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Obama's Minister "Hates America" But When My Father Said the Same Sort of Things He Became a Hero To The Republicans

Message Frank Schaeffer
When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father--Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer--denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.
Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were very much like things pastors on the right say too.

Dad and I were amongst the founders of the Religious right. In the 1970s and 1980s, while Dad and I crisscrossed America denouncing our nation's sins instead of getting in trouble we became darlings of the Republican Party. (This was while I was my father's sidekick before I dropped out of the evangelical movement altogether.) We were rewarded for our "stand" by people such as Congressman Jack Kemp, the Fords, Reagan and the Bush family. The top Republican leadership depended on preachers and agitators like us to energize their rank and file. No one called us un-American.

Consider a few passages from my father's immensely influential America-bashing book A Christian Manifesto. It sailed under the radar of the major media who, back when it was published in 1980, were not paying particular attention to best-selling religious books. Nevertheless it sold more than a million copies.
Here's Dad writing in his chapter on civil disobedience:
"If there is a legitimate reason for the use of force [against the US government]... then at a certain point force is justifiable."
And this:
"In the United States the materialistic, humanistic world view is being taught exclusively in most state schools... There is an obvious parallel between this and the situation in Russia [the USSR]. And we really must not be blind to the fact that indeed in the public schools in the United States all religious influence is as forcibly forbidden as in the Soviet Union...."

Then this:
"There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate... A true Christian in Hitler's Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion... It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God's law it abrogates it's authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation..."

I'm not saying if I agree with Dad here or not. My point here isn't about Dad or Rev Wright's words but about the double standard applied to judging them and using them to smear Obama.
Take Dad's words and put them in the mouth of Obama's preacher (or in the mouth of any black American preacher) and people would be accusing that preacher of treason. Yet when we of the white Religious Right denounced America white conservative Americans and top political leaders, called our words "godly" and "prophetic" and a "call to repentance."
My dad's books denouncing America and comparing the USA to Hitler are still best sellers in the "respectable" evangelical community and he's still hailed as a prophet by many Republican leaders. When Mike Huckabee was recently asked by Katie Couric to name one book he'd take with him to a desert island, besides the Bible, he named Dad's Whatever Happened to the Human Race? a book where Dad also compared America to Hitler's Germany.

The hypocrisy of the right attacking Obama, because of his minister's words, is staggering.
When my late father and I were the guests of Jerry Falwell at Liberty Baptist College, Falwell said to us quite casually and seriously, while speaking of the "homosexual problem," that: "If I had a dog that did what they do I take it out and shoot it." And when it came to saying God was damning America he and Pat Robertson sided with the 9/11 hijackers by saying the terrorist's actions served America right and were God's punishment. Yet John McCain went to Liberty Baptist College and spoke for Falwell, in order to "mend fences" with the Religious Right. He said he no longer believed that Falwell was "an agent of intolerance." And Rudi Giuliani gladly accepted Robertson's endorsement. So much for the Republican "mainstream."

This cuts left too. Fair is fair. So where are the clips--playing incessantly next to Hillary Clinton's picture--of her antiwar friends and Bill Clinton's fellow draft dodger members of the New Left, cursing and damning America during Vietnam War protests and since? The company that Bill and Hillary kept in the late 1960s through the 1970s was defined by damning America and sometimes by rooting for the North Vietnamese. Clinton said he "loathed" the military. We still made him commander in chief.
Anti-American spewing also comes from left wing white preachers. Read the fiery sermons of the late Episcopal bishop of New York Paul Moore, Jr. who raged against America.
Want to play this smear-by-association game? Okay, while McCain was a prisoner of war a bishop in his church was rooting for McCain's torturers. Episcopal Bishop Moore, in his autobiography, Presences: A Bishop's Life in the City, wrote that the end of the Cold War had left the United States "like a wounded rooster crowing on the top of the dung heap." Blaming "corporate greed and lust" as well as "unbridled nationalism" for manufacturing causes for war, Moore cursed America as often as he served communion.
If we want to get really silly let's ask this: McCain is an Episcopalian so where are the clips of the anti-American rantings of Bishop Moore and not a few other Episcopalian pastors and bishops, next to McCain's picture? How can McCain be a member of that denomination?
Look, McCain's bishops, Obama's pastor, or my dad were all part of a tradition that taken in context is very American if crazy at times. Theologically based ranting and especially preaching, is a style of communication with its own cadences that is easy to mock and/or twist-by-sound-bite.
And all this is a massive and deliberate distraction. Yet I think there is reason to hope. There are decent people out there who have refused to go along with the smear-by-association campaign. Mike Huckabee defended Obama and even his pastor. McCain said we can't blame Obama for his minister's words. Not everyone on the right is stooping as low as the Clintons and the right wing media scavengers.
I think Obama is worth fighting for. History has thrown America an unlikely lifeline. Do we have the decency, the sense, the last glimmer of sanity needed to open hearts to change?
Obama offers civility in the midst of a national bar fight. Obama speaks in complete sentences, well-turned paragraphs, offers thoughts with intellectual depth, nuance, humility and compassion. Obama is a reasoned essay cast before sound-bite swine who seem ready to tear anything that falls into their sty to shreds.

By providence or blind luck, we are being given a second chance. In Obama our founders appear once again stepping from the mists of time to offer a wayward great, great grandchild an opportunity for redemption. But everything is turned on its head. Good is called bad. The greatest things about Obama are used against him, decency and transparency are mocked.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of "CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back

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Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best selling author. The Los Angeles Times described Frank's writing as, "A rich brew of cross-cultural comedy." The British newspaper the Guardian says: "funny and wonderfully observed." Frank is a survivor (more...)
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