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.