Barack Obama

More on the Right's 'Double Standard' for Religion in Politics

Radio talker Michael Medved complains about some imaginary “double standards” he saw following remarks by Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at a Compassion Summit earlier this month:

From most commentators, Hillary received high marks for her thoughtful, surprisingly intimate answers to such questions. … Nevertheless, the generally positive reaction to her comments raises obvious questions about faith, Democrats and double standards.

Imagine that George W. Bush told a public forum that he had “felt the enveloping support and love of God” since childhood, and that on “many, many occasions” he “felt like the Holy Spirit was there with me.”

It’s not hard to imagine the derisive tabloid headlines: “Bush: God Is With Me” or “Prez Sees Spirits” or “W. Talks About His Imaginary Friend.” Howard Dean might comment: “It sounds like Bush is once again saying that he talks to God, so we better watch out. The last time that happened, he took us to a war based on false intelligence.” …

Why is it less controversial when liberals talk about their religious outlook than it is for conservatives to speak about our faith?

Controversial? In fact, it’s difficult to name any recent candidate for any major office who didn’t talk about his or her faith. And now that he mentions it, we might point out that it’s been the liberal candidates (along with poor Mitt Romney) who have had their faith questioned by the Right. When the right-wing media hasn’t been whispering that Obama is a secret Muslim, they’ve been speculating about the particulars of his pastor’s theology. One activist conducted his own investigation and declared Obama’s Christianity “woefully deficient.”

Likewise, Clinton’s faith is considered fair game for attacks from the Right. For evidence, look no further than four paragraphs later in the very same article by Michael Medved, when he cavalierly asserts that “no one objects to Hillary’s God-talk because, in essence, nobody fully believes it. Her frequent encounters with the Holy Spirit sound no more formidable than Dennis Kucinich’s sighting of a UFO (in the company of Shirley McLaine – now that’s a problem).”

As for Hillary, she can’t point to a single issue in which her supposedly “deep commitment to my Methodist faith” actually shaped her thinking, beyond a very bland and generalized concern for the poor as “the least among us.” She doesn’t scare non-believers because all the religious overtones in her speeches and interviews can’t erase the overwhelming impression they receive that “she’s one of us” – and her positions on abortion, homosexuality, stem cells, and most church-state issues further reassure them that she’s still on their side on the culture war.

According to Medved, “no one in the country” takes Clinton’s “well-advertised interaction with the Holy Spirit” as genuine.

While Clinton’s membership in a Capitol Hill prayer group is common knowledge, her fellow members in the group—such as Rick Santorum and Jim Inhofe—are taken at face value when they talk about how their faith influences their politics. Clinton, as Medved demonstrates, is not—apparently because the Right doesn’t like her political positions. What’s the term for that? Oh yeah—“double standard.”

Dusting Off the Dirty Playbook

It looks like the man responsible for 1988’s infamous Willie Horton ad is back and has his sights set on Barack Obama:

Starting Tuesday, a group of conservative activists led by Floyd Brown, author of the famous Willie Horton ad used so effectively against Michael Dukakis in 1988, will begin a campaign to tar Obama as weak on crime and terrorism, a strategy that aims to upend Obama's relatively strong reputation among Republican voters.

Brown's new ad focuses on a 2001 vote by Obama in the Illinois Senate to oppose a bill that would have expanded the use of the death penalty if the perpetrator of a crime belonged to a gang. The links between Obama's vote on that issue and the deaths of three Chicago resident's are indirect and tenuous, as is the further connection the ad draws between the issue of Obama's position on the death penalty and the issue of international terrorism.

Time reports that the ads will be funded by a PAC called the National Campaign Fund “which had $14,027 in the bank at the end of March,” which probably explains why Brown is focused on creating the “most Internet-intensive effort for an ad debut ever” and hoping to gin up free media coverage to make up for the ad’s lack of funding, much like Mike Huckabee did, or at least tried to do, with his campaign ads (it is worth noting that Ari Berman of the "The Nation" reports that Brown's efforts are being "run by Bruce Hawkins, a former field organizer for Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson who recently worked for Mike Huckabee in Iowa.")

And speaking of free advertising, it looks like a pastor in South Carolina is trying make a name for himself by suggesting that Obama might secretly be Muslim:

ObamaChurch.gifPastor Roger Byrd of Jonesville Church of God put the sign up which reads "Obama Osama humm are they brothers?"

Pastor Byrd says the sign is not meant to be racial or political but rather to make people think. "His name is so close to Osama, I have a feeling he might be Islamic therefore he doesn't recognize Christ," Pastor Byrd said.

Of course the ad is not political and was merely designed to make people think … that Obama is a Muslim and possible a terrorist.

Keyes Makes It Official

Alan Keyes has officially left the Republican Party: "Former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes announced Tuesday night that he has left the GOP and is considering joining the Constitution Party. Keyes, who also ran as a Republican to challenge Barack Obama's U.S. Senate bid in Illinois in 2004, says he is talking with leaders and rank-and-file members of the Constitution Party."

