Friday, May 2, 2008

Equal Time for Religious Whackos

E.J. Dionne asks if the white right-wing narcissistic ministers who preach outrageous intolerance will get as much attention as Rev. Wright.

[I]t’s worth pondering why white, right-wing preachers who make ridiculous and sometimes shameful statements usually emerge with their influence intact.

The catalogue goes back to Bailey Smith, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Speaking at a 1980 religious convention that was also addressed by Ronald Reagan, Smith declared that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”

Reagan later asserted that he thought Jewish prayers were answered, but he was less than definitive. “Everyone can make his own interpretation of the Bible,” the Gipper said, “and many individuals have been making differing interpretations for a long time.”

Two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Jerry Falwell, appearing on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” declared: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ “

Robertson replied: “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And the top people, of course, is the court system.”

To their credit, many conservatives condemned Falwell and Robertson. The ministers backed away from their words, but Falwell’s retraction was, at best, partial. “When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture,” Falwell insisted, “the result is not good.”

What’s telling is that neither preacher lost sway in Republican circles. Before Falwell’s death last year, John McCain actively courted his support, and Rudy Giuliani, one of the heroes of Sept. 11, welcomed Robertson’s endorsement of his own candidacy. “His advice is invaluable,” Giuliani said.

And, of course, there is the endorsement of McCain by the Rev. John Hagee, founder of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who has called the Catholic Church “the great whore of Babylon” and “the anti-Christ.”


The Rev. William Danaher, a professor at the General Theological Seminary here, argued that left-wing preachers who are black draw more fire because their critique of American society tends to be more fundamental.

“The left black preacher is challenging the social structures that everyone lives in,” Danaher said. “The white preachers on the right don’t challenge these structures. Instead, they talk about issues of personal morality and individual behavior.”

In other words, the white preachers can get away with it because they’re usually gay-bashing, and it’s still acceptable to attack the queers. So Pat Robertson and James Dobson and John Hagee and Rod Parsley will continue to be a part of the Republican party and probably even appear at the convention, while Jeremiah Wright will be relegated to the crazy-uncle section for having the uppity nerve to question the White Straight Patriarchy. Not that Rev. Wright isn’t a self serving narcissist, but is he any worse than his white counterparts?