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Looking for a saviour in all the wrong places

As I write this on Tuesday the world waits with baited breath for the inauguration of Barack Obama as forty-fourth president of the United States. He is hailed as some sort of messiah, the bringer of hope, the solution to America’s, and hence the world’s, problems.

He’s young and charismatic—and he comes to the forefront at a troubled time. What colossal expectations perch on his shoulders. So much hype, so much anticipation; much of it seemingly placed there by a country seeking to atone for its racist past and heaping all its hopes, dreams and penance on this one man.

I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a sacrificial lamb.

You know how it is—we unrealistically place all our hopes on someone, and then when they fail to live up to this improbable ideal we turn on them with savage ferocity, disappointed far more at ourselves than at them, but not having the wit to realise it. Just like the English media does every four years when it finds that its football team aren’t world beaters!

And then starts the recriminations, the blaming, the finger-pointing, the criticisms.

We have looked for a messiah, and they have failed.

Brian Cowen and co. are getting it at the minute. The rugby team will likely get it by the end of the six-nations, for we’ll have looked at them to lift our spirits out of recessional gloom. And we’ll fire Declan Kidney for not being the saviour of Irish rugby and for failing to reverse the economic downturn.

Of course the reality is that we keep looking for a messiah in all the wrong places. And when it comes to the one who is the Messiah we look to him for all the wrong reasons.

We look to Barack Obama to solve the global financial crisis, to bring inter-racial harmony, to solve the crime problem in America, to deal with the carnage in Gaza and to bring peace to both Afghanistan and Iraq—tasks that lie more in the realm of what a god could do. Whether it’s our elected representatives or even our football or rugby teams, we look to them to bring about things far beyond their abilities. That’s unfair—that’s not what they signed up for.

On the other hand we look to Jesus for all the wrong reasons—to sort out our dodgy knee, to find us a parking space, to help us win the Lotto, to get us out of this fix or that. It’s not a Saviour we want, but a supernatural personal assistant/medical expert/lucky star. Then we blame him for not dancing to our tune. That’s unfair—that’s not what he came for.

Of course if he really is God, then he wouldn’t be fitting to our agenda, but calling us to fit into his. But we don’t like to think about that, and instead we persist with looking for saviours amongst our politicians or whatever other heroes we choose, and we dump the small-fry stuff on Jesus.

And when neither of them live up to our unfair, unwarranted expectations we hang them out to dry, proclaiming all along that we knew better.

If we really knew better, we’d look in the right place.

Mark Loughridge is the minister of Milford Reformed Presbyterian Church. He can be contacted on 074 9123961 or You can read more or listen online at