Perkins' Invitation Lost in the Mail?

Yesterday we wrote a post about various Religious Right figures blasting the “Compassion Forum” that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama participated in over the weekend. Among those most bitter about the event was the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins who dismissed the entire thing as a sham mainly because he wasn’t invited to take part:

[O]rganizations like FRC, which have historically addressed faith issues, were not invited to participate or even submit questions to the candidates. Instead, the event's radical board, which included pro-abortion and homosexual advocates, used the forum as an opportunity to chip away at the traditional agenda of the faith-based community.

Well, as it turns out, the folks over at Faith in Public Life, who organized and co-sponsored the event, have something to say about that:

Perkins claimed that he was not invited to the Forum. In fact, Perkins was invited to attend the Forum AND the VIP reception for faith leaders held beforehand. He never responded to the invitation.

So much for that complaint.

But while we are rehashing old blog posts, we may as well note that the other part of that post dealt with the fact that John McCain subbed the event entirely and the fact that nobody on the Right seems too upset about it. In fact, someone from McCain’s religious outreach team reached out to the Brody File to spread the word that McCain’s faith is “extremely private” and that he won’t be talking about it. 

Needless to say, that sort of attitude isn’t going over too well with the Right:

Pastor Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council says not much is known about McCain's personal faith, except that he was raised in a family that believed religion was to be kept private. But Schenck contends that does not comport with the beliefs, customs and practices of evangelicals.

"We live with a mandate to preach the gospel, to unashamedly testify what Christ has done in our lives, to generously share that information with others," says Schenck. "... And John McCain has yet to give that kind of public testimony, and it's undermining the confidence of evangelicals in John McCain."

Schenck believes McCain's reluctance to talk more in-depth about his faith is not a good thing for him, his support base, or the country.

McCain’s faith may be private, but if he wants to win over the Religious Right, he’d better start offering up some public testimony, because that is what they want to hear.

But McCain had better not be too open about his faith because Schenck will just start criticizing it as “woefully deficient” and saying that it shows that he has "no real moral philosophy."  Oh wait, no he won’t – he reserves that sort of criticism for Democrats.

The Right’s Weakening Stranglehold on Religion

When Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agreed to participate in a “Compassion Forum” over the weekend to “discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on … important issues,” you’d think that the Religious Right would be elated and that they’d be criticizing John McCain for blowing off the event entirely, especially since they are constantly claiming that it is imperative for politicians “to bring their religiously-informed moral values to bear in election campaigns and public policy decisions.”

You’d be wrong:

Far Right Defies Caricature

Two weeks ago we described the right-wing reaction to Barack Obama’s pastor as “generally promoting the idea that Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate who secretly hates both America and white people.” The reference to “The Manchurian Candidate”—a novel and movie in which a political candidate was brainwashed into becoming a Communist assassin—was intended to highlight the absurdly sinister discussion of Obama’s relationship with his church.

Whistleblower coverBut apparently we underestimated the Right’s absurdity: WorldNetDaily asks, “Is he America's political messiah – or a Manchurian candidate?”

In a few short months, the young and relatively unknown politician Barack Hussein Obama may very well be elevated to the presidency of the United States and command the mightiest military in world history.

Would the eloquent and charismatic Obama unite, inspire and renew a troubled nation, as tens of millions of voters passionately believe? Or is it possible he's a Manchurian candidate – harboring an ominous secret agenda few understand, a man destined to wreak havoc on America should he become president?

That's the question that is explored definitively in the April issue of WND's acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine, titled "THE SECRET LIFE OF BARACK OBAMA."

Among other tidbits, the feature promises to present “an intriguing case that Obama, a Muslim in his youth, may still be a closet Muslim.”

Right Wing Joins Conversation About Race

A few voices on the Right have expressed partial praise for Barack Obama’s speech on race, but by and large, right-wing commentators have stuck to the script, picking over the parts where Obama mentioned the country’s racial wounds, excoriating him for failing to disavow affirmative action or liberal economic policies, and generally promoting the idea that Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate who secretly hates both America and white people.

But if Obama hoped to start a national conversation about race, he succeeded, in a way. Many right-wing commentators have proved willing to redirect their attacks on Obama to a discussion of their views on African Americans in general. Cal Thomas opined that “black people should be listening to” Bill Cosby, not Rev. Wright. Ann Coulter announced that she had had enough of blacks talking about racism:

But the "post-racial candidate" thinks we need to talk yet more about race. How much more? I had had my fill by around 1974. How long must we all marinate in the angry resentment of black people? …

We treat blacks like children, constantly talking about their temper tantrums right in front of them with airy phrases about black anger. I will not pat blacks on the head and say, "Isn't that cute?" As a post-racial American, I do not believe "the legacy of slavery" gives black people the right to be permanently ill-mannered.

