Friday, July 10, 2009

Family matters

Rachel Maddow seems to be developing a bit of an obsession with "The Family," a religious organization now being tied to the John Ensign and Mark Sanford scandals. Here's a segment from last night:

She hit the story again tonight -- no clip available yet, but if it comes up later I'll plug it in. Some glaring omissions:

- She describes them as a "secretive" group -- and in order to protect that characterization, she doesn't mention that they're the organizers of the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a public event attended each year by more than 3,000 members of the nation's political elite from both major parties. How elite? Well, this year one of the speakers was President Barack Obama.

- She relentlessly ties the group to Republican politicians. Last time I looked, "Family" member Hillary Clinton was still a Democrat.

- She attempts to tie the group to totalitarian ideology by showing excerpts of sermons comparing the demands Jesus made of his followers to the demands Mao and Hitler made of their followers. When the minister quotes Jesus as saying "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple," she pulls the old raised-eyebrow "really?" routine as if to write off the possibility that Jesus actually said that. According to Luke 14:26, he did. Personally, I suspect that those sermon clips were taken out of context, and that the preacher was actually alluding to Mao and Hitler as "fake messiahs" rather than setting them up as examples for the politicians in the audience to emulate.

Now, I don't object in principle to examining the religious affiliations of politicians, especially to the extent that those affiliations may be reasonably assumed to shape, or at least exert influence on, those politicians' policy stands.


Let's be honest about it. The political connections of "The Family" are very bi-partisan. The group is far from "secretive" and in fact goes out of its way to publicize its views. Its doctrines may be fundamentalist, but they're hardly "off the beaten path" of modern evangelical Christianity. Maddow could easily have taken this story on effectively without trying to turn it into The Da Vinci Code Does the Potomac.

If you want some really noodle-baking religious-political footsie to obsess over, try this on for size:

At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on [Sun Myung] Moon's head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was "sent to Earth ... to save the world's six billion people. ... Emperors, kings and presidents ... have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."

And don't take that as a dig at the Democrats, either. Moon is well-known for backing conservative political causes, and is the founder of the Washington Times, DC's conservative newspaper (hooray! I managed to work in a Robert Stacy McCain angle!). He's also "bi-partisan."

Addendum: Musical Accompaniment

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