Cal Thomas’s syndicated column, which is printed in hundreds of newspapers, seldom strays from the right-wing line. There is one subject, though, where Thomas has been critical of the Right: The columnist, who helped establish the modern Religious Right as a lieutenant for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, has since denounced such “cynical harvesting” of conservative Christians’ votes. There was a “perception that the church had become an appendage to the Republican Party,” he wrote, adding that “little was accomplished in the political arena and much was lost in the spiritual realm, as many came to believe that to be a Christian meant you also must be ‘converted’ to the Republican Party and adopt the GOP agenda and its tactics.”
But if Thomas is nominally a critic of the Religious Right, he is still unable to resist employing its most crass and shameless tactic: attacking the faith of his political opponents. Reacting to Barack Obama’s outreach to young Christians, Thomas attempts to disqualify Obama from the religion.
Obama has declared himself a committed Christian. He can call himself anything he likes, but there are certain markers among the evangelicals he is courting that one must meet in order to qualify for that label.
Thomas offers an interpretation of media reports on the particulars of Obama’s faith—what the candidate says about hell, for example—and pronounces a verdict: Not only is what is supposedly in Obama’s heart “contrary to what Evangelicals and most Catholics believe,” Thomas claims, but he is not even a Christian. Instead, according to the columnist, Obama is a “false prophet.”
Here’s Obama again: “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.”
Any first-year seminary student could deconstruct such “works salvation” and wishful thinking. Obama either hasn’t read the Bible, or if he has, doesn’t believe it if he embraces such thin theological wisps.
Obama can call himself anything he likes, but there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn’t meet that requirement. One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith, including the deity and uniqueness of Christ as the sole mediator between God and Man and be a Christian. Such people do have a label applied to them in Scripture. They are called “false prophets.”
This kind of perverse attack is nothing new—indeed, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah offered a similar column a couple weeks ago on his far-right website. And in practicing this kind of politics, Thomas is merely joining alongside marginal groups who assert that only those with certain political views can be “true Christians,” and more broadly, rejoining the Religious Right effort to merge religion and partisan politics.
But while the rumors casting aspersions on Obama’s faith continue to swirl aimlessly in e-mail forwards, on disreputable websites, and among fringe groups, today they are being uncritically promoted in hundreds of newspapers. Thomas—even as he denounces in name the Religious Right, and even as he promotes a book against political polarization—is doing his part to legitimize religious inquisition as a campaign strategy.
Ben Kinchlow was a long-time co-host of the “700 Club,” but he struck out on his own a number of years ago. On Friday, he returned to talk with Pat Robertson about his new self-published book, “Black Yellowdogs.”
According to Kinchlow, the media and mainstream civil rights leaders are duping black voters into voting for Democrats, and thus into “partaking” in the party’s supposed “evil deeds” on issues such as abortion, prayer in school, and affirmative action. Watch:
Some of our African-American political awareness leaders can preach. I mean these guys can preach, man. And you get up there and you start listening to them, and the next thing you know you’re patting your foot and you’re slapping your knees, and going ‘Amen!’ because the rhythm of the rhetoric catches you up. But what are they really saying?
Kinchlow describes proponents of affirmative action as “really saying” that black people “lack the capacity to keep up with everybody else. That’s what’s being said. ‘Massa, slavery done cut off one of our feets. We can’t run as fast as everybody else.’”
Ralph Reed came on the “700 Club” Thursday to talk to his former Christian Coalition boss, Pat Robertson, about his new political thriller “Dark Horse.” Naturally, the topic turned to the non-fiction election, and Reed predicted that Religious Right issues such as abortion and gay marriage would maintain hold upon the electorate. But given how many similarities Reed sees between his novel and the 2008 campaign, it must be difficult to keep the fantasy straight from the reality. Here’s a clip:
Reed also praised John McCain for reaching out to the Religious Right on judges, and emphasized the importance of his vice-presidential pick.
Decrying the recent California Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality on the “700 Club” yesterday, Pat Robertson reminded his viewers about the upcoming election:
I think that if there’s ever a cause in this election, it is to put in judges. I think—last election, I said the three most important issues were judges, judges, and judges.
