Wright, Hagee and Parsley

This is part two of my three part look at Obama and race. Part one on Reverend Wright's controversial statements.

A constant theme among a lot of liberal blogs even before the Rev. Wright media spectacle has been “why haven't the mainstream media paid attention to McCain's courting of hateful religious Right preachers?” McCain sought out Rev. John Hagee's endorsement to help counter his 2000 statement that powerful preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were "agents of intolerance." He sought out Rev. Rod Parsley's endorsement in order to help him win Ohio in the general election. Why has Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright been more newsworthy and controversial than McCain's relationship with the much more radical and hateful Hagee and Parsley?


On Technorati as of 4PM on March 18th, a search for "Obama and Wright" yields 8,129 results. A search for "McCain and Hagee" yields 1,274. A search for "McCain and Parsley" yields only 232 results. A Lexis-Nexis news search for "Obama and Wright" yielded 329 results for the previous two years, versus only 31 results for "McCain and Hagee" and 9 results for "McCain and Parsley" (some of which were in newspapers' Food sections...).

There are a few reasons. First, because Obama's relationship with Wright is personally close and much longer than McCain's relationship with either Hagee or Parsley. Secondly, because Reverend Wright comes off as a scary black man.
The substance of Wright's controversial remarks may be less hateful than remarks by Hagee and Parsley, but the manner of delivery "jars" whites and brings up stereotypes of black nationalists and fears that Malcolm X will rise from the grave. Third, due to the religious Right's widespread influence, most members of the media are familiar with hateful statements coming from the likes of Falwell and Robertson, while they were surprised by the remarks and style of Rev. Wright, just as they were surprised by the poverty and resentment shown by Hurricane Katrina.

As for Hagee, from a quick scan of his Wikipedia entry we see that in his book Jersusalem Countdown, he wrote that Jews brought the Holocaust et al on themselves because of their “disobedience” to God. He said on NPR that New Orleans deserved to be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina because of its tolerance of gays. He also claimed on NPR that the faith of Islam is a military threat. Some Catholic groups (and this guy too) say he called the Catholic Church “the great whore” and “a false cult system”, although Hagee denies it.

Parsley is of a similar mold, but is even more anti-Muslim:
I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam... 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.
With Hagee and Parsley's nuttiness firmly established, let's move on to the respective relationships.

Why is Obama close to Wright? Because of factors that have nothing to do with Wright's controversial political views. Obama joined Wright's church looking for a sense of community and seeking to identify with the people he represented in office. Hilzoy writes more on the connection between Obama and his church. Bottom line – it's not about politics, it's about community and identity.

Why is McCain close to Hagee and Parsley? Precisely because of their controversial political views. McCain sought out Hagee's endorsement for the political benefits, and McCain became close to Parsley in order to win Ohio in the general election. If McCain cozies up to hateful preachers purely because of their political power, shouldn't he be held accountable for the political views that give them that political power?

The sad thing is that McCain once possessed the courage to denounce hateful religious Right preachers like Hagee and Parsley. McCain made the decision to embrace these people not, I think, because he changed his mind about them, but because of his ambition to be President outweighs his moral sense.

26 comments:

Dan Vojir said...

Thanks for the great post. It's interesting to note that if you view Wright's sermons with full text and context, they are more cautionary than hateful. His is siply a "chikens coming home to roost" meme. Hagee and Parsley, however are professional haters. And sadly, people loe to hear/see/read about them. I wrote a post for today (Easter) on Michelle Malkin and my hits doubled!

Americans are always starved for entertainment, I guess.

Thanks again,
DanV
http://thedevilandanvojir.blogspot..com

Dan tdaxp said...

Why is Obama close to Wright? Because of factors that have nothing to do with Wright's controversial political views. Obama joined Wright's church looking for a sense of community and seeking to identify with the people he represented in office. Hilzoy writes more on the connection between Obama and his church. Bottom line – it's not about politics, it's about community and identity.

This strikes me as absurd. Can you defend this assertion?

Adrian said...

Vojir - thanks, I commented on your Malkin post.

Tdaxp - What is there to defend? Are you arguing that Obama went around the South Side looking for preachers who yelled controversial statements? Do you take issue with hilzoy's post, or my characterization of it?

Dan tdaxp said...

Adrian,

I'll ask again, and I'll try to be clearer.

You have stated that Obama joined (and I presume you meant stayed on with) Wright's church for community and identity, not politics.

This is a positive assertion. You should either defend it, explaining how it is true, retract it, or concede you give no evidence to support it.

Otherwise it's just buzzing in the blogsophere.

Adrian said...