Unfortunately, the online videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church appear to be the first exposure some on the Right have had to blacks or the African American church. Human Events reporter Ericka Anderson admitted as much: “Those of us outside the black community lack any deep knowledge of black churches. The only black minister we are very familiar with was Martin Luther King, Jr.” Anderson added, “He never damned America.”

George Neumayr, editor of the Catholic World Report, was apparently scandalized by what he described as the “feverish” church-goers in the videos “hopping up and down like hyperactive children” as they follow their “buffoonish[],” “sashaying” pastor.

Perhaps we should leave the final word to Pat Buchanan, who has made a career out of claiming that “white America” is under constant threat from other ethnicities. Before Obama’s speech, Buchanan pined for the “Negroes” of the 1950s:

That Wright is a revered preacher in black America also tells us that, far from coming together, we Americans are further apart than we were in the 1950s, when Negroes could be described as Christian, conservative and patriotic. Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad did not speak for black America then. Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young and Dr. Martin Luther King did. But Jeremiah Wright makes Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown sound like the Mills Brothers.

After the speech, Buchanan was more blunt, writing that “Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.”

What is wrong with Barack's prognosis and Barack's cure?

Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, "everybody but the rioters themselves."

Was "white racism" really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said -- that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard.

Double Standards

Although it wasn’t surprising to see John McCain spend much of the past few years courting the Religious Right in advance of securing the Republican presidential nomination, he continued to pander even after his primary victory was all but finalized. Beginning with his speech to the right-wing activists at CPAC—which followed shortly after his main rival, Mitt Romney, dropped out—McCain seemed to step up his embrace of the fringe, picking up more and more endorsements, campaigning with apocalyptic televangelist John Hagee and “Patriot Pastor” Rod Parsley, and reaching out to the Council for National Policy.

McCain’s search for religious-right support might have raised a few flags. Hagee, for example, frames his support for Israel in terms of the end times, going as far as warning that any U.S. foreign policy decision that isn’t “pro-Israel” enough will result in God bringing a “blood bath” of terrorist attacks to America. Hagee also identifies the Catholic Church as the “great whore” of Revelation (a characterization he now denies) and said Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on a sinful city.

When confronted with some of Hagee’s extreme views, McCain simply responded “all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support.'’ After a lot of pressure from the Catholic League, McCain finally issued a bland statement: “I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee’s, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics.”

Indeed, McCain would have had difficulty criticizing Hagee any further—much less call the pastor out on his “profoundly distorted view of this country,” to quote Barack Obama’s critique of Rev. Jeremiah Wright—because McCain had sought out Hagee precisely for his extreme stance and the religious-right constituency he can reach.

Just as McCain sought out Hagee for his political clout, it was politics that brought McCain and Ohio televangelist Rod Parsley together on the campaign. When McCain brought Parsley on stage and called him a “spiritual guide,” that didn’t mean the senator had sent the Word of Faith preacher a financial “seed” in hopes that God would bolster his campaign contributions. Instead, McCain was embracing Parsley’s far-right political views and the political machine of “Patriot Pastors” he leads.

David Limbaugh, one of the many right-wing commentators who dismissed Obama’s speech on his pastor, claimed there was a “double standard” when it came to conservatives: “When the remotest connection can be inferred between a conservative and a bigoted supporter, there is always hell to pay.”

But in fact the opposite double standard seems to be in play: While Obama continues to be attacked for his personal relationship with a pastor whose controversial political ideology he’s rejected, McCain’s ongoing ideological relationship with the far Right—consisting, in essence, of him telling them he embraces their political views—remains unconnected to McCain’s political reputation.

What’s Obama To Do?

As a way of dealing with the controversy surrounding the various remarks made by his pastor Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama is set to deliver a speech tomorrow where he promises to talk “about not just Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign .”

Regardless of what he says in this speech, it’ll probably do little to appease the rank-and-file conservative Christian voters in the Republican Party who never liked him anyway and now seem to really, really dislike him, at least judging by most of the comments mailed into CBN’s David Brody:

I am sure Obama was listening to rev Wrights sermon about "America causing this to happen...and that the chickens came home to roost...etc."Right there Obama has lied on TV, to news reporters and to his supporters-claiming he knew nothing of these awful hate filled sermons.

Obama being a member of this church for over 20 years and calling this guy his spiritual mentor and having him at present on an advisory committee is political suicide. He should pull out the race now, make a statement that he is leaving this radical black church and try to salvage whatever political career he has left. If he is the dems nominee they are handing the white house to the Republicans. It has been said time and time again that this guy should have been vetted. He is now, which is only the tip of the iceberg. The media has given him a pass.

[N]ow that he has made that statement, I await the video of Wright spewing a bunch of crap while Obama's family is shown applauding in the pews. I wouldn't be surprised if it's coming.

