As I watch the Obama/Wright flap, I find myself engulfed in mixed emotions. I always enjoy seeing a fool grilled for his foolishness, and the good reverend has certainly provided plenty of that. I've gotten to where I expect a good dose of it from anyone with that title. Who can forget Pat Robertson blaming 9/11 on gays and the ACLU, or claiming he prayed for God to kill people with a hurricane in another state? And yet Robertson's voice is still given considerable respect in our political matters. Ditto for the late ingrate Jerry Falwell, and of course, recent John McCain endorsor, John Hagee, who calls the Catholic Church "The Great Whore", and claimed Yahweh sent Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins.
Why is that? It's been suggested by some that this is just a small piece of a larger puzzle of racism, particularly with regard to Republicans. It certainly came as a shock to me to learn that there is not a single black Republican congressman or Senator. My shock is not moral, but political. The black population of the US is 12.5% or so and climbing. No black politicians means not much black support, and it's got to be tough to compete with that much of the electorate universally against you. They've had plenty of former congressmen, so what has changed? It is an interesting question.
However, I don't think that this is an issue of racism. The reason the Wright endorsement is a problem for Obama, but the Hagee endorsement isn't a problem for McCain, is because Americans have a great tolerance of lunacy coming from ministers, so long as it is a particular brand of lunacy. Hagee's just happens to the acceptable variety, and Wright's isn't. What's the difference? Wright left out the intermediary: God. He forgot the Golden Rule of American society: statements with "God" in them should be tolerated.
The most absurd statement made in American life today is not that the earth is 6,000 years old, or that zygotes are people. It's that Christians are the persecuted group in society. Fact is, you can pretty much get away with saying anything as long as you blame it on Jesus. Thanking Jesus for winning a boxing match never ever gets the "You think Jesus would help you beat the shit out of someone else" retort it deserves. Praising the same God who apparently decided to destroy your town with a tornado for deciding not to kill YOUR child today is seen as somehow loving and sweet. Deciding that the solution to crime in your city is to wear a sack and have ashes tossed on you is considered sane. So why not Hagee's claim that Yahweh hates fags and New Orleans, or Robertson's claim that Gawd hates the ACLU. After all, none of us are divine, so who knows? Those claims are certainly not MORE deranged than thinking the creater of the universe helped your kick hook inside the uprights for the game-winning football game.
Wright made the mistake of attacking the United States directly, accusing it of being responsible for 9/11, and really, in a basic, animalistic evalaution of the facts, it's the most reasonable (or least loony if you like) thing he said. But you don't do that in our society, not without giving the gods the blame. Nor do you claim government scientists created AIDS to commit genocide. That's real demented thing about all of this. God is supposed to be so omnibenevolent and perfect, whereas the US government has a host of flaws and sins on its record. Yet it is deemed OK,by the most pious and anti-government among us,to blame God for people dying, but not the US government.
Personally I think all the looniness ought to be treated the same. I'd like to see every politician be held accountable for every goofy thing any preacher says in his presence. Let's have a national debate about religious goofiness in politics. Maybe then these politicians will decide that it isn't worth the risk to publicly seek the endorsement of any religious figure. Let's pin every politician down on what he thinks about the anti-evolutionary views of Brother Bubba. If the politicians are going to pander to these nutjobs, let them put their opinions on the public record for all to see. Do you or do you not think the government created AIDS Senator? Do you or do you not think Katrina was divine punishment for New Orleans' sins Senator?
One thing I gave Mike Huckabee credit for was being completely up front about his reality-averse views on evolution. But it surely didn't help his campaign, and I'd like to see every politician who holds equally goofy views, or pretends to do so to gain political support, be forced to say so and share the same fate.