Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Perils of Piety

I recently became aware of an organization with the purpose of helping buyers of a certain service get their money's worth. Nothing wrong with that, but the name they chose kind of stops you in your tracks. Have you ever heard of the "Funeral Consumers Alliance"? I'm all for getting value from your purchases, but if I'm down to the time of consuming a funeral, the only one I want an alliance with is...... the Big Guy himself!

This year's presidential campaigns have demonstrated something to us that we should have already known: ministers and their message don't mix well in the political realm. It isn't as of this has never been tried before. One of the more effective ways of "going negative", in fact, has been to try to reveal one's opponent as somehow insincere about his/her faith. It's great to help your supporters feel morally superior by showing what a lout the opponent is.
Getting men of the cloth to actively back you because of your OWN virtue, however, seems to be a lot trickier. The problem is that, while the marketplace has a number of the professionally devout available for hire, they also seem to think they are employed by a higher power, and have usually left along trail of statements that proves the opposite.
Senator McCain's short tryst with the Rev. John Hagee is a good example. It's hard to think the McCain folks didn't know Hagee was a walking volcano when they signed him on. Maybe he was just there to protect McCain's Right flank from the Mike Huckabees of the world, but it wasn't too long before all types of Hagee's verbal artillery shells began landing at McCain's feet. The Senator had no choice but to cut ties and let the Rev go before a full scale eruption left Republican body parts scattered across the landscape. He also dumped his less-famous Heavenly mouthpiece from Ohio - the one who claimed that we are already at war with Islam.
You probably know all about Senator Obama's problem with one of the Lord's anointed. It wasn't so much his fault as that old devil, videotape, that appeared to reveal his long time minister from Chicago, Rev. Wright, as a fire breathing white hater leading, it appeared, his congregation to something just short of armed resistance. Poor Obama, who would rather have his fingernails ripped out than appear or sound like some kind of black rabble rouser, finally had to dump Wright AND his church.This ploy seemed to have a little traction when used by Ms. Clinton against Obama, so you will no doubt see the "issue" raised again by the GOP early and often in this year's campaign in order to equate Obama with 1988's black villain, Willie Horton, the Dukakis-parolled thug who rose from two-time loser to fear symbol, chasing a million or two votes into Bush Senior's column via some scary TV commercials.
Perhaps as the campaign gets going everywhere someone out there will show us how to get and keep these guys as campaign assets without the "loose cannon" effect. I think it's just as likely, though, that clergy's active role in campaigns might be greatly reduced as a way of ducking out of the issue as diplomatically as possible. Given the egos of some of these righteous right, the shouting may not even go down in volume as the candidates cringe at the heat being generated all around them.


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