Of course, the fact that Brody himself has posted on the Obama/Wright issue a total of ELEVEN times so far (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11) - versus the two times he posted about John McCain and John Hagee and the zero times he posted about McCain and Rod Parsley - might have something to do with that.

Anti-gay right-wing activist Harry Jackson also weighed in, saying that it is entirely reasonable that Obama be held responsible for the words of his pastor:  

“Should Mr. Obama be judged because of the acts of his pastor.” My answer is yes! Pastor Wright’s worldview and his understanding of race, culture, and religion of the bible will in some measure affect how Barak Obama views the world. Only time will tell whether Obama’s life and message have been helped or handicapped by the ministry of Jeremiah Wright. If Obama says nothing elese, many people will simply label him as a hypocrite who says one thing in public but acts differently behind closed doors. During the next few months it will be important for Obama to set the record straight concerning his faith.

Does that mean that the congregants at Jackson’s own Hope Christian Church ought to be made to answer for Jackson’s anti-gay rhetoric?   Presumably. 

For his part, Obama has publicly distanced himself from Wright’s comments, calling them “inflammatory and appalling” … and now that has gotten him in trouble with the Right as well:

The National Clergy Council finds Dr. Wright's recent comments extraordinarily indiscrete, inapt, inaccurate and ill-considered, yet we find Mr. Obama's disloyalty even worse. We adjure Mr. Obama to remain faithful to the man who in so many ways shaped him for the campaign he now undertakes.

Mr. Obama's tossing of Dr. Wright under the bus for political advantage is a painful spectacle and is a classic politics-as-usual move.

The National Clergy Council adjures Mr. Obama to stay faithful to his father-in-the-faith and take whatever criticism comes.

Considering that the head of the National Clergy Council, Rob Schenck, has been on a one-man crusade to convince the world that Obama’s Christian faith is “woefully deficient” and that he might really be a Muslim, it is probably safe to assume that his “stand by your man” advice is not being dispensed with the purest of intentions.

Do The Dobsons Agree?

Last month, James Dobson made clear that he would never, ever, under any circumstances vote for John McCain and even seemed to be seeking to enlist a million others to join him in his boycott. He then cravenly endorsed Mike Huckabee, but by then it was too late and Huckabee eventually dropped out and Dobson hasn't been heard from since. Now comes news that Dobson's wife Shirley, chairman of the National Day of Prayer, is launching an "election prayer campaign":
For 16 years, Mrs. Shirley Dobson has served as chairman of the National Day of Prayer (NDP). This year, she has added another campaign — a call to seek God’s guidance for the elections. “As long as God is on His throne, there is always hope,” says Mrs. Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder and Chairman Dr. James Dobson. She spoke with CitizenLink about the two critical prayer campaigns. 1. What is so important about this election? I believe our country is at a crossroads. Whoever is elected president will play a pivotal role in determining the future of our country. It’s imperative people go to the polls and elect a candidate whose leadership will reflect a moral and principled perspective.
Mrs. Dobson is aware that her husband explicitly rejected McCain because he does not "reflect a moral and principled perspective" and blasted both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for their "virulently anti-family policy positions," isn't she? If so, how exactly are voters supposed to "follow God’s instructions" and elect the right candidate when her husband is busy telling the country that none of the current candidates are acceptable?

Obama Must Explain His Faith

For months, rumors have been swirling around that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.  One would think that these sorts of rumors would be easily quashed by his seemingly straight-forward declarations that he is, in fact, a “devout Christian [who has] been a member of the same church for 20 years [and prays] to Jesus every night.” 

For the most part, these rumors have been dismissed by anyone willing to look at the evidence or take Obama’s words at face value.  But for those with a religious/political agenda to advance, it turns out that the simple question of Obama’s faith is really, really complicated.  

Case in point

Missionary to Capitol Hill and Evangelical leader Rev. Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK) takes on the thorny question of Barack Obama's religious identity in a new video blog posting called Faith and Action Live! which will post today, March 5, at 1:00 PM (EST) at www.faithandaction.org.

In his video blog, Rev. Schenck discusses Senator Obama's public profession of Christian faith, his Muslim background and the view of the Islamic world on what defines a Muslim.

Schenck apparently fancies himself an expert on the topic because he “has been at the forefront of a series of religious dialogues between Evangelical leaders and their Muslim counterparts” and his “adult daughter has for the last year lived among Muslims while directing a private school in the desert of North Africa.” 

Schenck reports that last year he “sent a research assistant to Chicago to investigate Obama's relationship to his church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, where until recently Obama's spiritual mentor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, was pastor” and emerged with a report that found “Obama's Christianity woefully deficient.” 

