On Sunday, November 29, NBC's "Meet the Press" flunked their interview with Pastor Rick Warren, world famous author of "The Purpose Driven Life." They didn't ask the one burning question with historic implications of national importance they should have asked: Pastor Rick, why haven't you and other prominent evangelical leaders taken the lead in strongly condemning the hate directed at President Obama by the Religious Right and so many evangelical Christians who form the base of the Republican Party?
A week before Warren was interviewed on NBC Franklin Graham -- another mainstream evangelical leader (son and heir to Billy Graham) -- stood next to Sarah Palin on her book tour having loaned her a plane belonging to an organization he heads up so that she could join him and his dad Billy for dinner. Then Billy Graham released an effusive statement of support for Palin after that meeting. Again, where was the Question from the Grahams: Governor Palin why did you lend your voice to the hateful lie that if the President's health care reform were to pass it would result in "death panels"?
There will always be hate-filled nuts on the fringe of any movement; left, right, religious or secular. No one in leadership should be blamed for their fringe -- unless they don't speak up. Post "Tea Parties", "Obama isn't a real American", and all the rest it is strange and disturbing to witness the silence of the evangelical leadership in the light of so much venom directed against our President by a largely evangelical Republican base.
This is shocking to me, given that for much of my life I was not just the son of a famous evangelical leader (Francis Schaeffer -- "credited" by Max Blumenthal and others as a founder of the religious right) but for a time I was also his sidekick and a leader in the evangelical world in my own right. I quit over the slide of the religious right into extremism. That said I'm still a believing Christian (non-evangelical and progressive) and to see the name of Christ used to promote hate outrages me. To see the Bible used as a political bumper sticker source (for whatever "side") is an affront.
You would have thought that evangelical leaders with their oft trumpeted respect for the Bible would have spoken out in one loud united voice against the misappropriation of the Bible when a verse from the Psalms (109:8) was used recently on T-shirts and bumper stickers in a way that seemed to call for the removal (at best) and the death (at worst) of Obama.
Here’s what is in the Psalm they quote as part of a "prayer" for Obama:
"May his days be few; may another take his office!"
Here are what the other verses in that Psalm call for (in case you didn't "get" verse 8:
Verse 9 "May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow!"
On "Meet the Press" Warren used the word "love" dozens of times. He talked about how he isn't really against gay men and women, just following the Bible, how he loves them all, even his enemies and so forth. But where were the specifics about this love when it comes to standing up against some members of his own constituency? What about loving our country enough to speak against the incivility not to mention the lack of patriotism, rampant in the Obama-hating Christian Right?
The Christian leadership that fails to denounce the hate of our President (not to mention the lies about him spouted by their co-religionists) is morally bankrupt. Why the silence? Have evangelical leaders renounced politics?
The mainstream evangelical leadership recently showed again that they are happy to speak out when the issue suits them and -- more importantly -- cost them nothing with their supporters. For instance evangelicals and other conservative religious leaders released a deceleration against stem cell research just a few weeks ago called the "Manhattan Declaration" directed at Obama.The list that signed this document was a who's who of evangelicalism. So where were these same people's deceleration of conscience against their own followers when it came to praying for the President's removal or death?
It seems to me that the evangelical leaders, like Warren, who talk love but won't reign in their own people are like the moderate Muslim leaders that many of us condemn for rarely denouncing their extremists. And the media who don't ask people like Warren and Graham the tough questions about their silence and culpability in the face of the hate pouring out of religious people directed at our President is part of the problem.
The media need to ask tougher questions. The religious leadership needs to be put on the spot.
Is loving Jesus about hating our President? Is "respecting the Bible" using it as a mine from which to take prayers for death and destruction and bandy them about in the context of lies about our government? Is this moral leadership?
Pastor Rick and company stand up for love, don't just talk about it.