I'll quote from hilzoy's post and the part of Audacity of Hope that hilzoy quotes:

"As it happens, Obama describes what drew him to this church. As best I can tell, it was community, and the frank acknowledgement of spiritual concerns. About the community: as Obama describes it, this church had a largely black congregation. Some were upwardly mobile (another pastor tells Obama it's "a buppie church"). But many were not:

"The bulk of its membership was solidly working class, the same teachers and secretaries and government workers one found in other big black churches throughout the city. Residents from the nearby housing project had been actively recruited, and programs designed to meet the needs of the poor -- legal aid, tutorials, drug programs -- took up a substantial amount of the church's resources. (...)

By widening its doors to allow all who would enter, a church like Trinity assured its members that their fates remained inseparably bound, that an intelligible "us" still remained." (Dreams From My Father, pp. 285-6"

Dan tdaxp said...

In your opinion, the best evidence is Obama Says So?

Adrian said...

What evidence would there be as to Obama's own motivations, other than what Obama says? Should we polygraph Obama about his church?

On the other hand, you assert that he sticks with his church because he agrees with his pastor. Your evidence seems to be Some Random Guy in Nebraska Says So.

I suppose it is technically possible that Obama is secretly an America-hating black nationalist Manchurian candidate who is lying to protect his puppeteer.

Do you remain in the Catholic church because you agree with every pronouncement made by the Vatican and your priest? Or do you remain because of community, identity, and faith?

What's truly absurd is this discussion.

Dan tdaxp said...

Adrian,

What evidence would there be as to Obama's own motivations, other than what Obama says?

Logic and reason.

Should we polygraph Obama about his church?

Why bother?

On the other hand, you assert that he sticks with his church because he agrees with his pastor. Your evidence seems to be Some Random Guy in Nebraska Says So.

Incorrect.

I suppose it is technically possible that Obama is secretly an America-hating black nationalist Manchurian candidate who is lying to protect his puppeteer.

I doubt it.

Do you remain in the Catholic church because you agree with every pronouncement made by the Vatican and your priest? Or do you remain because of community, identity, and faith?

I never questioned Obama belonging to the United Church of Christ, so your analogy falls.

What's truly absurd is this discussion.

Then don't make it absurd by misrepresenting me.

Adrian said...

I don't see any contradiction between your argument that Obama joined the church for a political constituency and the argument that he joined for reasons of community and identity cited by hilzoy. It still argues that Obama was focusing on the community and not Rev. Wright's wackier views when he chose his church.

Why does my analogy fail? If your priest says something political that you disagree with, do you quit the church and look for a different church to attend? It seems to me that's what you argue Obama should have done.

Dan tdaxp said...

I don't see any contradiction between your argument that Obama joined the church for a political constituency and the argument that he joined for reasons of community and identity cited by hilzoy. It still argues that Obama was focusing on the community and not Rev. Wright's wackier views when he chose his church.

If you're only claim is that Obama doesn't endorse the worst of Wright's views, you're arguing against the wind. No serious commentator disagrees with that.

Earlier, it sounded as if you were claiming that Obama joined Wright's church for reasons apart from politics.

Why does my analogy fail? If your priest says something political that you disagree with, do you quit the church and look for a different church to attend? It seems to me that's what you argue Obama should have done.

You're using words loosely here. Criticism of Obama has been focused on his membership of Wright's church, not the UCC. Yet in your thought experiment, you ask why I don't leave the Roman Catholic Church, as opposed to an individual parish.

Adrian said...

Of course Obama joined the church for reasons other than politics. He joined it for multiple reasons, some political, some non-political - to increase his ties with the community he wanted to represent, to explore his own identity, because of the inclusive nature of the community at that church, etc.

Would you leave a parish based on a priest's political views?

Dan tdaxp said...

Of course Obama joined the church for reasons other than politics. He joined it for multiple reasons, some political, some non-political - to increase his ties with the community he wanted to represent, to explore his own identity, because of the inclusive nature of the community at that church, etc.

Though political calculation entered into his decision making when he joined the church?

I'm not disagreeing, but your point gets blander every time you refine it.

Would you leave a parish based on a priest's political views?

Yes.

To name just one: if a priest instructed me that the AIDS virus was concocted by Jewish doctors to kill off whites. Of by white doctors to kill of blacks, for that matter.

Adrian said...

The point of my post is in fact rather bland. Since Obama's relationship with Wright was not a political relationship - he did not seek Wright's endorsement for votes, etc. - Obama should not be hounded regarding Wright's political views. I assume politics in the sense of Obama wanting to identify with the black community played a role in Obama's original decision to attend Trinity, but I don't know that. In any event it has nothing to do with Obama's current relationship with Wright. This is not complicated.

On the other hand, McCain sought out Hagee and Parsley for their political power. Hence the double standard - Obama is called out on a non-political relationship while McCain is given a free pass on a rather dramatic reversal, from "agents of intolerance" to "spiritual adviser".

Dan tdaxp said...

Canine analogies aside, Wright matches the anti-homosexual views of the "religious Right," and adds to them paranoid anti-Americanism. The theological views of McCain's supporters are rightly of no interest to me, as I don't believe in a religious test for office.