At the time, Schenck seemed willing to accept that Obama was a Christian, but now Schenck is growing concerned that Obama may in fact be a Muslim because, as he put it, the issue is really how the Muslim world defines being Muslim.  As he sees it, Muslims inherit their religion from their parents, specifically their fathers. Thus, to be born of a Muslim father makes one a Muslim.  By Schenck’s analysis, Obama has a Muslim father and a Muslim name and while he may now proclaim himself a Christian, the question remains whether he is really just an apostate, infidel, or unfaithful Muslim rather than a non-Muslim.

For his part, Schenck declared that he has no reason not to take Obama “at his word” regarding his Christianity  … and then proceeded to question the legitimacy and depth of his faith, saying “The question becomes: How serious, how profound is the religious commitment that Barack Obama has made" considering that the United Church of Christ to which he belongs has strayed dramatically from “historical, Biblical Christianity … from historic, moral Christian instruction.”  Schenck also says it is interesting that Obama claims to “pray to Jesus” rather than “pray to God in Jesus’ name” and takes issue with Obama’s claim that his views on topics like civil unions and abortion don’t make him any less of a Christian, saying that “he owes the public a further explanation of that and most certainly religious people.”   

Schenck declares that what religious affiliation a political figure claims is less important that what positions they espouse and promote – and when it comes to Obama, this issues is vitally important because not only is he a bad Christian, he might also be a unwitting Muslim:

 

“Obama has said quite plainly that he is a Christian.  It is true that he is a member of a Christian church, that he did in fact walk the aisle and kneel beneath a cross.  He has told us that he prays every day to Jesus.  Muslims certainly do not pray to Jesus.  They do not kneel at the foot of a cross.  They do not join churches.  They do not make a public statement such as “I am a Christian, a devout Christian. They don’t do that.  Based on that, I would have to conclude, no, he is not a Muslim.  And yet the question haunts us: how does the Muslim world see that?  How does a Muslim religious authority see that? Would a Muslim religious authority say he was born of a Muslim father, therefore he remains a Muslim.” 

 

The issue of Obama’s faith is, according to Schenck, an “extremely important question that demands to be asked more and in greater depth” – one that he is pressuring Obama to discuss with him “face to face.”

Obama: Fronting for Racists

Clenard Childress Jr., founder of Black Genocide.Org, says Barack Obama is serving as a front-man for a racist Planned Parenthood strategy to destroy African Americans: "No other ethnic group in the United States has been decimated more by abortion than the Afro-American community. The war being waged upon innocent captives in the womb is led by Planned Parenthood. The strategy?Convince the targeted community to accept their eugenic racist plan by selecting one from their ethnicity to promote it."

The Maverick and the Armageddon Advocate

Last year, when John McCain's presidential campaign was floundering, we noted that he was making in-roads with fringe right-wing figures like Armageddon advocate John Hagee, who harbors a not-so-secret desire for the US to start a war with Iran in order to bring about the subsequent return of Jesus Christ.

At the time, there didn't seem much to worry about because McCain's campaign appeared dead-in-the-water and though, over the coming months, McCain continued to court Hagee, the pastor appeared content to stick to his rabid theologizing and warnings to the United States:

If America does not stop pressuring Israel to give up land, I believe that God will bring this nation into judgment, because I believe what this book says. And if God brings this nation into judgment, He will very likely release the terrorists that you've already let get here through the ridiculous immigration policy you refuse to stop, and this nation is going to go through a bloodbath that you have permitted because of what you have done. You have disobeyed the law of God, and now, we as a nation are going to pay a price for that.

And then, just before Christmas, Hagee seemed to be leaning toward Mike Huckabee, whom he hosted at his church in San Antonio, which angered people like Bill Donohue, who blasted Hagee's anti-Catholic record and accused him of "slandering the Catholic Church."

But now that McCain appears set to wrap-up the Republican nomination in the near future, all his hobnobbing with Hagee is about to pay off:

John McCain's efforts to bring wary members of the Religious Right to his side gets a big boost later today when San Antonio televangelist John Hagee is expected to endorse him. Rev. Hagee has a big following among religious conservatives and is a leading figure in Christian Zionist movement. ... The announcement is expected later this afternoon during a McCain campaign visit to San Antonio.

Yesterday, McCain made news by repudiating statements attacking Barack Obama made by right-wing radio talk show host Bill Cunningham at an event in Ohio. What are the chances that McCain will take the opportunity of Hagee's endorsement to repudiate Hagee's reprehensible statements such as saying that "New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that ... Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans."

McCain Brings Parsley on Stage—Get Ready for 'Patriot Pastors' Campaign

Rod Parsley

“A spiritual invasion is taking place!” shouted Rod Parsley at the “War on Christians” conference in 2006. “… Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!” Parsley, an Ohio megachurch pastor and televangelist, promised to build an army of “Patriot Pastors” to march to the polls, an even bolder political machine than the one he led in 2004 that helped pass an anti-gay amendment in the state and nudge George W. Bush to reelection. Parsley’s 2006 candidate, Ken Blackwell, ultimately lost the governor’s race, but the televangelist remains an outsized political force, and his “Patriot Pastors” machine is still a model for church-based electoral organizing—as demonstrated by Mike Huckabee’s surprise win in Iowa.

