Obama issues altar call —young people respond

As Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention, Twitter commenced nearly exploding.  According to Twitter, as Obama spoke there were 52,757 tweets per minute; Romney had 14,289 tweets per minute. Tweets won’t win the White House, but they reveal that young people are more in-step with the Obama campaign. Secondly, and more importantly, Obama issued the first altar call many of those young people ever heard, though they wouldn’t know it as such.

In fact, Google reports that when Barack Obama’s speech ended at 11:03 p.m., Google searches for “register to vote” doubled nationwide. Arguably, those “searches” could have been by those who wanted to make sure they were registered to vote against Obama. However, given that the Twittersphere was so abuzz with Obama, it’s possible Obama rallied many new voters.

Obama’s altar call didn’t arrive with stanza after stanza of “Just As I Am,” but rather two words: choice and choose. Obama used the word “choose” 10 times. Each time it was associated with “path” or “future,” except one, and that was “leadership.” He was calling for people to make a new start, choose a different future than other options. For the word “choice,” used 10 times too, he made sure that it was defined as an option between his leadership and other leadership, and a choice for America.

There are those that would disagree with me, and say that I am taking quite a liberal interpretation of what Obama was accomplishing. But hear this: Obama asked people to make a choice, and they were presented with options. Obama acted like an old time preacher that lays out the path of good and evil.

Young people have typically responded strongly to Obama, but I think there’s another, deeper reason. In a world where the religious voice has dwindled because it has become watered down by pursuit of political power or fear, Obama revives that religious voice within the American people. It’s not so much that he appeals to people, as he makes appeals for people to act.

The Christian voice helped create a sentiment of action and work within the American experience. Whether the Protestant work ethic or the Great Awakenings, a revivalist spirit has been bred into the American psyche. This isn’t the first, or last, time Obama will rejuvenate this spirit. Americans want to be rallied, made to choose, and challenged. The rhetoric was fiery, and some may have needed an “anxious bench” during Obama’s speech. He made an appeal, an opportunity for change that Romney did not.

In my youth I witnessed many altar calls, and yes, I eventually walked the aisle. Whether we sit on the right or left side of the aisle it’s important to recognize that for the first time in some Americans’ lives they witnessed an altar call. There were no crosses, no Bibles, or arguments over how many were actually new converts. There were only choices: the path of righteousness, and the path of unrighteousness. Times, they be changing—in fact, they already have.

Zachary Bailes

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About the Author
Bailes holds a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is the Editor of Crazy Liberals and Conservatives, a website dedicated to engaging the intersection of faith and public life.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705348649 Maggie Sullivan

    I hear you. I’ve sensed something similar. Still, I fear my own impulse to put Obama in the role of a religious or spiritual figure. Something tells me it’s better for everyone involved, him included, though, if we let him remain just another deeply flawed mortal like the rest of us. Would love to hear what others think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705348649 Maggie Sullivan

    I hear you. I’ve sensed something similar. Still, I fear my impulse to make Obama a religious or spiritual figure (think that’s more up to God and time, rather than me). Something tells me it’s better for everyone involved, him included, if I personally call him just another deeply flawed mortal like the rest of us. Would love to hear what others think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29801772 Sarah Todrick

    I wonder, though, if the role of the president isn’t a bit of a spiritual role. He is, whether fairly or unfairly, put upon a platform as a role model and example for the rest of the country. In a way, I view him as a secular version of a pastor. He is a leader who views his role as somewhat  of an educator, I think. And whether you are secular or spiritual, when put in that position, there is a heavy burden felt to make people aware of their choices and the consequences of those choices. As an educator myself, I have felt this many times when trying to impart the importance of choosing the path you take in life.

    I do agree that it is dangerous for everyone involved to cast him in any sort of messianic light, but the reality of the situation is that for many secular people, the president is the most important cultural figure in their lives. (Even those of us that do consider ourselves spiritual look up to and respect the role of the president…most of us anyways). 

