In The Washington Post’s religion section on Saturday, reporter Michelle Boorstein wrote an article on "Altar Egos," on how clergymen have become liabilities for the presidential contenders. It’s a convenient attempt to once again blur Barack Obama’s problem with Jeremiah Wright, his own minister of 20 years, with John McCain’s problem with two evangelical preachers who he sought out for an endorsement, but have never been his pastor. The top of the Religion page has a vertical column with pictures of McCain on top, then Rev. John Hagee, then Obama, and then the Wrong Reverend Wright. But Boorstein’s other task seemed to be promoting the secularist God-bashers who spew on the Washington Post’s website, complaining that both parties shouldn’t be courting ministers or quoting the Bible at all:
"The chickens are coming home to roost," said Jacques Berlinerblau, a Georgetown University sociologist who writes a religion and politics blog called "The God Vote." A post that got 50,000 hits called "Huckobama" asked why Democrats who have criticized President Bush's overt faith expressions aren't more critical of Obama.
"That's the new Faith-and-Values friendly liberalism of the Democratic Party in 2008. And that's something that might make it hard for secularists to live their lives in peace," he wrote.
Among the speeches Berlinerblau cited was one Obama made in February, preaching at length about Jeremiah 29, saying, "God has a plan for his people." The separationist group Interfaith Alliance has been sending out alerts about candidates for months, including when Clinton said last June that she'd like to "inject" faith into policy and when McCain said in September that the Constitution established "a Christian nation." The group also included an Obama speech in October in which he told an audience that, with prayer and praise, "I am confident that we can create a kingdom right here on Earth."
Democratic strategists have lamented off the record such comments, and the pamphlet Obama has used in at least two states, titled "Committed Christian."
Boorstein ended the article with Susan Jacoby, who has her own message board on the Post website called "The Secularist’s Corner." She thought the candidates deserved to suffer for being churchy:
Susan Jacoby, who writes about American religion and secularism, sees problems coming from several corners. Candidates are "getting what they deserve," she said, by talking so much about their faith beliefs. But the blame rests on the public, she said, for maintaining superficial attitudes to something as complex as faith.
"Pastors who say nutty things goes against our myth about churches, which is that only good and nice things are said in them," she said. "Americans don't want to look into the messy side of religion. They want candidates to be religious, but they want that faith to be a very bland, ecumenical, acceptable-to-all kind of faith. That's like asking for the moon."
Hagee had made viciously anti-Catholic comments, which he retracted completely (and sort of mysteriously) in a dialogue with the Catholic League. It's mysterious that a minister could hold the classic fundamentalist view that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation, and then say, oops, I misspoke a little.