Thus far, Parsley has kept his distance from the presidential race, while continuing to use his TV show to oppose abortion and hate-crimes protections. But now he’s jumped in to help John McCain lock up the Republican nomination. From the Columbus Dispatch:

Parsley and McCainMcCain campaigned yesterday in Cincinnati, where he appeared with the Rev. Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church of Columbus. McCain called Parsley a "spiritual guide," while Parsley later labeled McCain a "strong, true, consistent conservative." …

Parsley shared the stage with McCain during a rally at Hamilton County Memorial Hall in Cincinnati but didn't speak.

In a later interview, Parsley said he supports McCain because the senator will be tough on national security and "protect the unborn."

The megachurch pastor, criticized in the past for mixing religion and politics, acknowledged that McCain isn't the ideal candidate for evangelical Christians, who overwhelmingly backed President Bush in 2004.

"Yet at the same time, when you put John McCain up against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the ideological and philosophical differences are overwhelming," Parsley said.

While the results of next Tuesday’s GOP primary vote in Ohio are all but certain, Parsley’s intervention suggests that he may deploy his “Patriot Pastor” machine on behalf of McCain ahead of November, when the state is likely to be a closely-fought “battleground” yet again.

Recent polling suggests that no matter how much time McCain has spent recently pandering to far-right activists, he still retains the positive image of a political “maverick.” That air of bipartisanship is difficult to reconcile with McCain’s decision to campaign side-by-side with Parsley, a figure who has taken partisanship to apocalyptic levels, translating the Republican-Democrat divide into spiritual warfare.

(AP photo of McCain and Parsley.)

The Right Targets Barack and Michelle Obama – Hitlers in Waiting?

Even though the Republican primary process hasn’t yet come to a close thanks to Mike Huckabee’s stubborn refusal to withdraw and allow the “coronation” of John McCain, some on the Right seem to be looking ahead and preparing for the general election against the presumed Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. 

TVC - whose leader, Lou Sheldon, had backed the failed candidacy of Mitt Romney - explains:

[I]t is essential that voters understand exactly what Barack and his wife Michelle believe in – and what they plan for America if elected as President and First Lady.

As more information becomes available about this first-term Senator with no discernible accomplishments in the Senate, the more concerned voters are becoming.

TVC informs us that, in his past, Obama not only had “a Communist mentor,” but also “a socialist mentor” and “a black power mentor.”  That would be bad enough, but it is nothing compared to his wife Michelle, who gave what TVC calls a “Hitler-like speech.  TVC declared that the speech contained “frightening authoritarian statements” about how her husband might “rule our nation.”

What scared TVC was this:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.

We have lost the understanding that in a democracy, we have a mutual obligation to one another -- that we cannot measure the greatness of our society by the strongest and richest of us, but we have to measure our greatness by the least of these. That we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. That is why I am here, because Barack Obama is the only person in this who understands that. That before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation."

Whether or not you support her husband’s candidacy, Michelle Obama’s speech strikes us as more akin to JFK’s “ask not” speech than to something from a Nuremberg rally.  But then the Right has had many years of experience launching scurrilous accusations against Hillary Clinton and her husband, and they’re just getting started on the Obamas - though so far they have managed to allege that he is secretly a Muslim while also saying that his “Christianity [is] woefully deficient,” comparing him to Karl Marx and Fidel Castro while his wife “spits like a cobra” and is plagued by “narcissism.”

But TVC has clearly set a high bar, managing to cite Hitler, Muammar el-Quadaffi, and the communist threat all in one attack piece.  Who’s gonna top that?

Will They or Won’t They?

Ever since James Dobson declared that he would never vote for John McCain, the big question has been whether the Republican Party’s Religious Right base would follow suit or whether they would support McCain simply as the lesser of two evils.  

While there appear to be some efforts underway to threaten to abandon the GOP altogether,  McCain has been making inroads with various Religious Right leaders and slowly securing endorsements from the likes of Gary Bauer and Fidelis.  And while some on the Right, such as Tony Perkins, are perfectly happy to see Mike Huckabee stay in the race in order to remind McCain that the Religious Right is not dead and force him to cater to the “voters who are passionate about the issues that Mike Huckabee addresses,” others conservative leaders predict that, for all the public grumbling and gnashing of teeth, the Right will eventually come around.  

As Haley Barbour put it:

If people like that don't vote for John McCain, it means Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is going to be President. It's one thing in February or May or even August to say that you're not willing to support John McCain. But life is a series of choices, and inevitably the choice in November is going to be between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. Now, those people will look into their hearts and decide what to do. But for an incredibly high percentage of conservatives and Republicans, they'll vote for John McCain.

