“We heard God speak here today!” shouted Senator Dewey Short above the din on the floor of Congress. “God in the flesh! The voice of God!”
There was pandemonium in the room, as people jumped over one another to touch the man. Others were literally prostrating themselves before him. It was April 17, 1951, and General Douglas MacArthur had just given his farewell address to a joint session of Congress. Afterwards, Herbert Hoover said he was a “reincarnation of St. Paul,” while a woman from New Jersey was a little more praiseworthy, claiming, “he has the attributes of God: he is kind and merciful and firm and just.”
About seven years earlier, MacArthur had broadcast to the people upon his prophesied re-conquest of the Philippines in WWII: “I have returned...The hour of you redemption is here...Rally to me!”
Let me disclose that I actually hold Douglas MacArthur in high regard; much higher than the other WWII generals: Eisenhower, Patton, Marshall. Nonetheless, MacArthur for a period of time had become an idol, dare I say an anti-Christ figure.
The anti-Christ is often portrayed in literature—see The Lord of the World or Father Elijah—as a mesmerizing, attractive figure. MacArthur was certainly this. He was revered. Hundreds of thousands paraded him alone when he returned from Korea, and even an army chaplain, Father Haggerty, told him to his face, “Your calmness makes me brave.” During the occupation of Japan, Shintos thought the Supreme Commander was descended from a god.
It is instances like this in the American opus that I am grateful for the separation of the Church and State, even secularism. MacArthur could have become a god. But he didn't. America let this old soldier simply fade away.