You can demonstrate hypocracy if you can show that, say, McCain's or Hillary's minister is a klansman, as that would be rightful quarantine line of American politics.

Adrian said...

I addressed the notion that Wright's views are "anti-American" in the previous post. He is no more anti-American than MLK (who was also accused of anti-Americanism by conservatives). The comparison between Wright and the KKK is ludicrous.

There should be a theological test for office WHEN those theological views directly tie into policy - for instance, should we encourage Israel to maintain and expand its West Bank settlements so that god doesn't send another hurricane against New Orleans? Hagee has provided his answer to that question.

Neither of us are going to convince the other - this is a waste of time.

Dan tdaxp said...

I addressed the notion that Wright's views are "anti-American" in the previous post. He is no more anti-American than MLK (who was also accused of anti-Americanism by conservatives).

Can you give a reference to MLK enjoining his parishioners against wishing blessings upon the country, or MLK endorsing a conspiracy theory about widespread biological warfare against blacks?

The comparison between Wright and the KKK is ludicrous.

How so?

While I cannot provide a reference off the top of my head, I would not doubt the Klan endorsing strange conspiracy theories about biological warfare, accusing FDR of knowing about Pearl Habor, etc.

There should be a theological test for office WHEN those theological views directly tie into policy - for instance, should we encourage Israel to maintain and expand its West Bank settlements so that god doesn't send another hurricane against New Orleans? Hagee has provided his answer to that question.

That's not a theological question -- that's a natural question for which Hagee is using theological evidence in coming up with his justification.

Neither of us are going to convince the other - this is a waste of time.

Then why bother with your post in the first place, if not to learn and teach?

Adrian said...

Then why bother with your post in the first place, if not to learn and teach?

Other people read my blog as well, I am not writing them off.

Dan tdaxp said...

Will you answer my questions?

Adrian said...

See my earlier post for a quote from MLK.

The KKK is a murderous terrorist group, and Trinity UCC is a church. Thus the comparison is ludicrous.

The distinction between "a theological question" and "that's a natural question for which Hagee is using theological evidence in coming up with his justification" is laughable. For Hagee it IS a theological question, that's the whole point.

Dan tdaxp said...

How does your quote show MLK enjoining against blessings for the nation, and enjoining for damnation?

My analogy to the Klan was in terms for race-infused theology, not acts of violence. Perhaps you would grant an analogy to British Israelism or the Nation of Islam?

It's distressing you find precise argument laughable. The distinction is precisely what allows Eddie to write, for instance, that he does not politically object if a pastor believes homosexuals will burn in hell for their orientation (a theological question), but to object if pastor's use rhetoric of that hurtfully (a natural question).

Really, distinction between natural and theological questions go back at least 2,000 years in western culture, and probably at least to Socrates. Dismissing political philosophy as laughable is a poor decision for a blogger who cares about such things.

Adrian said...

MLK was talking about how God was going to punish the US for her crimes. Wright was saying the exact same thing.

Nation of Islam is, as I understand it, black supremacist. It'd be difficult to support Obama if he was a member of Nation of Islam. I haven't seen anything that suggests black liberation theology is similarly racist.

For Hagee, policy on Israel, gay rights, etc., is determined by his reading of the Bible, thus they are theological questions. I suppose in precise language I would support a theological test for office when the person intends on forcing their theological views on the rest of the country or world, turning "natural" questions into theological ones.

Dan tdaxp said...

Adrian,

MLK was talking about how God was going to punish the US for her crimes. Wright was saying the exact same thing.

Saying "If we don't do A, B will happen" is quite a bit different from saying "B should happen."

Nation of Islam is, as I understand it, black supremacist. It'd be difficult to support Obama if he was a member of Nation of Islam. I haven't seen anything that suggests black liberation theology is similarly racist.

"The highest level of achievement for any Black person must be a contribution of substance to the strength and continuity of the Black Community."?

Adrian said...

I don't see that as racist, sorry.

Dan tdaxp said...

What definition of racist are you using?

Mine is "Discrimination or prejudice based on race," which is precisely what that line is.

Adrian said...

Saying that black people should remember where they came from and help out their old neighborhoods, their families, etc., after they've achieved wealth isn't racist.

Racism is difficult to define, but I think it generally involves believing that one racial group is intrinsically superior to another. By your definition, asian kids that sit at the "asian table" in a high school cafeteria are racist.

Dan tdaxp said...

Adrian,

You didn't address the disputed portion of the BVS:

It reads:

"The highest level of achievement for any Black person must be a contribution of substance to the strength and continuity of the Black Community."

You incorrectly summarized it as:

"Saying that black people should remember where they came from and help out their old neighborhoods, their families, etc."

It is trivially easy to see how your summary differs from how the BVS actually reads.