Others are making the same point – and even militant McCain-hater Rick Santorum says he’ll suck it up and vote for McCain:

Less than a week after Romney withdrew from the race, Santorum told WORLD he's still rankled by McCain, but won't avoid the ballot box in November if he's the GOP pick: "When you look at the [Democratic] alternatives, it makes the choice of whoever the Republican nominee is that much easier to vote for."

Ultimately, pointing out the alternative may be the key to McCain's hopes of wooing conservatives. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says McCain could take several steps to reach out to evangelicals, but adds: "In the end, there's not anything that John McCain can do to unite conservatives that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can't do better."

The prospect of a Democratic presidency looms large in Gary Bauer's support of McCain. The Christian conservative and former presidential candidate formally endorsed McCain in early February and told WORLD he's baffled by evangelicals who say they won't vote for the senator if he's the Republican nominee.

Bauer points out that the next president may nominate as many as three Supreme Court justices. "If those justices are appointed by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, we will have abortion for another 35 years and we will have same-sex marriage," he says. "We will have lost the two main things on the social agenda, probably forever."

And just in case the wavering right-wing voters needed any more convincing, Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina weighs in to say that sitting out the election would be an affront to God:

Most troubling, however, is that many conservative evangelicals are now acting as though God were not sovereign in the political process. Have we become more focused on the process than on the God who controls it? Granted, we must diligently seek to influence the culture for righteousness sake. Nevertheless, evangelicals are not sailing the ship politic and never were. There is but one Captain - the Lord - and He raises to power whomever He wills. Infighting and laying blame is counterproductive to advancing the kingdom.

These experiences test our faith in God’s mysterious ways. And they strain our commitment to Christian liberty - the very foundation of our belief in political freedom. Let us lay aside the attacks on our brethren.

Neither is this a time to withdraw. Only a straining of the facts makes John McCain equal to or worse than the godless direction a Clinton or Obama ticket would take the nation. Such would not only imperil the social agenda of conservative evangelicals, but jeopardize one of the greatest of family values - protection of the American people from the violence of its enemies. If America bails out on the war effort before the job is finished, the United States will not only be dishonored, but the terrorists will follow our troops home.

Moreover, to disengage - worse still, not to vote - I believe is a grievous mistake. Though a person certainly has the right to adhere to his/her conscience in such action, it should be noted that to do so is to walk away from one's place at the table. With what credibility can one possibly speak to those serving in office when one was previously unwilling to even vote? At that point, one's credibility as a part of the discussion - now or later - becomes significantly compromised.

For whatever it's worth, having served as a lobbyist in the North Carolina General Assembly since 1999, there are two great truths constantly before me when seeking to influence the politics of those sacred halls: (1) God is sovereign over everything and ultimately His will cannot be defeated; and (2) no person or group involved in politics ever gets all they want all of the time. But for Christ's sake, one must ever be vigilant in victory and defeat. And one must always find positive ways to stay engaged in the process.

Back to Square One

Remember a few months ago when various Religious Right leaders gathered in Utah and announced that they were prepared to considering abandoning the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani became the nominee?  

Well, just because Giuliani dropped out doesn’t mean those threats have evaporated – in fact, a new effort appears to be underway now that John McCain has all but locked up the GOP nomination:

The same conservative Christian activist who called a meeting last fall to discuss backing a third-party candidate to counter a possible Rudy Giuliani candidacy is revisiting the idea as Sen. John McCain closes in on the Republican presidential nomination.

Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and anti-abortion activist, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that while he could back the Arizona senator over either Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, he made clear that he and others in the evangelical movement are not content with those choices.

"I'll be working in other ways to see that we have additional choices as conservatives," Fischer said.

He declined to elaborate, but held out hope that Mike Huckabee might mount an improbable comeback, or that another "good conservative, Godly, Christian pro-life" GOP candidate somehow emerge to supplant McCain. The Arizona lawmaker has opposed abortion during his four terms in the Senate.

Fischer said that for large numbers of social conservatives to entertain backing McCain, he would need to reverse himself on several positions, including his support for relaxing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Fischer said if McCain prevails short of doing that, he and many other conservatives "will not work as hard as we could" to elect him.

He then raised the possibility of Christian conservatives lining up behind the Constitution Party, citing its conservative moral stances and ability to get on state ballots, a steeper challenge for an entirely new party.

The article notes that this new effort might not get as much support as the anti-Rudy threat since, as Huckabee-backer Mat Staver notes, McCain is seen as much better on the social issues the Right cares about than was Giuliani.   And considering that the McCain campaign is currently hard at work reaching out to the very sorts who would likely participate in such a meeting, the impact of any such an effort is likely to be limited.

