Wright, Hagee, and the KKK?

It will come of little surprise that Christopher Hitchens uses the Obama-Wright controversy to take another whack at organized religion.

Look at the accepted choice of words for the ravings of Jeremiah Wright: controversial, incendiary, inflammatory. These are adjectives that might have been—and were—applied to many eloquent speakers of the early civil rights movement. . . . But is it “inflammatory” to say that AIDS and drugs are wrecking the black community because the white power structure wishes it? No. Nor is it “controversial.” It is wicked and stupid and false to say such a thing.

[…]

Now, by way of which vent or orifice is this venom creeping back into our national bloodstream? Where is hatred and tribalism and ignorance most commonly incubated, and from which platform is it most commonly yelled? If you answered “the churches” and “the pulpits,” you got both answers right. The Ku Klux Klan (originally a Protestant identity movement, as many people prefer to forget) and the Nation of Islam (a black sectarian mutation of Quranic teaching) may be weak these days, but bigotry of all sorts is freely available, and openly inculcated into children, by any otherwise unemployable dirtbag who can perform the easy feat of putting Reverend in front of his name. And this clerical vileness has now reached the point of disfiguring the campaigns of both leading candidates for our presidency. If you think Jeremiah Wright is gruesome, wait until you get a load of the next Chicago “Reverend,” one James Meeks, another South Side horror show with a special sideline in the baiting of homosexuals. He, too, has been an Obama supporter, and his church has been an occasional recipient of Obama’s patronage. And perhaps he, too, can hope to be called “controversial” for his use of the term house nigger to describe those he doesn’t like and for his view that it was “the Hollywood Jews” who brought us Brokeback Mountain. Meanwhile, the Republican nominee adorns himself with two further reverends: one named John Hagee, who thinks that the pope is the Antichrist, and another named Rod Parsley, who has declared that the United States has a mission to obliterate Islam. Is it conceivable that such repellent dolts would be allowed into public life if they were not in tax-free clerical garb? How true it is that religion poisons everything.

While I’m not unsympathetic to this argument, it’s grossly unfair. Wright and Farrakhan and Hagee and all the rest use their positions of authority and their oratorical skills to inflame pre-existing prejudices and otherwise convert the dispossessed to their worldviews. The KKK, like various Islamist terrorist groups, uses religion as one tool among many to motivate terrorism against outsiders. It’s despicable and does indeed serve as an argument for rationality over mysticism. But this sort of activity is not what’s going on in most churches on Sundays and it’s defamatory to suggest otherwise.

I had the bemusing experience of attending a Methodist service in Minneapolis, as a guest of friends we were staying with, two days ago. It was, of course, Easter Sunday. Amusingly, it coincided — purely by happenstance, according to the organizers — with the American Atheists Conference in the same city. The sermon made note of the overlap and poked fun of the contrasts between the dour atheists and their lunch of “cold sandwiches and kettle chips” with the happy congregation looking forward to gathering with their families for a lovely Easter feast. As one might expect, I found the whole thing rather silly and the logical analysis more than a bit strained. Certainly, though, I didn’t get the sense that we were being called to despise the atheists, let alone do them harm.

I’ve attended various church services over the years, ranging from Southern Baptist to Episcopalian to Mormon. With few exceptions, I’ve found them mind numbing; the handful of exceptions, which involved preachers who hollered the whole time, were simply annoying. I find the ritual annoying, especially in High Church ceremonies where they are extremely repetitive. Further, the whole “faith” thing is contrary to my nature.

Yet I’ve never felt that I was witnessing anything “wicked,” let alone taking part in “hatred.” To some extent, the charge of “tribalism” is almost definitionally true. But the focus is on fostering community rather than ostracizing outsiders.

Whether these people could find a more worthwhile way of spending their Sunday mornings is debatable. But the idea that most American churchgoers are having their heads filled with venomous hatred tantamount to a Klan rally is beyond absurd; it’s a damnable lie.

While his ire is aimed at religion, Hitchens does not miss the opportunity to take an amusing whack at Obama:

You often hear it said, of some political or other opportunist, that he would sell his own grandmother if it would suit his interests. But you seldom, if ever, see this notorious transaction actually being performed, which is why I am slightly surprised that Obama got away with it so easily.

To quote Glenn Reynolds, “Ouch.”

He headlines his post on the subject “CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS DOESN’T LIKE OBAMA” and adds an update that, “Reader Steve Fisher notes that Hitchens doesn’t much like Hillary, either. And I’ll bet he’s not crazy about McCain . . . .”

Yup. Hitch is a fun read but he’s the Mikey of the punditocracy.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Religion, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    What homosexuality is to Sullivan, so is religion to Hitchens. So wrapped up are they in their personal lives, that neither can speak rationally on the topic, and it’s always the driving undercurrent in their running commentary, regardless of topic.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    For another view on the Obama/Wright, try Sowell.

    It is painful to watch defenders of Barack Obama tying themselves into knots trying to evade the obvious.

    Some are saying that Senator Obama cannot be held responsible for what his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, said. In their version of events, Barack Obama just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — and a bunch of mean-spirited people are trying to make something out of it.

    It makes a good story, but it won’t stand up under scrutiny.

