Meaner Pastors

May 23, 2008

At last, after weeks of discussion of Barack Obama’s relationship with the controversial pastor at Trinity Church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the media has turned its attention to John McCain’s ties to Rev. John Hagee.  I say at last, because I believe strongly that McCain’s ties to Hagee are far more significant than Obama’s relationship with Wright.  I understand that my friends on the right will disagree, and I have no doubt that many in the “liberal” (Ha!) press will side with them.  But they’re simply wrong.

Barack Obama’s affiliation with Wright and Trinity Church goes back twenty years.  As the candidate himself has said again and again, Wright presided at the Obamas’ wedding, as well as at the christening of their daughters.  Obama joined the church years before Wright made his most controversial remarks.  By the time Wright made the statements that so many found offensive (and that were taken out of context by the media and Obama’s political enemies), the entire Obama family was deeply committed to the congregation; they were part of a community that was far larger and more important than any one man, even if that one man was the church’s pastor.  Many of Obama’s critics have said that he should have left the church when he learned of Wright’s incendiary remarks, but as anyone with a sense of congregational life knows, leaving a church is no small matter for an individual, much less for a family that includes young children.  Obama chose to remain with his congregation and denounce the aspects of Rev. Wright’s sermons that he and others found offensive.  Given the personal nature of any decision dealing with where one worships with his or her family, I find it hard to fault him for doing so. 

Let us contrast Obama’s experience with Senator McCain’s.  As many of you know, John Hagee has been a controversial figure for years.  He has said the most vile things about the Catholic church, including calling Catholicism “the great whore” and “a false cult.”  These statements have been part of the public record for several years.  And yet, as John McCain began his campaign for the Presidency he also began a concerted effort to gain Rev. Hagee’s political endorsement.  This effort lasted more than a year and was ultimately successful.  In the wake of receiving Hagee’s endorsement, McCain was confronted with the Reverend’s past statements about Catholicism, and he merely said that while he found such remarks offensive, he still welcomed Hagee’s support.  Only with this week’s revelations about Hagee’s odious statements regarding Hitler and the Holocaust did McCain finally conclude that he had to distance himself from the man.

McCain’s supporters will say that McCain doesn’t have a twenty year history with Hagee.  They simply have a political association that the Senator has now ended.  I say, exactly!  Obama was a member of Reverend Wright’s congregation for nearly half of his lifetime.  By the time Rev. Wright began to make his more offensive comments, the two men had a history.  McCain, on the other hand, pursued a relationship with Hagee despite the Reverend’s religious bigotry.  He did so not because Hagee was part of his personal and spiritual life, but simply for crass political reasons:  He wanted the support of Hagee’s followers.  If McCain knew about Hagee’s past comments his willingness to seek and accept Hagee’s endorsement is deeply offensive.  If he didn’t know, then one has to ask, has the man never heard of a search engine?  

Either way you look at it, McCain’s association with John Hagee ought to be of far greater concern to voters than Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

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7 Responses to “Meaner Pastors”

  1. Brian said

    My thoughts exactly! This is a good example of politics in action, and another reason I can’t put any trust in McCain. He says whatever is convenient, and beneficial for himself at the time. Maybe it’s true that he is too old; people from his generation generally are not as familiar with the power of the worlwide web.

  2. davidbcoe said

    “I can’t put any trust in McCain. He says whatever is convenient, and beneficial for himself at the time.”

    Yeah, I’m not sure that McCain is all that different from other politicians in this way. But I think Obama is, which is why I find myself getting excited about the possibility of an Obama Presidency. Thanks for the comment, Brian.

  3. A good point, and one that I hadn’t heard put that way before. I have seen two columnist refer, in print, to Hagee as “McCain’s pastor”.I am inclined not to give a total pass to Obama on this, though.

    side note, I am not sure if John McCain has ever used a search engine. He should have a staffer or two who can, though.

  4. I just got the pun in the title. Subtle!

  5. davidbcoe said

    Yeah, the pun was subtle. I think most people missed it. In terms of giving Obama a pass, I really don’t see that he did anything wrong. If you listen to the entirety of Wright’s sermons, they actually are not nearly as offensive as they seem when items are taken out of context. The stuff that Wright has said recently has been outrageous, but Obama denounced him immediately for those comments.

  6. Susan Tait said

    I got the pun–it’s why I read the commentary. I have to say that while politics makes strange bedfellows, there’s nothing strange at all about McCain’s motives. Or Obama’s. Nice job putting it all together!

  7. davidbcoe said

    Thanks for the comment, Susan. Glad to know someone out there share’s my sense of humor. 😉

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