    To address the above commenter (Maggie), I like your phrasing in the following sentence: “Something tells me it’s better for everyone involved, him included, though, if we let him remain just another deeply flawed mortal like the rest of us.”
    I very much agree that we should let him remain a deeply flawed individual, but I think it’s a false dichotomy to assume that deeply flawed individuals cannot effect profound change and ask us to make a choice about the future. Ref: Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King…. the list goes on.  You don’t need to be perfect to be profound or make a profound difference.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705348649 Maggie Sullivan

      Yes, I agree with everything you say, including 1) “You don’t need to be perfect to be profound or make a profound difference,” and 2) that presidency is a spiritual role. With that *being* so true of presidency — alongside the role’s kind of unimaginable worldly power, *and* the very gifted Obama in there — I’ve recently caught my lazy brain overfocusing on #2 and completely forgetting #1, though, and thought I might not be the only one. I really do think it’s more harmful to him than anyone, if we lose sight of his human failings, and I selfishly want him at his best up there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.lundquist.184 Eric Lundquist

      Interesting concept Sarah. Especially since some view our constitution as though it were a holy text!
      And i did enjoy the altar call analogy in the article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Johnny-Ward/100002466030200 Johnny Ward

    [Yo ABP. Just ran into this on the web. Any reaction?]

               We Are In Obama’s Dark Night !

         A night of spiritual, social, mental, and economic darkness that he has created for us!

         Are you aware that Barack Hussein Obama can be found in the Bible?
         Proverbs 19:10 (NIV): “It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury – how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!”
         Also Proverbs 30:22 (NIV) which says that the earth cannot bear up under “a servant who becomes king.”
         And Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 (KJV) advises: “let thy words be few…a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.”
         Although Obama is not descended from slaves, he may feel that he’s destined to become a black-slavery avenger.
         Or maybe an enslaver of all free citizens!
    For some stunning info on Obama and his fellow subversives, Google or
    MSN the newest versions of “Obama Promotes Public Sex,” “Michelle
    Obama’s Allah-day,” “David Letterman’s Hate Etc.,” “Un-Americans Fight
    Franklin Graham” and also “Sandra Bernhard, Larry David, Kathy Griffin,
    Bill Maher, Joan Rivers, Sarah Silverman.” Also Google “The Background
    Obama Can’t Cover Up” and “Prof. F. N. Lee’s ISLAM IN THE BIBLE [PDF].”
      PS – Since Christians are commanded to ask God to send severe
    judgment on persons who commit and support the worst forms of evil (see I
    Cor. 5 and note “taken away”), Christians everywhere should constantly
    pray that the Lord will soon “take away” or at least overthrow all US
    leaders who continue to sear their conscience and arrogantly trample the
    God-given rights of the majority including the rights of the unborn. Do
    we need a second American Revolution?
         PPS – For a rare look at
    the 182-year-old endtime belief which has long neutralized many American
    patriots by promising them an “imminent rapture” off earth – which has
    diverted them away from being prepared to stand against all enemies,
    domestic as well as foreign – Google or MSN “Pretrib Rapture
    Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Edward Irving is Unnerving,”
    “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Christ’s Return is NOT Imminent,” “Roots of
    Warlike Christian Zionism” and “Pretrib Rapture Politics” – all by the
    author of the bestselling nonfiction book “The Rapture Plot” (the most
    accurate and highly endorsed documentation on the pretrib rapture’s
    long-covered-up-but-now-revealed beginnings in Britain in 1830 – see
    Armageddon Books).

         A Kansas Patriot  (who won FIRST PLACE over 2200 entrants in a nationwide Americanism essay contest)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705348649 Maggie Sullivan

      Meh. Kinda sad’s all.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eric.lundquist.184 Eric Lundquist

        Meh does seem to say it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GO7MJ4CDQBB6NZAYSVQ7HPXJSU Jack

    Remember we will always have false prophets with pretty words that are really words from a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • Darren Thomas

    Obama does issue somewhat of an altar call.  And the call he extends is not one of self denial and submission to a higher power.  The call he issues is a call to self-empowerment, social justice at the expense of making the benevolent decisions of others, and moral irresponsibility.  His speech is smooth, but his ideology is anything but smooth.  Yes- Obama issues a marvelous altar call, but not all altars are worthy of a response.

  • georgin

    Oh, for the wisdom to recognize a charlatan before we are ensnared by glib speech,  gilt promises and the glorious future painted by the speaker who asks for our blind trust.  We can recognize false preachers and charlatan politicians by their fruits.  Examine visually, but also apply the smell test of common sense.  The worst  mistake is the one made twice.