John McCain and Rod Parsley: Sacrificing Peace for an Ohio Victory

By now we all know about Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor whose homiletical remarks have become a serious liability for the Obama campaign. Less known are the “pastor problems” of Hillary Clinton and John McCain. This week’s column is the second in a series of two columns that will look at the religious baggage being carried by Barack Obama’s fellow presidential hopefuls. Last week I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in “the Fellowship,” a secretive, powerful and sometimes abusive affiliation of our nation’s power elite. This week I’m focusing upon John McCain’s relationship with Rod Parsley, a Mega-Church pastor from Ohio.

Whatever you may think of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright—he of the “Goddamn America” homiletics—it doesn’t take much examination to find that Barack Obama’s relationship with his former pastor was good in many ways. A tendency toward radical theology notwithstanding, Jeremiah Wright’s church provided the Obama family with the kind of spiritual home that every family should have regardless of religious affiliation.

Something similar can be said of Hillary Clinton’s participation in the ministry of The Fellowship, a secretive network of mostly rich, mostly white, mostly powerful, mostly men, who have extraordinary influence in Washington and who have  a well deserved reputation for being creepy.  The Fellowship provided the then First Lady with a place of sanctuary and healing in the wake of the Monica Lewinski scandal. As a senator, Ms. Clinton’s Fellowship connections have helped her to forge significant and (I think) nationally beneficial bi-partisan relationships. On these two points the Fellowship gets no complaints from me.

There is, however, nothing good to be said about John McCain’s courting of Rod Parsley, the pastor of World Harvest Church, a 12,000 member congregation outside of Columbus, Ohio.

Rod Parsley is not John McCain’s pastor, and there is no evidence to suggest that John McCain has any theological affinity for Parsley’s Pentecostalism, but Rod Parsley is able to influence Ohio’s conservative voters in large enough numbers to swing an election, so John McCain has coddled Pastor Parsley, calling him  “spiritual mentor.” This was a mistake that should have Americans worried about McCain’s judgment.

Of particular concern is Pastor Parsley’s attitudes toward Islam.  According to a recent Mother Jones article, Rod Parsley, in a 2005 book called Silent No More calls for nothing less than the destruction of Islam:

“I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.”

Apparently, Parsley doesn’t say whether Islam is to be defeated through evangelism or warfare; either way it’s a ridiculous and offensive idea. There are more than one and a half billion Muslims in the world, and in the United States there are more Muslims than Presbyterians. The chances of meeting an honest to goodness Muslim Terrorist among a random sampling of the world’s Muslim population is only a little bit better than being dealt a straight flush in five card stud (it’s true: I’ve done the math using numbers from the US State Department’s terrorism estimates).

Barack Obama’s membership in Jeremiah Wright’s church and Hilliary Clinton’s participation in Fellowship-sponsored prayer and Bible study groups have become political liabilities because we worry about those who endure the company of people with whom we find fault. With McCain and Parsley, the concern goes beyond guilt by association. When a presumptive presidential candidate gets friendly with a prominent pastor who has called for the destruction of one of the world’s major religions, it becomes a matter of public and foreign policy, and has the danger of putting our nation in a world of trouble.

The Tehran Times views the relationship between McCain and Parsley as the beginning of a new crusade against Islam. Al Jazeera’s coverage is a little more restrained, but it’s still not good. The United States can ill afford more bad press in the Muslim world. We need to be doing everything we can to avoid more bloodshed, and it’s hard to imagine politicians from Iran or any other potentially hostile country with a Muslim majority sitting down for good faith negotiations with someone who popularly is perceived as a crusader.

Someone needs to tell John McCain that a November victory in Ohio isn’t worth the further alienation of the world’s Muslim population. Not even the White House is a prize worthy of the sacrifice of peace. It simply is not fair to move the world closer to war simply to fulfill a political ambition.

It’s past time for McCain to reject Rod Parsley’s Islamophobia. The American people deserve better.

15 thoughts on “John McCain and Rod Parsley: Sacrificing Peace for an Ohio Victory

  1. Pingback: John McCain News » Blog Archive » John McCain and Rod Parsley: Sacrificing Peace for an Ohio Victory

  2. Ben you gave us a valuable bit of info that I hadn’t seen or mentioned in the press.
    So many strange things seem to happen when people are seeking public office,
    and in addition to choosing your friends and backers wisely, it certainly doesn’t make
    sense deliberately to seek out someone with such extreme views. More than ever
    I am reminded of Senator Clair Engle’s comment, which wasn’t original, I am sure, but
    nevertheless good advice: “Protect me from my friends, and I will take care of my enemies.”

  3. I can only concur with your friend Judy here. Why are these things never reported in the press? There definately seem to be dark and sinister forces at work in American politics and i fear that the result of the Presidential elections may already have been decided, and we think that Zimbaweans have it bad?

  4. Craig,

    Thanks for the post. The question of why Parsley’s comments haven’t been reported in the mainstream press is an interesting one. If Barack Obama and–more significantly–Hillary Clinton were spending less time and money bashing each other and more time focusing on John McCain, then this issue might come to the fore. I don’t know how things look from your side of the Atlantic (or if your average Scott is even paying attention to the madness that is our democratic primary) but to me this is an example of why the conduct of the democratic hopefuls (again I think Sen. Clinton bears much of the blame) has the potential of giving the White House to the Republicans for another four years. Clinton and Obama could be highlighting this connection, but instead we’re talking about Obama’s “elitism.”

