Latest Pajama’s Article Is Up: Shame On John McCain & Random Related Thoughts On God And Folksiness

November 12, 2008 / 10:32 am • By Dr. Melissa Clouthier

Hi all, you’ve read it here first, but I expanded the article about John McCain not defending Sarah Palin for Pajama’s Media. Well, today in passing, I heard snippets from a John McCain interview where McCain put forth his defense. Finally. It’s too little, too late.

He also said something in his half-joking manner that didn’t sound joking at all. When asked if Sarah went “off-message”, he responded with a heh heh heh and said something to the effect “Mavericks go off message, that’s what they do.” A couple thoughts: John McCain didn’t have a coherent message to deviate from. Not one person I have spoken to could articulate his economic message. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for his Vice Presidential candidate to find the message and then trumpet it?

Also, enough with the “Maverick” talk. Sarah Palin needs to knock it off, too. This is not a Western movie. People get it. You’re reformers who piss off your own party. That’s nice. I would like a reformer who managed to reform the whole mess not just incite the wrath of those who will be voting for you.

Finally, I understand what bugs moderates and even some Republican faithful about both John McCain and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, well, hell, and George W. Bush, too. It’s the folksy chumminess that seems hackneyed and manipulative. Now, in GW and Sarah Palin’s case, I feel that they are being utterly authentic. In McCain and Huck’s case, I feel that they are being hokey and not a little hostile–like they are playing a part they know plays well with a certain set.

What many Republicans, Moderates and Independents hunger for is a small-government candidate who spares us the Jesus talk. To many ears, it reeks of sanctimony and superficiality. It is a relatively new phenomenon. Hold on a minute, before you blast me. I realize that Christianity has informed the culture of this country from the founding. Different states. Different religions. Yada. Yada. Throughout our country’s history, presidents as diverse as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan have invoked God in speeches. God in public discourse is nothing new. What is new, is the modern evangelical movement. Where I grew up, two things didn’t get talked about publicly: God or money. Outward showiness of either seemed unseemly.

It is still unseemly to talk about money (or rather, how in debt everyone is), but God has come out of the closet in the evangelical community. I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand, I’m innately suspicious of anyone who makes these statements, “The Lord led (told, spoke to, etc.) me to fill-in-the-blank” or “Jesus would have……” or “God says….”. On the other hand, the religiosity of evangelicals that I know is inclusive and rather benign. Far from being the judgmental churches of yore, they are embracing, self-revelatory and humble. They are also comfortable with talking openly about their walk with Jesus. I’m not. I’m just not. When pressed to defend my faith, I will, but I’m not comfortable with effusive proclamations. It’s philosophical more than anything, and maybe a bit cultural. I like to see evidence of the walk and hear less of the talk.

There are many good people who have uncomfortable relationships with God or doubt or disbelieve. Many of these people deeply desire to make a positive difference in their families, their jobs, their community and their country. These people may never talk about their faith or they may believe that religious people are simple-minded yutzes, but I want them to feel comfortable voting for a Republican candidate, too.

That is not to say that a Republican who is an evangelical should hide his or her beliefs. What people hunger for, I think, is authenticity. Much will be forgiven if a candidate is real.

This conversation wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the press in all this. The press are a secular, skeptical bunch. Most are ignorant of and have no interest in any religion which is why they can so cavalierly conflate mainstream Christianity with extremist Islamofascism. (There is an obvious difference in a culture that promotes life and one that promotes death. Who is simple-minded again?) So the press attacks anyone who even mentions God. Their attempts to marginalize signifies a narrow-mindedness seeking to control public discourse. This is why I defended Christians the other day. Everyone is entitled to free speech–even those the Left don’t like.

Still, I understand why some people feel uncomfortable. In the Republican party’s attempt to represent the majority, which I believe they do, politicians would be wise to realize the power of their language. Words have power. Since God is the Greatest Power, any language about Him should be used with humility and caution.

Oh, and the content of the Pajama’s Media McCain article is here.

Cross-posted at RightWingNews and the Houston Chronicle

  • Viola J.

    I think you have articulated very well what some of the more real issues are. Thoughts on God and folksiness is being watched on an International screen and many in other cultures simply can’t relate.

    In regards to what you said about about people using God language, I could not agree with you more. Although I write about spiritual matters, it is immensely personal to me and I also can’t participate on an open forum in that type of language. John O’Donohue says that we often “domesticate” God when we make reference to God on that level and enter into an every day ordinary language like that. I tend to agree.

    Great post, great observation.

