Back during the 2008 campaign, conservatives pretty much stuck to the themes of Obama went to the America-hating church of Jeremiah Wright so he can’t be a real Christian or a real American, whataboutthebirthcertificate?, he might just possibly be the Antichrist, he seems sort of foreign, he might be Muslim, and so on.
But now, they seem to find themselves short on material, and are going all McCarthy on his religious advisors.
Post-Wright, Obama labored to create a public religious persona of conventionality, as his handlers struck back against birtherism and Manchurian candidate smears. He picked Pastor Joel Hunter, the Florida megachurch pastor who once was slated to take over the Christian Coalition, sits on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, and endorsed Mike Huckabee in the GOP primary, to deliver the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. He tapped Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration. He annoyed progressives with his picks for his Advisory Council to his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (and rankled them for perpetuating Bush-era policies in that office).
None of that, of course, is satisfactory to the “Christian nation” demagogues. No doubt they’d demonize any church he chose to attend, but seeing as he hasn’t picked one at all, they claim offense at his apparent lack of piety, and even assert the inadequacy of his baptism. (Devotionals on his Blackberry must fall short for worshipping, even though it’s widely acknowledged in Evangelical Land that social media are a great way to spread the Gospel.)
World magazine has made much of its reporting that Jim Wallis, who is close to Obama, initially denied that his organization Sojourners had received funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute. (Soros, of course, to the right, is the funder of everyone and everything that hates America.) Regrettably, Wallis didn’t say, “so what if I did?” but rather got defensive, according to World’s reporting. Then it turned out that he had indeed received funding from Soros. It’s a big so-what, except if you think Soros is an atheist leftist out to destroy America. And that’s how the right is now going after Wallis (someone who is not particularly popular among atheist leftists) merely because he took a few hundred grand from Soros. Why is it important, in the conservative mind? Wallis is a religious advisor to the president and therefore must be proved to be anti-American.
The latest attack is against Hunter, another pastor in Obama’s inner circle, and it is so dumb, false, and rooted in the every-Muslim-must-be-a-terrorist mania that no doubt it will eventually penetrate the conservative consciousness. The theme of Hunter’s book, A New Kind of Conservative, is the blandly inoffensive notion that someone can be conservative and nice at the same time — so the right clearly wants to keep it far, far away from the children. But Hunter, whose niceness includes interfaith dialogue and support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, is now under attack by a right-winger who claims the popular pastor associates with shadowy Muslims and is “anti-Israel.”
The perpetrator of the Hunter smear is Ted Shoebat, the son of “ex-terrorist” Walid Shoebat, an over-exposed figure in Christian Zionist circles and a tool of the a-good-Muslim-is-an-ex-Muslim mentality of the right. The elder Shoebat, whose claims to have engaged in terrorist acts as a Muslim have not withstood scrutinty, says he abandoned his life as a PLO terrorist because he found Christ; now he’s a diehard Christian Zionist and crusader against “radical Islam.”
The younger Shoebat is now trying to put Hunter in his crosshairs; he writes that Hunter’s defense on CNN of Obama’s Christianity is necessarily suspect because he, like Wright, fails to “fit the bill of the typical American Christian.”
So what does Shoebat think a “typical American Christian” is? Here’s a description of his book, co-written with his father, For God or For Tyranny: When Nations Deny God’s Natural Law: “As America and many Western nations seem to desire to move away from their Judeo Christian foundations and embrace multi-culturalism, this book gives all the answers to dispel all the anti-God myths and equip people to stand for their Judeo Christian heritage.”
Do the Shoebats think that Palestinian-born ex-Muslims would be made welcome in the United States without what they disparage as “multi-culturalism?” There was a time — one might think long gone, but it is not, thanks to the likes of Shoebat — when a Palestinian-American would be regarded with suspicion, Christian or not. But that, in the upside-down America of the far right, is what’s wrong with America, not what’s right with it. And to make things “right,” from the conservative perspective, anyone who recognizes and celebrates America for all its multi-national, multi-religious wonderfulness must be involuntarily subjected to the judge and jury of the “typical American Christian” police. God help us all.