John McCain's Pastors

By Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice (etc.) 3-27-08

 

In another Fox News agenda-setting moment, the GOP’s propaganda wing has successfully shifted the election focus away from our endless wars and our imploding economy and environment, over to Barack Obama’s pastor. It started with Fox—playing what sometimes seemed like an endless loop of context-free snippets from some of the fieriest sermons ever uttered by the pastor at Obama’s Chicago church. In what is now a well worn pattern, GOP-talking-points-turned-Fox-News-stories quickly migrated to the Fox Lite networks and the nation’s leading newspapers. Lost amid the newfound obsession with Obama’s pastor and the black church in general was any mention of John McCain’s two lunatic preachers.

Our coming nuclear war

First there’s Pastor John Hagee, who runs an arena-sized megachurch in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee preaches that Muslims—that’s all Muslims—have a “scriptural mandate” to kill Christians and Jews. But don’t worry. America, according to Hagee, is on top of this coming showdown with Islam. He predicts, and seems to pine for, an all-out nuclear war with Iran, as the beginning of a new global war. Writing for the evangelical Pentecostal magazine Charisma, Hagee argues that “The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty.” In his 2006 book, Jerusalem Countdown, he expanded the first theater of operations for his coming world war to include Russia. This nuclear war, according to Hagee, would eventually end with the second coming of Christ and the whisking away of true believers to the heavens.

Obama-bashers no doubt are currently sorting through parking tickets and assorted databases to determine if he was present for his pastor’s more controversial sermons—with the ultimate story-line centering on why he didn’t shout his preacher down or pelt the man mid-sermon with his prayer book. On the invisible McCain front, however, there’s no question about whether McCain was present for and aware of Hagee’s most lunatic remarks. McCain was onstage with Hagee, receiving his endorsement for president, when he ranted about Allah not being “our” god, warning that “without victory [in Iraq and perhaps Iran], there is no survival.” Rather then flee the stage and quickly call a news conference to distance himself from the end-timer, McCain went over and clasped Hagee’s hand for a photo op.

In declaring his support for McCain, Hagee cited McCain’s aggressive attitude toward Iran—a country McCain actually sang for the cameras about bombing. Are you worried yet?

Drowned sinners and great whores

Hagee is not controversial solely because of his psychotic lust for an apocalyptic nuclear war. Hagee refers to the Catholic Church as “The Great Whore of Revelation 17,” as well as a “False cult system,” an “apostate church” and, like Islam, an anti-Christ institution.

The levees protecting New Orleans failed, according to Hagee, not because the federal government diverted maintenance funding to pay for the Iraq war, as alleged by an Army Corps of Engineers whistle-blower, or because the levees are poorly engineered and underconstructed. No. They failed because “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” and hence the dead in New Orleans, a group primarily made up of impoverished elderly, infirm and handicapped victims of a rescue plan that was indifferent to their survival, “were the recipients of the judgment of God.”

The fact that Hagee’s god chose to punish New Orleans for its supposed sins by drowning, starving, dehydrating and denying medicine to a group of overwhelmingly black victims should be no surprise to Hagee-watchers. In 1996 Hagee made news by organizing a mock “slave sale” to raise funds for his Cornerstone church. His promotional materials for the event included, the San Antonio Express-News reported at the time, taglines promising that “slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone” and advising auction attendees to “make plans to come and go home with a slave.”

To date, McCain has yet to condemn, distance himself from or repute the endorsement of Pastor Hagee when confronted with this information. His official line has been that, while he doesn’t agree with everything Hagee says, he still insists that “all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support.”

So tell me again, in case I missed the point—what were the supposedly controversial blasphemies that Obama’s preacher uttered?

Our coming divine war

Then there’s Ohio-based televangelist Rod Parsley, whom McCain identifies as a spiritual advisor. According to Parsley, who recently appeared side by side with McCain at a campaign rally, America’s “divine purpose” is to destroy Islam. In his 2005 book, Silent No More, McCain’s spiritual advisor claims that this country “was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed.”

Parsley’s argument is based on the historically accurate fact that Christobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) in 1492 declared that the purpose of his exploration was to find enough gold to fund a Christian reconquest of Jerusalem. Colon, however, did not found this country, nor any currently existing political entity in the Americas. The continuing celebration of Columbus, however, lays the foundation for hatemongers like McCain’s pastor to claim that our national heritage is based in hate.

The real problem, however, is not Parsley’s interpretation of history. It’s his apocalyptic vision for a short-lived future.

Ethnic Cleansing USA

When McCain’s spiritual advisor talks about war with Islam, he’s not just talking, like Hagee, about a nuclear showdown abroad. He wants the war to begin here at home. Parsley complains about the growing number of Muslims in the United States (he claims 34,000 converts since 9/11) and the number of mosques in this country (he clams “some 1,209”) as evidence that we are failing in our historic calling as a “Christian nation” and “a bastion against Islam.”

While Hagee calls for a religious war to end the world, Parsley seems to have added to the agenda the desire to first destroy everything this country stands for along the way. The spiritual advice here is to make us squirm in pain watching the destruction of our shaky experiment in pluralistic democracy, with massive Yugoslavian-style ethnic cleansing of Muslims—then to bring on the end of the world as a grand finale.

So, one more time, please remind me what Obama’s pastor said in his sermons. And tell me, one more time, why I should be more concerned with Obama’s pastor than with John McCain’s two theological confidantes?

Hillary’s prayer cabal

The story doesn’t end with McCain. While we were all watching YouTube cliplets of Obama’s pastor, the press also continued to ignore Hillary Clinton’s troubling religious cell. The Nation last week ran a book review by Barbara Ehrenreich, about Jeff Sharlet’s forthcoming (to be released in May) book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Sharlet, in conducting research for his book, went to live in a group home run by a Washington, DC-based religious group, the Fellowship (known more informally as the Family), which Hillary Clinton joined as First Lady in 1993.

As senator, Clinton is now among the group’s leaders. While the group’s religious calling is unclear, its political leanings are horrifically clear. Former and current members include former Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, Indonesian dictator General Suharto, Salvadoran general and convicted mass torturer Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova and Honduran general and death squad commander Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, as well as American politicos such as John Ashcroft, Ed Meese and Rick Santorum. This is a disturbing bunch of bedfellows for sure—regardless of their religious beliefs. Connect the dots. It ain’t pretty.

So, for the last time, because I clearly miss the point—why should I worry about Barack Obama or his pastor?

Dr. Michael I. Niman is a professor of journalism and media studies at Buffalo State College. His previous columns are available at artvoice.com, archived at mediastudy.com and available globally through syndication. Send your response to this article to editorial@artvoice.com.


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