A Pastor’s Plea: Choose Hope

This column also ran on UPI’s religion and Spirituality Forum.

It’s ten minutes before worship on a Sunday morning. I’m fussing with my Geneva tabs, zipping my robe, double-, no, triple-checking to make sure my reading glasses are in my breast pocket, and the phone on my office desk rings. I know I shouldn’t—for years now my wife’s been trying to train me to ignore ringing phones—but I pick it up anyway.

Foothill Presbyterian Church,” says I.

“Daniel! Did you get this crazy mailer?” It’s my friend, John, the pastor over at the neighborhood Methodist church, who should be getting ready for worship himself.

He doesn’t have to describe the envelope in question. The same packet—testimony to the weirdness of this election’s waning days—arrived in the Saturday afternoon post and was waiting on my desk when I arrived at church.

The words on the outside are sensational: “Same-Sex Unions and Child Sacrifice: Obama, McCain, Jihad, & the Judeo-Christian View.” Plus, the envelope promises a couple of freebie DVD’s: one of the 28 million circulating copies of the virulently anti-Islamic movie “Obsession”, and a DVD with resources for preaching against same sex unions and “child sacrifice,” which evidently is a new way of talking about third-trimester abortion.

Please.

OK, it’s a little odd to couple same-sex unions and abortion, and what either one has to do with “jihad” is anyone’s guess, but it gets more bizarre. Inside, sandwiched between the free DVD’s, is a newsletter that would be funny if the wellbeing of my country (and perhaps that of the whole world) were not at stake in this election.

John and I take turns reading the opening paragraph of the newsletter.

“Dear Congregational Leader,” the newsletter begins, “Our nation faces a fork, a divergence between the high road and the low road…” (A sappy song about getting to Scotland is suddenly stuck in my head while I should be getting ready to sing the doxology). “The high road upholds America’s peaceful tradition of Judeo-Christian tolerance” (Ha! I’ve met a few intolerant Christians in my day). “The low road marches us toward militant secular-paganism, militant Islam, or both.” (As if! If there’s one thing with which militant Islam is incompatible it is secular-paganism, which, by the way, is a logical impossibility, but never mind).

“What a load of horse apples” says one of us—but I’m pretty sure “apples” isn’t really the word that was used.

“Duck’s sake,” says the other, except I’m positive no water fowl’s cause was invoked.

Content in our ecumenical accord, we hang up and I go pray with the choir. Church goes well, but it can’t distract me from the heinous tomfoolery of the mailer.

* * *

According to the website of the organization that sent it out, 325,000 pastors received the same envelope that John and I received last Sunday. I have no problem with folks spending money to promote a point of view, even if disagree with what is being said. I know full well that democracies thrive on the opposition of ideologies, so I welcome words that come to me from elsewhere on the political and ideological map.

But this mailer is different because it’s not just spreading an ideology or promoting a candidate. It is stirring up paranoia and stoking the embers of fear.

This has got to stop. Things are hard enough without religious activists sending out mailers intended to freak out people enough so that they won’t vote for Barack Obama.

There are valid reasons to support the Republican ticket, and I know and respect a lot of people who will not be voting, as I am, for Barack Obama. The obscenity of alarmist fear mongering, however, should have no place in America’s political discourse. Hope is too scarce a commodity.

13 thoughts on “A Pastor’s Plea: Choose Hope

  1. Here is what I fear:

    “You have to pinch yourself – a Marxist radical who all his life has been mentored by, sat at the feet of, worshipped with, befriended, endorsed the philosophy of, funded and been in turn funded, politically promoted and supported by a nexus comprising black power anti-white racists, Jew-haters, revolutionary Marxists, unrepentant former terrorists and Chicago mobsters, is on the verge of becoming President of the United States. And apparently it’s considered impolite to say so.”
    — Melanie Phillips, in The Spectator (London), Oct. 14, 2008.

    The full column can be seen here: http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/2293196/pinch-yourself..thtml

    Bill

  2. Bill,

    In my less hopeful moments I fear that unsubstantiated paranoia (such as can be found in your quote) will drive our nation around the bend.

    Please vote for John McCain on the issues. If you look past the desperate attack adds and propaganda of a loosing campaign, McCain’s policies are respectable and honorable–though not for me.

    Don’t believe everything you hear on Fox news and remember that Rush Limbaugh–and the other personalities of right wing radio–are entertainers.

    Ben

  3. Sappy? I’ll have you know that that song would bring a tear to a glass eye to a Scot abroad!

    By the way for what it’s worth, the rest of the world want Obama

  4. Craig,

    Outch! Sorry about that. I stand corrected. (And I’ll blame my gaff on the use of that song in Bugs Bunny!).

    The odd think is that for some Americans, the fact that the rest of the world wants Obama is one of the reasons a lot of Americans wont vote for him. Makes no sense.

    Ben

  5. Question Time (UK politics show) was broadcast from Washington last night with a mixed crowd of US and UK folk as an audience.I seriously could not believe what I was hearing from some Republicans. One guy said that the whole world respects the US because of George Bush….Ground control to major Tom!!!!

