Commentary by Marji Mendelsohn for JewsOnFirst.org, March 25, 2008
Barrack Obama dealt frankly, openly and intellectually with the issue of his complex relationship to Jeremiah Wright. Contrast that with John McCain's embrace of Christian Right leaders Pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley. This is big picture stuff.
Barack Obama's March 17th speech was the first national tutorial on race and it was as courageous a speech as any politician has ever given. There was no anger, or even blame, in his voice as he publicly dissected one of our nation's most intractable problems. If his speech could be shown in every classroom in the country and discussed as honestly as the subject deserves, it is possible to imagine that the next generation might actually have a chance to grow up seeing past the color of a person's skin. It is sickening to see the right cherry-picking lines, creating videos portraying Obama to be a secret Black Nationalist out to take away our country.
By contrast, the media has not lingered on John Hagee's anti-Catholic bigotry, even though McCain stood smiling with Hagee to receive the televangelist's endorsement. When McCain subsequently distanced himself from Hagee's hateful statements, it was only for fear of losing Catholic votes.
John Hagee is not only an anti-Catholic bigot. He repeatedly stokes the fires of hatred toward Islam, telling his national television audience that there are between 200 and 800 million Muslims who are jihadists. His crusader-like talk makes Reverend Wright look like a piker.
McCain courted Hagee
Hagee has based his career, wealth, position and enormous power on hatred: hatred of Islam, of homosexuals, and of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Yet John McCain went out of his way to court him, in hopes that Hagee's endorsement would make the Christian Right forget his not-so-long ago disdain for them as "agents of intolerance." McCain courted Hagee knowing full well that, when it comes to Israel, Hagee is doing all he can to insure there is to be no land for peace deal. Ever.
Then there's McCain endorser Rod Parsley (pictured on McCain's left). A man who has said that Allah is a demon spirit. Parsley, a megachurch pastor in Ohio, has told his followers:
I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.
On October 30, 2007 Parsley filled his World Harvest Church outside of Columbus, Ohio with faithful lay and clergy to hear former Senator Rick Santorum and religious right leader Gary Bauer state that Islam must be destroyed if we are to survive
Four short months later, Parsley jumped off McCain's Straight Talk Express to stand with the candidate. McCain proudly proclaimed his pride in having this man as his spiritual guide.
So while the GOP, or maybe even Hillary, tries to paint Obama into a spiritual corner, take a step back to look at the big picture. Why are the media – and the Democrats – giving McCain a pass on his supporters blatant anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim bigotry?
Marji Mendelsohn has been studying the effect of religion on politics and foreign policy