Sweet Jesus, but I am sick and tired of hearing about Jesus.
Let me be clear. When a presidential candidate is asked
STEVE KROFT: You don’t believe that Senator Obama’s a Muslim?
HILLARY CLINTON: Of course not. I mean that’s, you know, that, there is no basis for that. You know, I take him on the basis of what he says, and, you know, there isn’t any reason to doubt that.
KROFT: You said you take Sen. Obama at his word that he’s not a Muslim…
CLINTON: Right, right..
KROFT: …you don’t believe that he’s a Muslim.
CLINTON: No! No! Why would I? There’s nothing to base that on. As far as I know.
The correct answer is, “Who gives a fuck?!” The recommended follow-up is, “Do you have any questions about something that does matter?”
Of course, no candidate who actually wants to serve in office could possibly give that answer. Fortunately, I am not running for office. So, I am free to say a few things that desperately need saying.
It makes no fucking difference whether Barack Obama or any other candidate is Muslim or Christian. It makes no difference if he or any other candidate is Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, a Rosicrucian, Hare Krishna, Jain, B’Hai, Vodoun, Wiccan, Christian Scientist, Church of the Sub-Genius, or Church of Elvis.
It doesn’t fucking matter whether he or any other candidate prays to Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Mithras, Zeus, Shango, Oshun, Odin, or Elvis (again).
It doesn’t fucking matter whether a candidate believes in evolution or not. What does matter is that we live with the political reality that time must be wasted asking candidates for “leader of the free world” a question that deserves no more serious consideration than any of these.
- “Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?
- “Do you think professional wrestling is real?
- “Do you doubt the theory of gravity?
- “Do you watch Fox News?”
It doesn’t fucking matter that Hillary’s “prayer chains and prayer warriors” helped her deal with Bill’s tom-cattin’. It does fucking matter that Hillary was too happy to give face some face time to the 700 Club, and is aligned with some folks who put the “warrior” in “prayer warriors.”
Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. “A lot of evangelicals would see that as just cynical exploitation,” says the Reverend Rob Schenck, a former leader of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who now ministers to decision makers in Washington. “I don’t….there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk, and open Bibles, and prayer.”
…The Fellowship’s long-term goal is “a leadership led by God—leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit.” According to the Fellowship’s archives, the spirit has in the past led its members in Congress to increase U.S. support for the Duvalier regime in Haiti and the Park dictatorship in South Korea. The Fellowship’s God-led men have also included General Suharto of Indonesia; Honduran general and death squad organizer Gustavo Alvarez Martinez; a Deutsche Bank official disgraced by financial ties to Hitler; and dictator Siad Barre of Somalia, plus a list of other generals and dictators. Clinton, says Schenck, has become a regular visitor to Coe’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, a former convent where Coe provides members of Congress with sex-segregated housing and spiritual guidance.
We contacted all of Clinton’s Fellowship cell mates, but only one agreed to speak—though she stressed that there’s much she’s not “at liberty” to reveal. Grace Nelson used to be the organizer of the Florida Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, which makes her a piety broker in Florida politics—she would decide who could share the head table with Jeb Bush. Clinton’s prayer cell was tight-knit, according to Nelson, who recalled that one of her conservative prayer partners was at first loath to pray for the first lady, but learned to “love Hillary as much as any of us love Hillary.” Cells like these, Nelson added, exist in “parliaments all over the world,” with all welcome so long as they submit to “the person of Jesus” as the source of their power.
It matters that any serious candidate for office must genuflect at the altar of unreason if he/she is to have any hope of being elected; and had better not stray to far from it if he/she wants to be re-elected.
It matters when the Democratic party hires a consultant who advises them to back off on the separation of church and state.
It matters that a presidential candidate can make a statement like, “Freedom requires religion,” and go virtually unchallenged in the media. It matters that a presidential candidate can declare that the constitution should be amended to suit “God’s standards,” and still be a contender for his party’s nomination, still garner newspaper endorsements, and still have a future in his party.
It matters that the House would pass a resolution that all but declared America a “Christian nation.” It matters that only nine Democrats mustered the courage to vote against it.
It matters that “abstinence-only education” doesn’t fucking work, but House Democrats voted to preserve funding for “abstinence-only education,” a cause near and dear (and profitable) to the evangelical right.
It matters that you can lose your children for having the wrong faith or no faith at all.
It matters that being critical of Christianity can lose you your job, if you blog for a presidential campaign. And it matters that a presidential campaign can’t hire bloggers who are critical of Christians and Christianity.
It matters that tax dollars are now being used to proselytize for evangelical Christianity, because the Bush administration — with a little help from Congress — has smashed regulations that protected church-state separation.
It matters that people who actually celebrate violence in the Middle East as the prelude to the Rapture have a direct line to the White House to influence foreign policy, and are sought out to endorse presidential candidates.
It matters that — despite the lip service paid to “no religious test” — candidates must, or think they must wear their Christianity on their sleeve in order to win elections.
It matters that the myth of the values voter — that “contaminated strain of punditry” — has, like religion itself, spread so far and wide and become so throughly accepted despite a lack of tangible evidence to support it, that we now face the very real possibility of choosing between two candidates who’ve gone out of their way to court the evangelical vote — the Republicans to maintain their 70% of the evangelical vote from 2004, and the Democrats their nearly 30%.
It matters that we may end up choosing between a candidate who’s willing to accept James Hagee’s endorement, or at least not willing to reject it, and on who belong to an organization whose ultimate goal is to move the country rightward.
That’s how it works: The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.
This is in line with the Christian right’s long-term strategy. Francis Schaeffer, late guru of the movement, coined the term “cobelligerency” to describe the alliances evangelicals must forge with conservative Catholics. Colson, his most influential disciple, has refined the concept of cobelligerency to deal with less-than-pure politicians. In this application, conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them. Clinton, Colson told us, “has a lot of history” to overcome, but he sees her making the right moves.
It matters that, apparently, no one who’s anyone or wants to be anyone to be taken serliously can point out the painfully obvious.
What I hear from the progressive netroots is pretty much that if Democrats have to put our issues on the back burner, and reach out to more conservative voters, in order to get back into power, we should understand that, and help them win so that they can move those issues forward later. I keep asking how they’re going to do that and stay in power if they have a new, more conservative, conservative constituency that won’t let them do that and stay in power. I keep asking how this doesn’t add up to a more conservative Democratic party.
So, I’m sick and fucking tired of hearing about Jesus. Unless he’s running for office, or on the short list for Veep, I don’t need to hear about him from political candidates. I don’t need to know if they believe him any more than I need to know if they believe in the tooth fairy. I don’t need to know if they pray to Jesus any more than I need to know whether they still write letters to Santa Claus.
It doesn’t fucking matter. He doesn’t fucking matter. Unless he’s appointed to a cabinet position or the Supreme Court, he doesn’t matter. Unless he’s the leader of some foreign nation we have some relationship with, good or bad, he doesn’t matter. Unless he turns up and give a press conference, so we can hear directly from him where he stands on various issues, ask him some questions, and get answers that aren’t just directly transmitted to Pat Robertson’s brain, he’s irrelevant. (And maybe even then, unless he’s running for office.)
Unless he’s going to actually govern, Jesus is not relevant to the presidential race. Nor is what the candidates think of him , or if they think of him at all, since their religious beliefs shouldn’t be the basis of public policy. It doesn’t matter whether a candidate believes in Jesus any more than it does whether he/she believes in leprechauns.
It doesn’t matter whether Obama believes in Jesus or not. It matters that it matters. And it matters that that doesn’t matter.
Here endeth the rant.