NARDI: John McCain and religious extremism



Tom Nardi

Everyone with a political agenda has a problem with the traditional media. Either they don’t cover a story or they don’t ask the tough questions or they don’t ask the right questions or something else in a litany of objections. I’m no exception.Barack Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had been widely covered by the media over the Easter holiday for some controversial statements made during his sermons. I don’t feel like that discussion was a topic out of bounds, but I do think that the traditional media should have been more thorough in their reporting. After all, Obama is not the only candidate in the race who has ties to controversial figures.One of John McCain’s most high-profile endorsements this cycle – particularly during this dry-spell for him while the ongoing Democratic primary is getting all the coverage – was the endorsement of non-denominational evangelical minister John Hagee. The event was a big to-do, with McCain and Hagee both on stage together talking to press. Hagee is the leader of a 19,000-person mega-church and CEO of a media empire that stretches weekly into 99 million homes worldwide, so it is no surprise that McCain was willing to accept Hagee’s endorsement. On stage, McCain said he was “very proud” to accept it. In fact, it’s been reported that McCain actively sought the endorsement for over a year. It behooves us, then, as responsible political actors, to see just who Hagee is.Hagee has the traditional right-wing evangelical problems, like blaming Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans as divine retribution for holding “a homosexual parade.” But that’s not my larger point.You see, Hagee’s not exactly a fan of Catholics. During broadcasts, Hagee has referred to the Church as a “great whore,” “the anti-Christ” and a “false cult system.” In his book “Jerusalem Rising,” Hagee goes so far as to blame the Catholic Church for the rise of Hitler and his legitimization on the world stage. It makes one wonder why McCain is coming to speak at a Catholic university on Tuesday, if this is the company he keeps.McCain has also received an endorsement from and made appearances with Rod Parsley, the pastor of an Ohio mega-church, calling Parsley a “spiritual guide.” While Hagee is a little more well-known as a controversial McCain endorsement, Parsley has seemed to get a free pass from the traditional media. So what views does Parsley preach?In 2005, Parsley wrote and published a book called “Silent No More.” In it, he reveals that it is the true duty of America to destroy Islam. To quote Parsley, “I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam … the fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”Parsley also paints that religion with a broad brush. Many observers make sure to note that there is a difference between extremist Islam that espouses terrorist tactics and moderate Islam. That argument is similar to saying you and I are moderate Christians, as opposed to the extremists who bomb abortion clinics. Not so for Parsley: “What some call ‘extremists’ are instead mainstream believers who are drawing from the well at the very heart of Islam.”That is not to say that McCain has espoused these anti-Catholic or anti-Muslim views. But if we are going to judge Obama by his association with Wright and his unsought – and soon-after renounced – endorsement by Louis Farrakhan, we must judge McCain by the same standard. Just because McCain’s white evangelicals aren’t black nationalists doesn’t make their statements any less offensive.