones who readily awakened to their destiny, the psychics could be saved, but only with difficulty, while the materially immersed were incapable of salvific enlightenment. Most women belonged to the third category, since from them came more matter in the form of children in marriage which, in turn, led Gnostics to devalue marriage. Gnostic reinvention is well illustrated in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (written between 140-180 AD) wherein Peter protests to Jesus about Mary, his mother: “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus responds: “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males.”

Gnostics suffer imprisonment from limits imposed by matter, which contradicts Christian teaching regarding the Fall as source of human suffering. We suffer from sin and evil. The creation accounts in Scripture “suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin” (Laudato Si, #66). Division between soul and body means death for us and we are incapable of mending the divide. The Gnostic ideologue, on the other hand, “knows” the future and systematically seeks to realize it here and now, not through faith in Christ, but through total confidence in the power of human knowledge and agency. But Christ, and he alone, has power to “change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Phil. 3:21). It is against this power of Christ, to whom God has “subjected everything” (1 Cor. 15:28), that the Gnostic (unwittingly?) rebels. Adolf Hitler, a self-styled secular messiah, could have resolved all history around himself, if he’d had power sufficient to unseat Christ, “the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it” (Bl. Paul VI, Philippines, 1970). Instead as Jesus warned would happen (Mark 8:36), Hitler destroyed himself, eventually committing suicide, and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

President Barack Obama has spun an ideology to which all other narratives, including Sacred Scripture, must submit (e.g., the HHS Mandate). He is less a politician and more an ideologue. Obama is a reality fabricator, as when the Benghazi attacks were attributed to a YouTube video, showing characteristics of a Gnostic “awakening.” In February of 1996, for example, Barack Obama, then running for the IL State Senate, typed and signed his responses to a questionnaire sent him by a Chicago gay and lesbian newspaper. He declared: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages” (Windy City Times, Jan 14, 2009). Fast forward to Barack Obama, Presidential candidate in 2008 who, when asked to “define marriage” by Rick Warren at the Saddleback Civil Forum, said: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman (applause). Now, for me as a Christian—for me—for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.” David Axelrod, political strategist for Obama’s 2008 campaign, wrote in his recent book Believer (2015) that Obama purposely misled the nation on this issue in 2008. Obama had always favored same-sex “marriage” and later feigned “going through an evolution on this issue” as president (ABC Interview, R. Roberts, May 9, 2012).

This might appear to be political opportunism, or simply lying, but it is much more. A liar simply lies, but an ideologue enlists the aid of other “enlightened ones” and sends them out into the public forum like “talking heads,” all with the same fabricated “sound bite.” Obama’s Gnosticism is still further illustrated by his recently authorizing the erection of the first National Monument to the Gay Rights Movement at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village (June 27, 2016). Politically he had little to gain by doing this, but it did further solidify his gender ideology as social policy in the United States once he’s gone.

Yet even here, there’s still more than just social policy for Obama; there’s revolt! A Romanian laywoman and medical doctor, Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, addressed the Ordinary Synod on the Family at the Vatican in the Fall of 2015. She spoke of “classical Marxism” whereby land and property were seized, but that now we’ve moved to “cultural Marxism” and “gender ideology,” a new type of revolution: “Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to redefine family, sex identity and human nature. This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world. It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.” Obama’s gender ideology shows little regard for God (God’s not in the mix), for marriage and the differences prevailing between the sexes, male and female. His revolt has reinvented society, pursuing laws to ensure and protect newly erected structures for marriage, restrooms, the military, public schools (sex education), the family tax and benefits code, and many others, all in less than eight years.

The disregard for marriage also suggests a devaluation of matter. This Gnostic quality rears its ugly head particularly in Obama’s radical position on abortion: the “choice” of a woman creates value for the child in the womb. State Senator Obama (1996-2004) voted against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act four times (2001-2004), effectively favoring failed-abortion infants born alive to be left untreated to die; the child is unwanted by the woman and so has no value. During his 2008 presidential campaign, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama spoke of his two daughters when asked about HIV/AIDS and STDs among young girls: “I’m going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” This statement goes beyond devaluing children in the womb (mere “blobs of flesh”). Now a baby born through a “mistake” is viewed as “punishment,” a degrading caricature approaching justification for infanticide.

There’s also an arrogance evident at times in the president, suggesting an elitist mindset. In 2009 President Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, telling Leno how he recently scored 129 in bowling. Leno replied, somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “That’s very good, Mr. President” to which Obama responded, laughing: “It’s like—it was like the Special Olympics or something.” The incident blew over in the press as a mere faux pas, nothing more than a joke in bad taste. But what about Obama telling voters at a Boston fundraiser in 2010 that Democrats have hit hard times “because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared”? Obama “knows” better and so will voters once they calm down and “know” the facts. Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan was: “Change Can Happen.” What kind of change? We now “know.” One by one the barriers have fallen to President Obama’s “gnostic revolt,” and few dared challenge him for fear of being called “racist.” But Obama’s race does not account for his revolution; it is ideology, fueling his revolt against “God and man,” remaking God and the practice of religion, remaking man, woman, society, and its institutions, even if it means disregard for the U.S. Constitution and its limits on executive power. It is Gnosticism.

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta.)

Fr. Daniel Pattee, TOR

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Fr. Daniel Pattee, TOR is Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Mission and Franciscan Charism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned his S.T.L. from the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage & Family in Rome and his doctorate in philosophy from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

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