Obama called us to our better selves today. Never mind that! Here's the latest new outrage from Obama's pastor! FOX News, CNN, MSNBC are all about to start playing new secret footage of Rev. Wright screaming:
If you lust after any woman grab a knife and gouge out your right eye and throw it in the trash. And if you're going to use your hand for masturbation cut it off or you're going to hell. I haven't come here to make peace but to bring war. I'm here to set a man against and his father and a daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me and who doesn't want to get killed for me is damned. You mess with my people and you'll wish you'd hanged a stone around your neck and drowned yourself before I'm done with you!
Except, Obama's pastor didn't say any of that -- Jesus did.
So I guess all Christians must be disqualified from running for president. How can we trust any candidate that follows a violent Jewish-supremacist like Jesus? He called a woman of another race a dog just for talking to him! He said his enemies would all burn in a lake of fire...
There may be a few secularists out there who have never been to old-time church but the rest of us know that hyperbole, overstatement and ranting and raving (from the left or right) is a time honored style of preaching in just about every denomination -- other than in particularly boring Unitarian churches.
Religious biblical overstatement started with Jesus, actually with God the Father, who tended to do things like kill the whole of humankind to make a point to Noah. Most churchgoing Christians know how to take this stuff in the Bible, or from our preachers. That's why most Christians don't lop off their arms and penises when they feel lust. That's why even though Jesus said he only came to save Jews some of us "filthy dogs" (as Jesus called non-Jews) still believe in him. That is why reasonable people of good will who hear a black (or white) pastor saying "God damn America" in the context of a moralistic tirade know they're watching theater.
But fair is fair. So where are the clips of me in Falwell's pulpit (back in the early 1980s before I dropped out of the evangelical movement) preaching to five thousand cheering white fundamentalists while I shouted; "God hates America for the murder of the unborn! We should be destroyed!"
When my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- and I were the guests of Jerry Falwell at Liberty Baptist College, Falwell said to us quite casually and seriously, while speaking of the "homosexual problem," that: "If I had a dog that did what they do I take it out and shoot it." And when it came to saying God was damning America he and Pat Robertson sided with the 9/11 hijackers by saying the terrorist's actions served America right and were God's punishment. Yet John McCain went to Liberty Baptist College and spoke for Falwell, in order to "mend fences" with the Religious Right. He said he no longer believed that Falwell was "an agent of intolerance." And Rudy Giuliani gladly accepted Robertson's endorsement. So much for the Republican "mainstream."
Fair is fair. So where are the clips -- playing incessantly next to Hillary Clinton's picture -- of her antiwar friends and Bill Clinton's fellow draft dodger members of the New Left, cursing and damning America during Vietnam War protests and since? The company that Bill and Hillary kept in the late 1960s through the 1970s was defined by damning America and sometimes by rooting for the North Vietnamese. Anti-American spewing also came from left wing white preachers. Read the fiery sermons of the late Episcopal bishop of New York Paul Moore, Jr. who raged against America.
Bishop Moore, in his 1997 autobiography, Presences: A Bishop's Life in the City, wrote that the end of the Cold War had left the United States "like a wounded rooster crowing on the top of the dung heap." Blaming "corporate greed and lust" as well as "unbridled nationalism" for manufacturing causes for war, Moore cursed America as often as he served communion.
McCain is an Episcopalian. Where are the clips of the anti-American rantings of Bishop Moore and not a few other Episcopalian pastors and bishops, next to McCain's picture?
Want to play this smear-by-association game? Okay, while McCain was a prisoner of war his bishop Moore was rooting for McCain's torturers. How can McCain be a member of that denomination and be a real American, let alone commander in chief? Isn't it time he explains his anti-American white associations? Isn't it time McCain gives a speech to explain what it means to be a white in bed with hate-America white liberals..?
Okay, I'm being sarcastic, this is silly. And that's the point. From the other guy's point of view all religion and politics is extreme.
Preaching is a style of communication with its own cadences that is easy to mock and/or twist-by-sound-bite. The Clinton's smear machine, now tied to the FOX smear-machine, is playing a very dirty game. And the Clinton's know better.
As I recall both Clintons have been in plenty of black churches and understand the preaching style. If the Clintons were authentic progressives, or even authentic patriots, or just ordinary decent Americans, or just members of the Democratic Party who wanted their party to win in November, they would have led a furious defense of Obama and his pastor by putting things in perspective.
If the Clintons were decent people Obama would never have had to give a speech on being black and being a presidential candidate, let alone explain his pastor. The Clintons would have stepped up for him. And if FOX News, MSNBC, CNN et al. weren't playing a filthy game for ratings this wouldn't be a story.
As Obama said in his March 18, speech:
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination -- and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past -- are real and must be addressed.
Part of that discrimination that needs addressing is to stop playing the sorts of games that have been played by the white Republicans and the Clintons.
As Jesus said to the Pharisees: "Ye hypocrites!"
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of "CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It