Thursday, May 22, 2008

Well, Dear Heart, Be Offended

Today Sen. John McCain rejected the endorsement of televangelist John Hagee because of Hagee's controversial statements in a sermon preached ten years ago, in which he interpreted verses in Jeremiah 16 to mean that God sent Hitler and the Holocaust to drive the Jews back into the "promised land" of Israel.

McCain distanced the controversy from the one that had recently buzzed around Sen. Barack Obama, regarding statements made by his preacher of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright. McCain clarified that Hagee was not and never had been his minister and adviser. (McCain attends but does not belong to a Baptist church in Arizona--and said a year ago that he does not consider himself "born again" and never has been baptized--prerequisites of Baptist church membership.)

Hagee responded with a statement that the widely circulated audio of the sermon had been dredged up to hurt McCain politically (and he's almost certainly right about that) and that the charges against him (Hagee) were "baseless"--perhaps forgetting what the word "baseless" means or perhaps never knowing.

Hagee has also gathered negative attention by identifying the Roman Catholic Church as the "Great Whore" mentioned in the Book of Revelation and blaming New Orleans' tolerance for gay circuit parties for the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

I'm certainly happy that, after weeks of controversy, McCain has finally repudiated this moron (but, let's face it, McCain has a lot more where this one came from).

But I'm mostly amused that fundamentalist preachers are beginning to get bit in the ass by their own arrogance. At one point in Hagee's controversial sermon, he acknowledged that some people might find his interpretation of Jeremiah's prophecy offensive, and sarcastically retorted, "Well, dear heart, be offended." (Bless the good-hearted soul who saved the audiotape.)

As an ex-fundamentalist, I can attest to the fact that Hagee is only one of many red-faced, sweaty preachers who have made fortunes off statements just this idiotic. He is hardly an exception. I remember a minister once citing St Paul's "what communion hath light with darkness?" as an endorsement of racial segregation.

Most conservative pastors, rabbis, and ayatollahs butter their bread to the never-ending gnashing of teeth of infidels--i.e., all those who happen to reject the tenets of that particular branch of religion. I can't think of a single Baptist minister or evangelist I've ever heard who said anything other than that Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and even Methodists were going to hell unless they repented and accepted Christ as their personal savior.

And if the press begins to scrutinize closely the religious affiliations of politicians, it is sure to discover that so-called "spiritual leaders" have condemned many millions of registered voters to everlasting hellfire.

Potentially this version of guilt by association could cause politicians to distance themselves from their own churches and denominations (not necessarily a bad thing--but still I detest character attacks based purely on one's associations).

Perhaps some hellfire-and-brimstone preachers will start to recognize that, big bucks or no, they should take responsibility for the foolishness and hatefulness they sometimes spout.

Of course, in Hagee's case, the media have left the homosexuals out on the devil's rotisserie--a conciliatory gesture towards the bible-thumpers, perhaps. I imagine it will be quite some time before the weekly condemnation of sodomites (and celebration of HIV and hurricanes as tools of God's righteous ire) gets any preacher--or any politicians in the pews--into hot water.

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