Archive » March 27, 2008
FROM THE RIGHT
By Harris Sherline, Contributing Writer
Spiritual advisors to politicians
The current flap over Sen. Barack Obama’s religious mentor and advisor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has brought the issue of spiritual advisors to politicians to the public consciousness. Rev. Wright has been “Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side.” He “has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is ‘inflammatory rhetoric,’ including the assertion that the United States brought on the [Sept. 11, 2001] attacks with its own ‘terrorism.’” The Pastor’s rhetoric has also included such other exhortations as, “God damn America” and “blacks should not sing ‘God Bless America.’” (ABC News, March 13, 2008).
Senator Obama’s response to this in his March 18 speech seems to have raised more questions than answers about his true beliefs and whether he can convince voters that he does not agree with or condone Rev. Wright’s statements. Given that he attended Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years and apparently never openly expressed his disagreement, the jury is still out on the matter of whether Obama is to be believed and what the impact of this disclosure is likely to have on his campaign.
Religious leaders are often part of the mix that goes into creating the image politicians want to portray to the public and are generally used as props in the process.
One of the more notable examples of this was the involvement of Rev. Jesse Jackson with Bill Clinton, when he counseled the then-president during the fallout from the Lewinsky affair. The irony of the situation was that this particular religious advisor, Jesse Jackson, was himself guilty of having an extra-marital affair at the time and of fathering an out-of-wedlock child. Unfortunately, this doesn’t say much for the quality or character of “spiritual advisors.”
Other questionable “spiritual” leaders who come to mind are Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.
“In 1986, Swaggart exposed fellow Assemblies of God minister Marvin Gorman, who was having an affair with one of his parishioners. The following year, Swaggart exposed televangelist Jim Bakker’s sexual indiscretions…stating that Bakker was a ‘cancer in the body of Christ.’” Swaggart himself was subsequently found in a Louisiana motel with a prostitute. (Wikipedia)
But, the larger question is why politicians think it’s necessary to have “spiritual advisors” on their campaign staffs at all.
Salene Zito, writing in Townhall.com, gives us a clue: “…faith matters for our presidential candidates...Americans like their presidential candidates to like God. Six in ten of them, to be precise: According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 61 percent of Americans say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who does not believe in God.”
She also notes that Hillary Clinton has a religious advisor “on staff, aggressively reaching out to faith-based voters.” Ms. Zito adds that “Political scientist John Green, who studies religion in politics, says…It’s impossible in the American context to take God out of politics...Voters do not demand that candidates be devout, they just don’t want them to be hostile.” (“God & American Politics,” by Salena Zito, Townhall.com, Dec. 2, 2007)
Unfortunately, the evidence tends to support the notion that “spiritual advisors” to politicians are usually not much more than props in the never-ending process of attempting to project a positive image of candidates in their quest to win and hold public office.