    The other, more sinister thing about the American soul that the press’ silence around Parsley uncovers is that we’re more afraid when a Black man points an accusing finger at our nation than we are when a White man advocates the destruction of Islam–something that would necessitate bloodshed on a scale not yet seen in human history.

    After all, if Parsley’s comments mattered to mainstream Americans, the mainstream press would be talking about it.  Jeremiah Wright’s comments first appeared on the internet, and when people started passing the videos around, the mainstream press started paying attention.  Similarly, Parsley’s comments are not a secret. They’ve been exposed online and in the alternative press, as well as in various media in the Arab world. They just haven’t created the necessary buzz online.

    What’s the matter with us?

    If an American pastor advocated the destruction of Judaism of Buddhism, and if a Hindu or a Muslim cleric called for the destruction of Christianity, the American people would be incensed. No politician would go near the guy. But in America  Rod Parsley can call for the destruction of Islam–on fifth of the world’s population, mind you–and his book is a best seller; people flock to his church, and politicians coddle him looking for votes.

    I feel my blood pressure rising! It makes me want to scream like Howard Dean.



  5. I don’t fully understand American politics.
    I don’t understand how a democracy can work with only 2 parties.
    I don’t understand how 2 people in the same party can mud sling in the way that Clinton and Obama do yet say that they are on the same side, the press in the UK would absolutely slaughter them.

    In our devolved Parliament in Scotland we can decide as a nation ourselves certain issues that affect only Scotland but others like Defence are decided by Westminster, London to your reader. In Scotland we have proportional representation. We have a choice of X amount of candidates representing themselves (Independant) or a particular political party (who elect their own leader who then becomes Prime Minister or in Scotland’s case First Minister, currently Alex Salmond).

    As I say I don’t fully understand US politics….

  6. Craig,

    I’m not sure I understand US politics either!

    Am I correct in my understanding that the government in London is basically a two party system with Labor and the Torry party running the show?

    I think I like proportional representation better. The problem with proportional representation is that if five per-cent of the population are morons and they decide to establish a party for morons, then morons get a seat at the table.

    On the other hand, under the American system or regional representation, you loose the creative and innovative voices which may be a small percentage of the population, but may have really important things to contribute. I think the negative is worth the positive. You’ve given me another reason to move to Scotland!




  7. The main parties in Westminster are Labour and the Conservatives, though the Liberal democrats, SNP (scottish), Plaid Cymru (Welsh) and some Irish folk, (can’t mind the name) all have seats at Westminster. There is also a couple of independents too.

    The problem that you speak of with proportional representation is a real one, in Scotland the party of morons are called The Scottish Labour party lol. We had a belter of a moment last week where during First ministers questions the Labour leader, Wendy Alexander stood up and said, “eh, no questions” They are inept beyond belief and they seem to be ripping themselves apart from the inside, it’s fantastic to watch.

    In Scotland we have
    Lib Dem
    and a couple of independents

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  10. So let me get this straight. You want to compare Rev. Wright and Obama’s relationship of twenty years of church attendance, personal relationship, and being involved in many events and majors decisions in Obama’s career to John McCain making a comment about 1 pastor out of thousands in Ohio, and doesn’t attend the church. Talk about making something out nothing. The reason it isn’t a story is because there isn’t anything to it! Do you seriously think Obama had a chance with these voters to begin with? Its crap like this that ends up hurting the election process. If you want to talk about voters being swayed why don’t you talk about the hundreds of Obama supporters descending on college campuses right now in Ohio to register voters and at the same time hand out pamphlets on Obama!

  11. Now Amy.

    If you reread the piece you will notice that I said the relationships between McCain and Parsley on the one hand and Obama and Wright on the other are comparable only in that they are “pastor problems.” I enumerate the differences in the piece.

    Also, check out the date on the piece I wrote. This was during the primary. McCain didn’t embrace Parsley to beat Obama, he did so to beat Huckabee, and by embracing Parsley, he freaked out the Muslim world, which is no small thing.

    Think about how it would make us feel if a Pakistani politician sought the endorsement of Osama Bin Ladin or Ahmadinejad. That’s how McCain’s embrace of Parsley makes many people in the Muslim world feel.

    As for the Obama folks registering voters and passing out flyers, I think that’s how democracy works. When I was in college the Young Republicans were going door to door in the dorms registering voters. I don’t know how it works in Ohio, but in California, anyone can pass out a voter registration form, so long as they turn in all of the forms that are filled out. People backing all kinds of causes and candidates pass out voter registration forms. It’s a tactic used by every candidate who thinks she or he will benefit from high voter turnout. The only reason that the McCain folks aren’t on the campuses doing the same thing is that they don’t want college-aged citizens to vote because they know that Obama has an edge in that demographic.

    So really, isn’t it the McCain folks who are subverting the process, if by “process” we mean a democracy in which every possible eligible person votes?


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