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Thursday, May 08, 2008

McAdams, Maher, Miller, McCain, and manipulating Catholicism

by folkbum

Well, as John McAdams continues his crusade--and I use that word on purpose--against Bill Maher, it's important to consider it in a larger context. Several larger contexts, actually. One is provided by Waukesha Freeman columnist Tim Schilke:
Objections raised by Milwaukee’'s whiny fringe to Maher’'s controversial opinions focused on his criticism of various Christian religions. Admittedly, Maher is known to point out from time to time that some Catholic priests molest children, which is of course a horribly true thing to point out. And as a regular viewer of his HBO television show, "Real Time with Bill Maher," I can confirm that his commentary on religion is fair and balanced across all religions. Maher'’s views stand in contrast to comedian Dennis Miller, who will also be sponsored by American at the Riverside Theater later this year. Miller'’s criticism of religion seems to begin and end with Islam, which is, of course, acceptable religious bigotry to American and the local overly sensitive crowd. [. . .]

Imagine the conservative uproar if a handful of left-leaning activists succeeded in pressuring American to cancel its sponsorship of Dennis Miller’'s show, due to his bigoted view of the Muslim religion? Or, even due to his newfound conservative views related to the war in Iraq? How would American justify appeasing one group of fringe voices while ignoring another group? Not that I'’m suggesting anyone should put American in such an impossible position. I would never do such a thing.

Or, perhaps American could just use the same logic that it used regarding Bill Maher. When Miller appeared on "The O’Reilly Factor" to discuss the pope’'s recent visit to America, he said, "Now, listen, I have my qualms with the Catholic Church in the last few years. Last time I went to confession I said, ‘You first.’" Funny, isn’'t it? Not to Catholics, who would probably demand a boycott of American for sponsoring Miller, if only he weren’'t also a loyal Bush backer.
Read, as they say, the whole thing. It's important to remember that McAdams here is clearly going after Bill Maher because of Maher's politics, not out of some sense of obligation to protect religion, or even to protect Catholicism. And it's certainly not to protect "Christians"--Bill Maher, as it turns out, is one himself.

Glenn Greenwald of Salon also serendipitously is talking about this this week. He cites regular Catholic-defender Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review; K-Lo is stunned that Catholic nuns would be trying to vote for Democrats. After reminding readers that support for George W. Bush's Iraq policy is far less true to the Catholic spirit of preserving life than just about anything else these days, Greenwald writes,
This is what tawdry religious manipulators like Lopez have been doing for years--selectively accepting slivers of moral dogma and religious institutions purely for political gain, while advocating policies that could not be more opposed to that dogma and those institutions.

That's how many of the right-wing ideologues who are responsible for this, and want much more of it--such as Lopez -- can continue to parade around as faithful Catholics righteously devoted to the sanctity of "innocent human life," even as they wage war against the Church's explicit teachings and, by doing so, continue to obliterate more "innocent human life" than virtually any other political faction in the world.

In our political discourse, that's how warped the concept of "moral issues" has become. As McCain supporter Gary Bauer (about whom McCain recently said: "I am honored to have Gary Bauer's support, and his advice and counsel will be critical as we continue to bring our Party together for victory in November") once put it: a Vermont court's ruling on same-sex marriages "was in some ways worse than terrorism." Somehow, the policies of ours which result in the greatest obliteration of innocent human life--or its complete degradation--are totally drained of any moral component. And the entire playing field of "moral issues" is thus ceded to religious hucksters like Lopez and her political comrades as they openly support the most morally grotesque, and irreligious, policies imaginable.
I've been frustrated in my other recent on-going argument (about Barack Obama and his growing support among voters who were supposed to be "running away from him in droves"), but haven't yet written about, exactly this sort of thing. In comments to my post yesterday, Brian Fraley kept trying to backpedal away from his mistruths while adding this: "[T]he Obama folks are refocusing their message to connect with the values voters." James Wigderson, the other "professional," devoted a whole column to the notion that those supporting Clinton, as opposed to Obama, are "values voters." (To his credit, Wigderson does question the sincerity of both Clinton's and McCain's "values.") The implication from both is that somehow the nearly 17 million Americans who have cast their lot with Obama lack values, are not part of the moral center of the nation. That's ridiculous and massively offensive, and it is clearly designed, whether from Fraley or Wigderson or any nation pundit like Lopez, to lay the groundwork for November.

Have no doubt: This is all politics, this is all about November, even Bill Maher. The Maher affair is all a variation on the "values voters" theme, as demonstrated repeatedly by McAdams's taking offense on behalf of all of "us Christians."

As I responded to McAdams in the comments of the original post--a response he ignored, but whatever--my original Maher post veered into completely different territory because it is impossible to discuss intelligently what's going on in the anti-Maher crusade without context. It's a context that excuses people who speak against the Catholic church, like Dennis Miller, if they are suffuciently Republican. It's a context that excuses candidates for associating with anti-Catholic prople if those candidates are Republican. (Recall that Catholics issued an edict that anti-war Catholic John Kerry should be denied Communion because of his pro-choice stance, something celebrated by pro-war Republicans everywhere. However, serial adulterer pro-choice, pro-war Republican Rudy Giuliani took communion at a mass celebrated by the pope last month.) It's a context that excuses religious bigotry when that bigotry is perpetrated against Islam by Republicans. It's a context that calls Barack Obama elitist but not Republican John McCain and his eight houses and private jet rides. It's a context that celebrates "free speech" by those who toe the (Republican, pro-war) party line and seeks to squelch speech by opponents.

Make no mistake: The abuse and manipulation of religion in presidential politics has been around at least as long as I have been alive. But that doesn't make it any less right, any less offensive, or any less excusable when someone like John McAdams or Kathryn Jean Lopez or George W. Bush engages in it.

My fervent hope is that in this election, finally, with Republicans and the pro-war fatalist generally despised and distrusted, we can finally expose the "values voters" fraud for what it is.

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