Obama, Castro, and Marx

Mike Huckabee supporter Tony Beam says that evangelicals must beware Barack Obama and his rhetoric of change: "There can be no doubt that Barack Obama is both a Leftist dream and an Evangelical nightmare. He supports the most extreme agenda ever proposed for the American people. Yet most of his supporters don’t have a clue because all they know is he represents 'change.' It would be good to remember that Karl Marx brought change to Russia and Fidel Castro brought change to Cuba. Both forms of change came complete with chains that still bind people to the lie of Marxism. Change without knowing which direction the change will take us is a scary proposition."

Who Would Jesus Vote For?

Apparently not Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Mitt Romney, at least according to William H. Carney, author of "How Would Jesus Vote?"

Dobson Re-Unendorses McCain

Just in case anyone forgot or thought that he might change his mind, James Dobson resurfaces to reiterate his opposition to John McCain – via the Boston Globe’s “Political Intelligence” blog which highlights this audio clip of Laura Ingraham reading an exclusive, and melodramatic, statement from James Dobson:

I'm deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language. I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001 and approached John Kerry about being Kerry’s running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience. But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on the virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life. These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I'm affiliated. They do reflect, however, my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country.
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Barack Obama Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Monday 09/21/2009, 2:19pm
I have to say that I really don't understand what Rick Warren's role is when it comes to politics ... or rather, I don't understand what Rick Warren thinks his role is when it comes to politics because he surfaced recently to insist to USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman that he doesn't get involved in political or policy questions: Warren has no plans to burst back into politically-fired headlines, however. When politicians call him, he says, I never get involved in policy. Never. But I'll talk to guys (like Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain and a host more) about their family,... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 09/09/2009, 1:49pm
Josh Gerstein reports on yesterday's federal court hearing on Orly Taitz's Birther lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's eligibility to be president, noting that "the ball didn't move much." But he does point to an interesting development between Taitz and two of the plaintiffs she was representing, Markham Robinson and Wiley Drake. It seems that Robinson and Drake decided that they would rather be represented by Gary Kreep, of "Defend Glenn Beck" fame, and mailed documents to Tatiz informing her of their decision.  But Taitz refused to sign the documents and... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 09/09/2009, 11:20am
In the months following the election, there appeared a series of articles all carrying a similar theme: With the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, the Religious Right was all but dead. As we pointed out in a series of posts and reports, these sorts of pieces tend to get written whenever Republicans fare poorly in an election and there is rarely any validity to their claims: I have to say I find this temptation from commentators to write the Religious Right’s obituary after every Republican electoral setback rather remarkable. For one thing, as we pointed out not... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 09/08/2009, 10:15am
A quick round-up of some right-wing efforts to capitalize on the absurd "controversy" over President Obama's planned speech to the nation's students today. Public Advocate announces that they will be protesting the venue: Public Advocate volunteers will protest President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning September 8 prior to his speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia starting at 10:15 a.m. Public Advocate volunteers will hold banners that state "Mr. President, Stay Away from our kids" at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. Earlier, on Monday at 5:30 p.m... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 09/02/2009, 12:14pm
Yesterday I wrote a post about Jon Henke's call for a boycott for any conservatives that "choose to support [WorldNetDaily] through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration." In response to this call, I pointed out that WND founder Joseph Farah has been a staple at right-wing events and that if you plan on boycotting anyone who "collaborates" with WND, you'd have to boycott pretty much the entire conservative movement. Today, Farah shot back at Henke and those who have taken up his call, as well as Media Matters and yours truly: Last, but not least... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 08/28/2009, 11:12am
So says Rev. Michael P. Orsi, a Research Fellow in Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law:On Wednesday the Church further diminished her credibility when it was announced that a Mass of Christian Burial would be celebrated for Senator Edward M. Kennedy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. It was also announced that President Barack Obama would be the eulogist....A Mass of Christian Burial is a privilege -- not a right. It is for those who have lived a Christian life. Senator Kennedy’s scandalous disregard of his Church’s teaching and the destruction of human life that... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/26/2009, 4:53pm
Earlier today The Freedom Federation held its press conference demanding "explicit exclusion" for abortion coverage in any legislation as well as protections "for those with debilitating or terminal illness and the elderly."That was too be expected ... as was this sort of crassly moronic attempt to use Sen. Ted Kennedy's passing to bolster their case, I suppose:“When [Kennedy] faced a serious health problem he did not go to England, he did not go to Canada, he did not go to a country that has a government plan. He sought treatment in the country that he believed had... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/26/2009, 10:10am
Last night, Alan Colmes interviewed Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church who has recently achieved fame for his sermons preaching that gays are out to rape children in order to recruit them and declaring that the only way to stop them is to kill them.Anderson did not back down:Colmes: Everybody who is gay is a predator?Anderson: Well, if you disagree with that, that's fine. But every gay person in the Bible was a predator, from Genesis to Revelation.Colmes: Well, I don't know about the Bible, but do you believe that every gay person in the world is a predator?Anderson: That's... MORE >