With Barack Obama’s Jeremiah Wright scandal just beginning to fade, new scandals are surfacing for the Republican nominee, John McCain. At this point, there is very little for John McCain to gain by going after Barack Obama and his relationship with Pastor Wright, as he has his own history of problematic and fiery religious leaders.
Take for instance reports linking McCain to Reverend Jerry Falwell. Like Jeremiah Wright, Jerry Falwell blamed the United States as well for 9/11; however, instead of blaming Whites, he blamed the ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and others for the attack (so much for the theory that a bunch of people from a transnational organization called Al Qaeda did it).
Then there is the more recent controversy surrounding Pastor John Hagee endorsement of John McCain. Hagee has called the Roman Catholic Church the Great Whore, and blamed New Orlean’s support of gays and the removal of Jews from the Gaza Strip for Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans (so much for blaming inept politicians for neglecting to improve New Orlean’s Levee or react prudently).
Although McCain denies it, Pastor Hagee insists that John McCain sought out his endorsement.
The more recent scandal involves Pastor Ron Parsley, who believes the United States was founded in order to rid the world of the “false religion, Islam.” David Corn of MotherJones reports, May 8, 2008:
During a 2005 sermon, a fundamentalist pastor whom Senator John McCain has praised and campaigned with called Islam “the greatest religious enemy of our civilization and the world,” claiming that the historic mission of America is to see “this false religion destroyed.” In this taped sermon, currently sold by his megachurch, the Reverend Rod Parsley reiterates and amplifies harsh and derogatory comments about Islam he made in his book, Silent No More, published the same year he delivered these remarks. Meanwhile, McCain has stuck to his stance of not criticizing Parsley, an important political ally in a crucial swing state.
Parsely’s divisive and inflammatory language is captured in a video from the same article:
Now, what can we make of these political alliances?
Barack Obama sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for over 20 years, had his two children baptized, and was married by Pastor Jeremiah Wright. This certainly looks like a very personal and long-term relationship, but it also is an apolitical relationship. Obama’s relationship with Wright was in the church, not in politics, and when Wright’s views became politicized, Obama was quick to publicly denounce Wright’s inflammatory and divisive words.
While John McCain never had a long and personal relationship with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, or Ron Parsely, he has received their endorsements, a clear political connection. Furthermore, he has not publicly denounced many of their words, unlike Barack Obama.
If we take a step back, we can clearly see that John McCain’s alliances with these men are more for political support than shared ideologies. Prior to the presidential election in 2000, McCain attacked Christian fundamentalists like Falwell and Robertson for their views and positions. So what can we make of this?
McCain might not personally agree with these men, but he needs their support. The question is how far does their support go, and how far will McCain go to secure this support? These are important questions to ask.
We can also see that the Jeremiah Wright scandal was political propaganda, or at least overblown in its magnitude, in an attempt to discredit Barack Obama. There are fiery and inflammatory pastors aplenty between these two candidates. Religious leaders do not define candidates, they define voting blocks, and thus reflect important pockets of demographics within the Republican and Democratic infrastructures.
We can also consider politics from an economic standpoint of supply and demand. As long as fundamentalists supply a significant and collective voting block in either Party, they stand to have leverage in presidential politics and policies. In the end, it is the U.S voters who determine the political leverage in an election.