Ignorance of religion . . .
Fox News Sunday today is relentlessly flogging the Reverend You-know-who. In its pursuit to bring down Barack Obama, Fox has shifted tactics somewhat, allowing some questions about Hillary Clinton into interviews—asking Terry McAuliffe, for example, about several prominent members of the Clinton administration who now support Obama. (McAuliffe’s answer: I cd give you a list of thousands of former Clinton people who still support Hillary Clinton. Fair enough.)
Chris Wallace harped on the Reverend throughout his interviews with DNC chair Howard Dean, McAuliffe, and Rep. Joe Andrew, who famously has switched from supporting Clinton to supporting Obama. The harping continues into the panel discussion graced with neocon luminaries like Bill Kristol. Meanwhile, as Wallace repeatedly mentions, the Republicans are trying to tie Democratic candidates around the nation (read: the South) to the reverend, for his “damnAmerica” remarks . . .
Proving once again that some of these highly compensated political consultants really are as underqualified as some of television pundits and news figures (George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson, Bill Kristol, George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer, etc).
Not that everyone has taken Comparative Religion, History of Religion, or any similar college course usually taught in the philosophy department of your nearest university. Many nominally educated people have, in fact, never taken any course touching on world history. Still, there are a few fundamental points that many Westerners do grow up knowing, if only by osmosis, or by . . . let’s see—oh, yes—thinking. Fox personnel like Wallace, above, really do seem to have convinced themselves that the Reverend You-know-who is ‘radioactive.’ I think they’re overreaching.
(YouTube video clip of opposing party, re religion, here)
A quick recap, Comparative Religion 101-style, here:
- Contemptus mundi, contempt of this world in anticipation of the next, has always been an extremist problem for Christianity. Since the first century of the Christian era, there has always been a tension between “In my father’s house are many mansions” and all the other visions of a better hereafter, on one hand, and instructions to live this life well and make this world better while you’re here, on the other. Contempt of earthly dross—flesh, gold—is good up to a point. But when you get into arrogance (spiritual pride), lack of charity (unloving behavior) and suicide, you have problems.
- Still, it is consistent with every known Christian denomination to downplay earthly power. Put not your faith in princes or principalities. Strong stuff; goes way back.
- In this tradition, we often—routinely—have preachers and other men (usually) of the cloth excoriating this country. Fire and brimstone from the pulpit does not spare self; it does not spare one’s own community; it does not spare one’s own country. If more of the media figures and political consultants who pander to the right wing actually entered some of those churches they try to get money from, they would know this.
- The history of the United States, from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to now, is replete with these religious traditions. For many millions of Americans, they are central in everyday thought. Very few churches inAmerica would seriously tell their congregants to place a president above conscience, above God, or even above their church. The Supreme Being, in this line of thought, does hold the power of salvation and damnation.
- Some commentators on the left are bringing up rightwing pastors—Jerry Falwell springs to mind—as a riposte to the Reverend You-know-who inChicago. I think this is a basic misreading. Anyone who does this kind of thing is invading another place of worship, at least intellectually invading it, in a way that millions of people feel instinctively—and rightly—to be a violation.
- Btw, this phenomenon is by no means restricted to “black churches.” Nor are members of “black churches” the only Americans offended by the current media harping—entirely by overpaid individuals—on Reverend You-know-who.
I am not going to quote other American preachers making equivalent or similar statements aboutAmerica. But I could. And this little point is one widely known—to people who have actually sat through a sermon in their lives.
Speaking of churches, African-Americans, and related topics: I leave you, my brethren and sisters, with a brighter historical note for the day. The reverend Billy Graham, a member of a large and prominent Baptist church in Dallas, and already world-famous himself, became concerned at the fact that his church was segregated.
So, in some of the best traditions that have made America what it is today, he took steps. He visited with his church elders, and told them point-blank, in no uncertain words, to desegregate. Otherwise, he informed them, he would leave the church—and would tell the world why.
The church desegregated in short order. It’s called blackmail. Wonder whether some of those elders left the gathering thinking, “God damn . . .”
But there was no Chris Wallace and Fox News in those days, so we’ll never know. Oh, come to think of it, we would never have found out from Fox News anyway.