  • Mr. Chuckles
  • Mr. Chuckles

    Melissa,

    Those who wonder why a “lefty” like me (their words, not mine) come to your site need look no further than this post. You have summed up and articulated what I don’t have the capacity to do myself. I have always been leery of those who wear their faith so outwardly, and have wondered who they were trying to convince. That being said, I realize that the majority of Americans count themselves as Christian, and I have no desire to diminish thier beliefs. There was a time that I took great joy in baiting the faithful, but I now realize just how immature those tactics were. I also agree that Palin’s faith is probably genuine, however I think that the “outing” of it may have backfired and energized even more voters from the the left and perhaps the center as well into voting against her. I believe BO’s win was a reaction to Bush policy and the percieved threat of an overt evangelical in the #2 spot rather than true faith in BO’s “change and hope”. To be fair, some of the “overt” was media hyped. Nonetheless, she is an evangelical and I think it scared the crap out of a lot of people.

    I want to make this clear: I have no problem with evangelicals. For years I have struggled with the question of faith, and I know some genuinely fantastic people who count themselves as evangelicals and have occasionally sought their insight on these matters. I have also read a great deal about Benjamin Franklin’s views on faith, and I myself subscribe to the “watchmaker” theory.

    Sad to say, but Palin’s outward (effusive – good word) evangelical viewpoint was enough for me to cast a vote against the GOP ticket. Had McCain picked a more theologically moderate VP, I would have voted for him (while holding my nose).

    I don’t want to ramble. I just think that this is an excellent post and I think that GOP leadership should copy it and distribute it to everyone of their members involved in campaigning.

  • http://truthmagma.blogspot.com/ GLM

    It seems as though Melissa has joined the ever growing legion of bigots who demand that Christians “keep quiet and do as they’re told.” You pay lip service to “faith” and “religion”, but only if it conforms to your ideology. If not, “Back in the closet with you!” Anyone who dares “out” themselves with “the Jesus talk” should be quickly whisked away into some dark place so that the moderates don’t think we’re all rubes. The shame, Mrs. Clouther, should be your’s.

  • http://melissaclouthier.com Dr. Melissa Clouthier

    GLM,

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t read what I wrote last week about the desire of the Left to shut up Christians. Here’s the post: http://www.melissaclouthier.com/2008/11/07/god-is-the-new-gay/

  • Bilwick

    Mr. Chuckles: Would you care to delineate why Palin’s evangelicalism is worse than Obama’s Social Gospel supertition? (And not just a superstition, but with a comb of holy-roller religion, neo-Marxist economics, and the Cult of the State, the Superstition Trifecta!) If nothing else, Palin seems unwilling to theocratize her religious beliefs, which alone puts her above the Social Gospellers.

  • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

    Melissa,

    I would say I’m comfortable with a candidate talking about his faith, as long as they have a message of substance and it isn’t pandering.

    I’m amazed at how Huckabee gets a bad rap over this though. Living in Iowa I was able to see him several times and had a chance to meet him. He is authentic. That folksiness is just a part of who he is. Most of the time he spoke on the economy, fair tax, life issues, etc. The only time he spoke of his faith in depth was at a pastor’s conference he was invited to. He preached. He did not campaign.

    Often times when he would talk about his faith it was when he was asked. People were just so fixated on the fact he was a pastor, but seemed to forget he was a Lt. Governor and Governor longer than he was a pastor.

    So from what I know of him he didn’t just talk his faith, he lived it as well.

    That being said, I recognize he needs to find a way to reach out to moderates as well. I think his policy ideas would be attractive if people would get past the fact that he was a pastor.

  • http://www.rpgohmy.blogspot.com John F Not Kerry

    A thought-provoking post, Melissa. I am an evangelical who would love to talk about my faith (in a respectful and civil way) with anyone. When it comes to politics, however, I believe that Christians need to remember where they are and choose their words very carefully, refraining from “church-speak” and from acting like they are trying to save the world.

    In my opinion, President Bush has struck a very good balance of showing how his faith informs his decisions, whether I agree with them (lower taxes) or not (immigration policy). I also appreciate Sarah Palin, because I not only share a common faith, but also the bond of parenting a child with special needs.

    As a Christian, I get annoyed, but not very upset, with how we are portrayed in the media. What does upset me is the lack of coverage about the persecution of Christians in places like China, Vietnam, and even Iraq. People can talk all they want about Guantanamo, but those detainees are treated like princes compared to what is happening in other places in the world, to people whose only crime is practicing their faith.

    I may run for some political office down the road, but it won’t be to save anyone. My goal would be to be less of a moron than the person I replace!

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