The mainstream media reluctantly started covering President Obama's Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy roughly one year after Fox News's Sean Hannity alerted his viewers to the controversial preacher's "God damn America" rants in 2007.
But when it comes to the 2012 Republican presidential aspirants, it appears the media are determined not to be late to the game in vetting their (real or imagined) "pastor problems."
For example, Washington Post's online "On Faith" feature yesterday wondered if Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- who is thought to be mulling a run but hasn't made a decision yet -- should be "judged by the religious company" he keeps.
But unlike Rev. Wright who was controversial to conservatives not so much for his liberal theology as for his left-wing anti-American screeds from the pulpit, "On Faith" is hitting Perry for ties to "several problematic pastors" by virtue of their theological views alone.
"On Faith" editor Sally Quinn singled out "John Hagee, controversial for his comments on Israel, the Roman Catholic Church and Islam, and C. Peter Wagner, who has suggested that the Catholic veneration of saints is an evil practice."
Many evangelicals, like Hagee, are strongly pro-Israel due to a belief that God has a covenant with the Jewish people and promised to restore the nation of Israel as a sovereign state in the end times before Christ's return.
What's more, this view holds that God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those -- individuals and nations -- who curse Israel. Hagee's views on the Catholic Church and Islam may also be controversial, but are fundamentally grounded in his theology.
As for Wagner's condemnation of veneration of saints, it's hardly a novel stance among Protestant denominations, being condemned in many historic Protestant confessions, citing a lack of biblical support for the practice. Again it's a theological view, not a political one.
What's more, as we at NewsBusters and the Media Research Center can attest, it's entirely possible to have strong personal theological disagreements in an organization and yet respectfully disagree and highly esteem one another as colleagues.
Again, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has theologically liberal views that don't conform to historic orthodox Christianity -- such as that Muslims are "sheep of another fold" that can be saved apart from faith in Christ -- but those purely theological issues were not held up by conservatives as evidence that Obama had a "pastor problem."
To indict the theology of Republican candidates' pastors, spiritual advisors, or religious friends as evidence of said candidate's "extreme" views rightly opens up charges against the media of a double standard if or when Obama or future Democratic presidential candidates associate with theologically liberal Christian ministers who, for example, support the ordination of practicing homosexuals or deny the existence of a literal Hell where the wicked are eternally punished.
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