    Barack Obama’s own account of his life shows that he consciously sought out people on the far left fringe. In college, “I chose my friends carefully,” he said in his first book, “Dreams From My Father.”

    These friends included “Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk rock performance poets” — in Obama’s own words — as well as the “more politically active black students.” He later visited a former member of the terrorist Weatherman underground, who endorsed him when he ran for state senator.

    Obama didn’t just happen to encounter Jeremiah Wright, who just happened to say some way out things. Jeremiah Wright is in the same mold as the kinds of people Barack Obama began seeking out in college — members of the left, anti-American counter-culture.

    Going with your Reynolds theme … Read the whole thing.

    I will give points to Hitchens in trying to widen the hate. According to him, Obama is an evil hater because he has gone to church for the last 20 years?

  3. Michael says:

    You often hear it said, of some political or other opportunist, that he would sell his own grandmother if it would suit his interests. But you seldom, if ever, see this notorious transaction actually being performed, which is why I am slightly surprised that Obama got away with it so easily.

    How exactly did Obama sell his own grandmother?

    And yetanotherjohn, Perhaps next time you can provide a word, or at most a sentence, as you link, instead of dedicating multiple paragraphs to it. Really, our computer pointers are pretty accurate these days, we don’t need a big target.

  4. American Atheists has said before that easter weekend was selected because hotels are nearly empty that weekend and conventions can get good deals. I couldn’t make it, because I go to a local science fiction convention which is also held every easter weekend for the same reason.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    Hitch really needs to finish drinking himself to death. I’m getting sick of waiting for the douche to shuffle off the mortal coil.

  6. James Joyner says:

    How exactly did Obama sell his own grandmother?

    Hitch goes into some detail. Briefly, it was the passage in the speech where he noted that his grandmother was afraid of black men.

  7. Travis says:

    Mr. Joyner makes some interesting first hand observations too bad he cannot report that he has attended a Klan meeting and witnessed what is said or done,I imagine his observations come via a screening of Mississippi Burning or some other fictionalized account The Klan makes an easy target for pundits who seek political commerce, strange “they” know all about the klan, with no real experience whatever.

    Travis Pierce
    The Ku Klux Klan, LLC.

  8. Michael says:

    Briefly, it was the passage in the speech where he noted that his grandmother was afraid of black men.

    That is equivalent to selling her? I don’t get it, it’s very a deep, truthful insight into Obama’s personal experience when it comes to racism and racial distrust (they’re not the same thing). It’s no different than someone talking about how a parent’s addiction to alcohol impacted their life when discussing alcohol abuse.

    This comment from his grandmother evidently had an impact on his own view of racism, and he’s free to share the things that influence his personal perspectives and beliefs.

  9. C.Wagener says:

    Hitch, like many hyper atheists, fail to realize that what they don’t like about religion is blind dogma. Many people use religion to feel superior; that they are chosen and others aren’t.

    Problem is that’s how Hitch uses atheism. Others use environmentalism, animal rights, pro choice, fad science, homosexuality, liberalism, conservatism, feminism, etc.

    Radical Islam is a significant concern. In my opinion, Christianity is not. I’m an atheist but care nothing about what others’ beliefs are if they intend no harm. If their belief system improves and lends meaning to their life, good for them.

  10. Bithead says:

    Hitch really needs to finish drinking himself to death. I’m getting sick of waiting for the douche to shuffle off the mortal coil.

    You like Obama, I take it.

  11. LaurenceB says:

    I’m with Michael. There’s plenty to condemn about Rev. Wright’s words, but it’s a pretty big stretch to characterize Obama’s words as “selling his own Grandma”.

  12. anjin-san says:

    Does ANYBODY give a crap what Hitchens thinks?

    BTW… Mike Huckabee weighs in:

    HUCKABEE: […] And one other thing I think we’ve gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say “That’s a terrible statement!”…I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told “you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus…” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.

  13. Christopher says:

    Michael and LaurenceB, you guys are a crack up!!!! Typical liberals.

    You wouldn’t believe Obamessiah threw his grandma under the bus unless he literally did it in the street right before your eyes! And even then you would want to see video that you would immediately attack as tampered with.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Christopher…

    Would that be the bus that ran over your brain?

  15. sam says:

    You wouldn’t believe Obamessiah threw his grandma under the bus unless he literally did it in the street right before your eyes! And even then you would want to see video that you would immediately attack as tampered with.

    Moron

  16. Bandit says:

    Wishing death on ones ideological adversaries – the hallmark of compassion

  17. floyd says:

    What “comes of little surprise” is that Christopher Hitchens is still allowed a bully pulpit from which to promote his owned patent bigotry, spoken through the haze of an alcoholic stupor!
    What is truly beyond absurd,and a damnable lie, is the notion that one can not be rational and a Christian. Especially from those “educated” at universities founded by Christian organizations.
    The KKK is anathema to Christians, just as Christopher Hitchens is anathema to self respecting drunks everywhere!

  18. Bithead says:

    Does ANYBODY give a crap what Huckabee thinks?

    … to borrow a phrase.

    Would that be the bus that ran over your brain?

    It seems clear the Obama Cheerleading Squad has arrived.