BLOGGERJacques Berlinerblau is an Associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the School of Foreign Service. Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging...
February 17, 2012
February 3, 2012
January 8, 2012
December 30, 2011
December 19, 2011
December 16, 2011
November 9, 2011
October 19, 2011
October 7, 2011
October 5, 2011
September 12, 2011
September 8, 2011
August 25, 2011
August 12, 2011
August 8, 2011
May 3, 2011
April 29, 2011
AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: JEWISH
McCain's Failed Spiritual Endorsements
May 27, 2008
Why? Why, I ask, did John McCain disarticulate his presidential campaign from Pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley last week? As we shall see below, he cut them off even though it looked like he would overcome the turbulence created by their support. I have a few theories, but first permit me to point out that the Senator's move spells trouble for Spiritual Endorsers far and wide.
In the bestiary of Faith and Values politicking the Spiritual Endorser occupies a place distinct from the Spiritual Mentor (with whom s/he is always confused). Spiritual Endorsers (such as John Hagee) are to be distinguished from Spiritual Mentors (such as Jeremiah Wright) in the following tripartite respect. To begin with, the Endorser need not be of the same faith tradition as the endorsee.
The Episcopalian McCain--who last year pronounced himself a Baptist--does not seem too comfortable in that mode of modern religious expression known as Evangelicalism. Religiously speaking, the Maverick is the strong and silent type. He lacks Hagee and Parsleyâ€™s give-it-up-my-brothers-and-sisters-for-Christ-Jesus! exuberance.
This brings us to the question of familiarity. A Spiritual Endorser need not know very much about the candidate s/he champions (and vise versa as the McCain campaign has taught us). The sum total of their relation might comprise a few face-to-face meetings (with staff in tow) at the D.C. Hilton.
Hagee did not bring McCain to Jesus. He did not provide him spiritual sustenance across decades. He never prayed with him in a foxhole. Quite frankly, he didnâ€™t seem to know much about the Senator from Arizona at all.
But he sure did like McCainâ€™s views on â€œfamily issues.â€ This brings us to the final distinction: while the Mentor loves the candidate, the Endorser loves the candidateâ€™s politics. In return for this admiration (and perhaps a direct line to the White House) the Endorser delivers a particular religious constituency. Itâ€™s a contract job.
In any case, this weekâ€™s lesson is: Mamas, donâ€™t let your babies become Spiritual Endorsers! McCain abruptly jettisoned Hagee and Parsley. Moving from least to most likely, here are five reasons explaining why he may have done so:
Senator McCain was afflicted by pangs of conscience: After a long walk in the foothills of Arizona John McCain thought long and hard about what these men had said about Catholics, Jews and Muslims and concluded it was wrong. Just plain wrong.
The Catholic vote was threatened: Plausible. But even after Hageeâ€™s views were publicized McCainâ€™s support among this constituency was strong . And when the somewhat influential Catholic League forgave him it looked like McCain was in the clear. On the other hand, in the past few weeks Obama has begun to edge him out among these voters.
The Jewish vote was threatened: Let there be no doubt, Republican strategists see Judaism as a battleground faith in 2008. Recalling, with fondness no doubt, the 39% that Ronald Reagan sluiced off in 1980, perhaps the McCain people concluded that Hageeâ€™s disquisitions on the Holocaust were a liability.
These guys werenâ€™t even paying dividends among Evangelicals: Maybe a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson or a James Dobson (who spent the better part of 2007 telling anyone who would listen that he would not endorse McCain under any circumstances) would be worth the trouble. But the truth is that Hagee and Parsley were not household names, let alone kingmakers, in an increasingly fractured and restless Conservative Christendom.
There has been an outbreak of pastoral equivalence: In the past few weeks I have detected in the media a mentality that goes something like this: â€œMcCainâ€™s got Hagee and Parsley. Obamaâ€™s got Wright. So letâ€™s call it even and move on to more substantive matters.â€ In other words, the possibility exists that the McCain campaign will not be able to reap the munificent electoral bounty offered by Jeremiah Wright. The Senator anticipated this difficulty when explaining his decision: â€œBut let me also be clear, Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual adviser, and I did not attend his church for twenty years.â€
McCain is certainly correct and the distinction he draws is relevant. But if Senator Obamaâ€™s handlers are wily, they should have no difficulty blurring the already fuzzy lines between a Mentor and an Endorser.
(For more information about religion and the candidates check out Faith 2008 by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.)