Shortly after Sen. John McCain publicly rejected the endorsements of John Hagee and Rod Parsley, Parsley released his own statement rescinding his endorsement and then sort of disappeared from sight. Sometime since then, Parsley apparently decided that he had a bit more to get off his chest and so he released a video on his Center for Moral Clarity website in which he reiterated many of the points he made in his initial statement but added some attacks on what he claimed were the "politically vicious and misguided" hit-squads who exposed his radical views, claiming that his views on Islam are “very much in the mainstream” and insisting that he made a “clear distinction between Muslim terrorists and the vast majority of peaceful Muslims.”
Of course, Parsley is on record having told his congregation and massive TV audience that "America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed" and "Islam is an anti-Christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world," as well as writing that so-called "Muslim extremists" are really "mainstream believers who are drawing from the well at the very heart of Islam."
Video and transcript:
I’d like to take a few moments and respond to the recent media reports regarding my statements in the book “Silent No More” about Islam. It doesn’t surprise me that, as I continue to engage the culture with a thoroughly Biblical worldview that political hit-squads have begun to describe some of my views in the most ominous and extreme terms. I expected that opponents of that worldview would try to make a connection between myself and the extreme views of other ministers such as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. This is what we’ve seen play out over the past few days. Certainly, I’m disappointed with those in the media who have misrepresented my views for political gain and who have lied in pursuit of political power. It’s a sad moment in American politics; one of the many in the recent election cycle.
My views on Islam, which have come under such scrutiny and misrepresentation, are very much in the mainstream. Anyone who has read the entire chapter on Islam in my book “Silent No More” understands that what I have said is echoed from the White House to the State Department, from leading universities to the pulpits of our nation. I believe that radical Islam is one of the greatest threats to Western civilization and that conflict has roots in our American history. I have always, and I will continue, to make a clear distinction between Muslim terrorists and the vast majority of peaceful Muslims who are appalled at the bloody results of suicide bombers and mass murders. Once again, I unapologetically denounce those who spread death in the name of Allah while I continue to believe peace-loving Muslims need the full of all Christians, and Christians must provide understanding, cooperation, and friendship to peace-loving Muslims throughout the world who share our desire for democracy and peace.
I understand that the raw truth of the pulpit cannot survive untempered in the political sphere. Still, I believe that clergy of all faiths should be able to speak into the lives of our political leaders without every doctrine and statement of those religious leaders being transformed into political weapons by the politically vicious and misguided.
Not surprisingly, the Religious Right is upset at the failure of an effort to block California’s recent same-sex marriage decision from going into effect. “[N]ationwide legal chaos,” predicted the Alliance Defense Fund. The decision “abolishes the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood,” opined Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. A “further extension of their judicial activism,” said Pacific Justice Institute’s Brad Dacus.
At the same time, readers of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Times were confronted with an enormous advertisement urging them to “join the Crusade” of “conscientious resistance” to “the homosexual ‘moral revolution.’”
An obscure but well-heeled group called the American Society for Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) ran ads today covering two full pages in those newspapers, warning of the threat of same-sex marriage. The ad echoes the now-common Religious Right theme that equality for gays and lesbians would lead to the “persecution” of Christianity, but with 4,600 words in some of the most expensive print around, TFP apparently tried to make the argument in the least succinct way possible, discoursing on Nazism, the definition of truth, various Vatican publications, and Joan of Arc.
By legalizing same-sex “marriage,” the State becomes its official and active promoter. It calls on public officials to officiate at the new civil ceremony, orders public schools to teach its acceptability to children, and punishes any state employee who expresses disapproval. …
Left unchecked, this anti-Christian trend will become an unprecedented assault on the First Amendment and our American way of life that we do not hesitate to call persecution. …
As the homosexual revolution’s anti-Christian intolerance makes itself felt through increasingly persecutory measures, a terrible problem of conscience arises in any who resist: Should we follow our consciences? Should we give in?
For Catholics like ourselves, the condoning of same-sex “marriage” would be tantamount to a renunciation of Faith. …
This is a battle for the soul of America. The so-called Cultural War is gradually becoming a Religious War.
Tradition, Family and Property is an unusual group. Founded in 1973 after the anti-Communist writings of a Brazilian dissident Catholic activist, TFP brought a unique style of protest—serious young men with red capes, heraldic banners, and brass bands—to issues ranging from abortion, homosexuality, and contraception to anti-Communism, water subsidies, flag burning, and the Gulf War. While the group doesn’t have the name recognition of the more media-savvy Catholic League, it still brought in $6.8 million in donations and sales in 2006.
Organizations:American Society for Tradition, Family and Property , Family Research Council, OneNewsNow , Religious Right, Tradition Family and Property , Washington Times
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