Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Wright vs. Hagee—A Tale of Two Crazies?

Posted in Barack Obama by allisonkilkenny on April 28, 2008

Columbia Journalism Review: The McCain-Hagee Connection

“Why is the press ignoring this hate-monger?” This gives a quick and accurate summary of Hagee’s bigoted, insane rhetoric, including quotations. If you read any of this post, please read this first, for context.

Hardball: Pastor Hagee vs. Reverend Wright — Should the Media Pay Attention to the Words of Church Men?

Chris Matthews’ interview (above) is enlightening, though I disagree with the people interviewed who thought we’re looking too closely at the role of the Church in politics. With every election it seems the Religious Right grabs for more power, and it would be disastrously foolish to ignore the religious influences on Bush’s foreign policy (and so, SO much more). It’s important to note any and all associates of political influence on the candidates, whether or not their occupation is a religious one. For this reason, it IS relevant to investigate how religious endorsements (like every other kind of endorsement) affect the policies of presidential candidates.

Now, although Obama never sought an official endorsement from his hot-headed church man, I think it was legitimate to question Barack Obama about his ties to Wright because of his life-long relationship with him. Yes, the reverend’s sound bites were inflammatory. (Watching the entire speech, which begins at minute six of this clip, reveals his sermon was about the ultimate failure of governments which oppress). Obama’s response to the media’s frenzy over them, however, was to clearly denounce all hateful rhetoric and to begin a more genuine discussion of race than the American public has had in decades. From this time on, the media *should* bear responsibility for continuing the discussion about race, NOT continue to childishly harp on controversial, out-of-context statements someone else made and which Obama has categorically denounced.

In contrast, McCain actively sought Hagee’s endorsement in order to gain the evangelical vote. He has courted the Radical Religious during his entire presidential campaign, even going so far as to backpedal over a previous statement that Falwell was an “agent of intolerance.” When questioned about Hagee’s anti-Catholicism, McCain offered a quick and bland statement that he doesn’t support anything anti-Catholic. None of the other bigoted, crazy, hateful, or apocalyptic statements made by Hagee prevented McCain from embracing him as a respectable religious leader.

To see the important difference between Obama’s response and McCain’s response, just imagine if Obama had spent months trying to get the political support of life-long, infamous bigots, then, every time he criticized an unsavory statement made by said idiots, he undercut it with a “golly gee, that fella sure is a beacon of morality!” That would approximate McCain’s attitude towards John Hagee, (the late) Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley, and many more like them.

Or, here’s another way to look at it…

Wright’s offensive sound bites were based on anger over injustice and distrust of governments, especially any government which claims god-like moral superiority even as it commits injustices. In other words, it was about APPRECIATING THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, because religion *should* transcend all civic exercises towards justice. I do not, for one minute, think that Barack Obama possesses overwhelming pessimism about the American government or its ability to embrace true justice; or why would he have run for senator, much less president of the United States? The idea that an attitude of “Damn America!” is in any way a part of Barack’s political attitude is beyond nonsense.

Hagee’s offensiveness goes beyond mere words into the actions of his life work. Rather than a distrust of mixing religion with politics, Hagee spends most of his waking hours motivating his flock to mix them. (Besides being a televangelist reminding followers to vote along religious lines, he’s also the president of Christians United For Israel, a movement to protect the nation of Israel in order to bring the fulfillment of End Times prophecies.) Hagee represents masses of like-minded people whom John McCain at first rejected as extremists but now embraces as an integral force in his presidential run. Worries that rhetoric by the Self-Righteously Religious might influence a McCain presidency are already being fulfilled. McCain strongly supports Israel and champions Hagee’s support of Israel (which I have no opinion on, because I’ve never researched the situation for myself). It’s also likely that he agrees with them regarding matters of contraception and abortion, gay rights, and who knows how many other issues. Does he believe the End Times are imminent, as Hagee does? If so, would that affect his environmental policy (which is much, much weaker than both Hillary’s and Obama’s)? There are so many insane things Hagee has said, I don’t want to imagine the destruction he’d wreak with a president who actually takes him seriously as a spiritual figure. And don’t even get me started on the rest of the evangelical movement, all of whom McCain now adores.

The only thing scarier than a politician with cronies in the Religious Right is a politician who IS a crony of the Religious Right. That’s precisely what I fear McCain would be.

To balance out the news coverage, I provide links! Here are clips about four of McCain’s most notorious associates and endorsers, all of whose support he actively sought prior to (and especially during) his 2008 presidential run:

John Hagee on YouTube
Rod Parsley on YouTube
Pat Robertson on YouTube
Jerry Falwell on YouTube

If you’re still interested, here’s more on Hagee:

PBS: Christians United for Israel

“BILL MOYERS JOURNAL reports on the politically powerful group Christians United for Israel, whose leader, Pastor John Hagee, advocates for a preemptive strike against Iran.” Click here for the transcript.

NPR: Pastor John Hagee on Christian Zionism

“John Hagee is the founder of the Christian Zionist group, Christians United for Israel. He is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Church an evangelical church in San Antonio, Texas. He is also the author of a number of books; his most recent is Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World.” This interview includes his homophobic remarks about Katrina.

Right Wing Watch: John Hagee archives

Regular updates about Hagee’s insanity and bigotry, and McCain’s constantly flip-flopping relationship with him. These two articles are particularly good: McCain Has It Both Ways with Hagee and McCain Brags of “Close Relations” With Evangelicals, Hagee

Evangelical Right: John Hagee Archives

In case you were wondering when Radical Religious political power began in America:

Associated Baptist Press: Ronald Reagan’s ascent to office paralleled rise of Religious Right

“At the Religious Roundtable’s National Affairs Briefing in 1980, after being introduced by a Southern Baptist evangelist as ‘God’s man,’ Reagan — then a presidential candidate — told the gathering of conservative Christian luminaries, ‘I know you can’t endorse me, but I endorse you.’ Reagan’s quip launched a relationship with conservative Christians that would eventually reshape America’s political landscape.”

Finally, because I think, if we are to judge Reverend Wright, we owe him the chance to explain himself, please click here to view or read his interview with Bill Moyers in full: Bill Moyers interviews Reverend Wright.

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