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Not All the Same

Talk is cheap. Blogging may be even cheaper.

I don’t want to just be a voice joining with all the other voices outraged and worried about the effect of the McCain-funded “The One” video. The web is screaming with outrage and worry over the ad. And a lot of the fear is reasonable—the chief fear, it seems to me, being that it will increase the chances of an assassination attempt.

But I think the furor will die down. At least I hope it does. Because it’s bringing out some left-wing bigotry big time, and this is particularly true of bloggers—maybe because people don’t have to think too hard before blogging. Or maybe they’re not paying close enough attention to what they read online or see on TV.

Amy Sullivan’s piece for Time magazine includes the now-widely circulating quote from The Late Great Planet Earth author Hal Lindsey’s essay for WorldNetDaily. Lindsey writes, “Obama is correct in saying that the world is ready for someone like him—a messiah-like figure, charismatic and glib. . . . The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance.”

But what Sullivan doesn’t quote from what Lindsey wrote is the prior statement that Lindsey believed the Antichrist is not Barak Obama—though nevertheless he apparently has faith in the appearance of a future Antichrist.

To her credit she included progressive evangelical Tony Campolo’s indictment of the ad: “I think judgments will be made unconsciously about Barack Obama. It scares the daylights out of me.” But her’s is the only article I’ve seen including Campolo’s opinion.

She also likens the ad to the plot of The Left Behind series, but doesn’t speculate about whether or not it’s an effective ploy: The Left Behind books are fiction. Is the ad suggesting Christian fundamentalists believe Tim LaHaye, the series author, is a prophet?

The Huffington Post, Time, The Wall Street Journal all wisely quote Mara Vanderslice, founder of Matthew 25 Network, a religious group in support of Obama:

“I found this McCain campaign ad “The One” to be one of the most offensive ads we have seen in American politics to date. . . . And it is beyond offensive to suggest that Senator Obama is a false Messiah or the anti-Christ himself. How low can we go? It shows the McCain campaign is willing to make a mockery of our faith to feed people’s fears. Christians need to reject this out of hand.”

But in spite of Christians who’ve come out to denounce the ad, frightening number of bloggers’ responses brand Christians (all of ‘em, apparently) as “kooky”, “rapture-ready assholes,” “froot loops,” “morons” and “retarded jackasses.” Vitriolic—though colorful—as those words may be, they amplify the ignorance of people quick to paint all Christians with the same broad brush. It’s an old tendency, but one progressive Christians tire of. (“Jeez, guys, some of your best friends are Christians. . . .”)

Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not defending the kooky Christian fruit loops. I’ve been on the Christian circuit long enough know there are many more than a few. And I often shamelessly generalize myself. For example, I routinely trash the Left Behind series—but I’ve been way too self-righteous to dip my progressive Christian toe into it. On the other hand, painful as it is, I do follow conservative Christian print, radio and television coverage because—well, keep your enemies close? Or at least get to know them. There’s little point in standing for something if you know next to nothing about what you’re standing against.

So while a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, a little more knowledge can actually be helpful. Like knowing that “The One” is not an ad put together by some Christian evangelical; it was the brainchild of McCain media strategists.

Another bit of helpful knowledge is the recognition that conservative Christian, but socially progressive leaders are denouncing the ad as offensive and biblically inaccurate as well. Not every conservative Christian is a dolt and they sure as hell don’t want to be used as marionettes by the McCain campaign. Evangelicals who didn’t like McCain before aren’t going to like him any better now.

And what of the fundamentalist leaders? The Chuck Colsons and James Dobsons and John Hagees and Pat Robertsons? As of this writing, they have kept mum. And while there are wacko Christian bloggers, it’s easier to find anti-Christian bigotry than it is to find staunch believers that Obama is the Antichrist.

Many more things are true about “The One” ad than that it is simply offensive. It is that, of course. And it does seem a kind of new low in the McCain campaign, a desperate—I think failed—attempt to court the religious right.

But it is also insults the intelligence of conservative evangelicals who, the ad seems to assume, can’t distinguish reality from The Left Behind series. Stereotyping Christians as end-time analysts and Antichrist watchers serves no one; it only escalates anti-Christian bigotry. And makes that rare thing—open-minded and genuine discourse among a vastly diverse citizenry—just that much more difficult.

—Jo Page

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