    Does America really need an old man for a President? Should he not be retired and putting his feet up?

  6. Yea. Indeed. These people have no curiosity about the rest of the world, and they get their news (if at all) from radio motormouths who are first and foremost entertainers.

    I,for one, would like to see John McCain retire. He has lots of kids and grandkids and a nice ranch in Arizona. Good place for him.

    Ben

  7. Paranoia? Gimme a break, and take a very serious look at Obama and his background. His positions have been examined — deeply — by economists and others who know what they are talking about. And bottom line, what he’s really selling is a European brand of socialist state. And yes, that is fundamentally Marxist.

    They love Obama in Europe? Too bad he’s not running for president of Europe.

    FWIW, I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or any of the other talk radio bozos. I will say, though, that if you listen regularly to NPR, KGO in San Francisco, and a few others, you will hear the same unvarnished nonsense from the left that is purported to come from the right with Fox news — which I watch only occasionally.

    It must also be said that a source of outrage for me has been the behavior of the mainstream media in its fawning handling, by and large, of the Obama candidacy. It in fact took Saturday Night Live’s jibes toward the end of the Demo primary to get anyone in the media to even look seriously at how biased the coverage has been. (I didn’t say that. Tom Brokaw did, on Charlie Rose Thursday night. I know because I watched it.)

    And have you noticed, it’s been all about Obama and Palin, and secondarily about McCain? From the MSM perspective, Biden essentially has become an unperson. Then there’s the double standard regarding Gov. Palin, and her clothes. You may be too young to remember, but this is exactly the same BS the media went through with Geraldine Ferraro, and Ms. Ferraro has said so. Ms. Palin has what some deem an expensive wardrobe — so she’s a frivolous clothes horse. But if she wore stuff off the rack from WalMart, she’d be dowdy characterized as dowdy. Seen any commentary lately on Obama’s obviously expensive wardrobe, or for that matter, McCain’s or Biden’s?

    Similarly, if Obama wins, it will be because he offers “hope” and all the other drivel most of his followers seem to love. It surely won’t be because he outspent McCain anywhere from 4-to-1 to 7-to-1, depending on the media market, will it? And if he loses, it won’t be because a lot of voters had serious reservations, it will undoubtedly be because we’re all racists. I’m disgusted with the whole business.

    And I truly believe that Obama and a filibuster-proof Democrat Congress, as looks possible at this point, will truly be a disaster for this country.

    Bill

  8. Bill,

    Let me acknowledge that the parting shot about Fox the radio types was unfair, and I apologize. What I should have said is this. The kinds of things that are being said about Obama, including the quote you gave, sound to me like the kinds of things that Michale Moore says about the Current Occupant: take a grain of truth (Jeremiah Wright was Obama’s Pastor and Jeremiah Wright has been caught on YouTube saying crazy stuff) and from that true thing an untrue–or at least exaggerated–statement conclusion is drawn (Obama worships with radical black nationalists). Or, Obama is friends with and has worked with Bill Ayers an unrepentant, sixties-era radical/terrorist (true) becomes “unrepentant former Terrorists” (Where did the plural come from? No one has named a single other terrorist, to my knowledge). Who are the revolutionary Marxists? The Jew haters?

    Here are some quick thoughts in response to some (but probably not all) of your points

    Europe: actually the opinion of the world really matters. We don’t live in isolation. Our economy and our security require cooperation.

    To some extent you are right about the media. They do like Obama better. But Obama’s positive coverage also is a result of his running a better campaign. McCain is making more mistakes.

    McCain will be on SNL tonight, which will give him a bump in the polls.

    I’m inclined to agree with you about Pailin’s wardrobe, except that the same people who come to her defense (I’m assuming here) also lambasted Jonathan Edwards for his four hundred dollar haircuts, so double standards cut both ways.

    Part of why Obama has been able to outspend McCain is because he has inspired so many people to give so much money.Hope pays dividends.

    If a filibuster-proof congress is elected and if they make a mess of things, the voters will have the opportunity to fix that in two years. That’s the beauty of our system.

    Ben

  9. I can’t believe how much is being made of Obamas pastor when the Governor of Californias father was a Nazi stormtrooper.

  10. wow. I logged on to give congratulations to Obama. Never did I think I would be reading some of the comments I have just read. The hatred against Obama goes far, far, beyond being partisan. Calling him Marxist, Anti-Jew, etc. How truly painful and disrespectful to a man who has accomplished so much in his life, BEFORE even becoming a presidential candidate. You know, no one was more disappointed than I, when in 2000 my vote was voided by the Supreme Court. And again, I stood in disbelief, as Bush was reelected. But in fairness, Kerry lost that election on his own. When McCain would stand up for Obama and say that he is a good man, why can’t those who respect McCain do the same. In the next 50 years they say, the face of America will be much different. The white majority will be the minority. That is why we have no choice but to find strength in our diversity. For those who spew hatred…. well, America has not time or tolerance for that. We said so on Tuesday, November 4, 2008.

    P.S. I am offended by the statement that my “hope” is drivel. Lastly, I donated too. Democracy in action! Wahoo!

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