Worshiping Obama

Two weeks ago on a Sunday evening, I heard for the first time a spiritual hymn called “Sanctuary” when a visitor to our congregation taught us the a cappella version. Moments ago, I heard the slightly altered central refrain of that song again, this time set to music and in a political context rather than a spiritual one.

Or maybe not. As performed by folk musician Billy Jonas, “Sanctuary” is now part of an online video mash-up that sings worshipful praise to Barack Obama, the Democrat with a presidential campaign of messianic proportions.

The video is the centerpiece of a Web site dubbed Manifest Obama, which is the brainchild of James McMahon and Lauren Rosenfeld. As Jonas sings in the background, Obama supporters filmed this month at a rally in Asheville, N.C., say to the camera, “President Barack Obama.”

Interspersed among the clips are these words:

Between now and November 4, let's all spend one minute a day envisioning Barack Obama as our president. Prepare your heart to fill with hope. Prepare your mind to embrace the change. Envision Barack victorious on Election Night, taking the oath of office on Inauguration Day.

Believe that this great moment in American history is already a reality. Say the words to yourself, to your family, to your friends and neighbors. Say it to the world: Your vision is a sacred trust. You are the sanctuary of a sacred vision, for a renewed America.

Envision it, say it, feel it, believe it. Make it our reality. Manifest Obama, America!

Jonas' lyrics consist of a mere 22 words: “Love prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for you.”

But the original version of the song uses the word “Lord” instead of love, and it is a song about Jesus Christ. Here are those lyrics:

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for You.

It is you, Lord, who came to save, the heart and soul of every man. It is you, Lord, who knows my weakness, who gives me strength with thine own hand.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for you.

Lead Me on, Lord, from temptation. Purify me from within. Fill my heart with Your Holy Spirit. Take away all my sin.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary. Pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for You.

Cast in that light, the new Obama video, which McMahon plugged on the Obama campaign's community Web site, may have a different meaning, especially to Christians who know the words and music written by John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs in 1982.

K. Daniel Glover is Executive Producer of Eyeblast.tv, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.