Why McCain Lost

“The newspaper reader says: this party destroys itself by making such a mistake. My higher politics says: a party which makes such mistakes has reached its end; it has lost its sureness of instinct.” – Nietzsche

With all due respect to Mr. Nietzsche, I’m about to point out the key reasons why I believe McCain lost this election. But I don’t wholly disagree with the quote — insofar as the Republican Party will live on in name, it’s not at its end. However, the party as it currently stands is in major need of an overhaul and a smart party needs to re-tool after every major loss. The Democrats didn’t after 2000 and got whupped in 2004. If the Republicans don’t, they’re going to find 2012 very painful (a sure way to further self-destruct: nominate Palin).

So, the three major reasons McCain lost big on 11/4/08:

Chicago Declaration on Evangelical Social Concern

Let’s see what other crazy things were said in the ’70s:

We affirm that God abounds in mercy and that he forgives all who repent and turn from their sins. So we call our fellow evangelical Christians to demonstrate repentance in a Christian discipleship that confronts the social and political injustice of our nation.

We must attack the materialism of our culture and the maldistribution of the nation’s wealth and services. We recognize that as a nation we play a crucial role in the imbalance and injustice of international trade and development. Before God and a billion hungry neighbors, we must rethink our values regarding our present standard of living and promote a more just acquisition and distribution of the world’s resources.

We acknowledge our Christian responsibilities of citizenship. Therefore, we must challenge the misplaced trust of the nation in economic and military might–a proud trust that promotes a national pathology of war and violence which victimizes our neighbors at home and abroad. We must resist the temptation to make the nation and its institutions objects of near-religious loyalty.

That’s an excerpt from the “Chicago Declaration on Evangelical Social Concern,” written November 25, 1973. HEREBY AFFIRMED. This is me co-signing, 35 years late.

How would our current political landscape be different if we had listened to these brothers instead of those in the Moral Majority? How would the Focus on the Family version read?
“Before God and a billion hungry neighbors, we must affirm that the greatest assault on Christian values is two ho-mo-sexuals reading The New Yorker together in Boston.”
“We must resist the temptation to see all humans as created equal, for those born in the US of A are more equal than others. Those born in the US of A are auto-magically incorporated into a new Divine plan in which democracy needs to be forcefully imposed on unExceptional unAmericans.”

Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp, directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady (the excellent filmmakers behind 2005’s Boys of Baraka), first debuted September 15th and has slowly been opening on more screens nationwide. I had a chance to see the film when it first came to the area via Drexel East in Columbus. The documentary focuses on the Religious Right’s future leaders by following three kids and their peers as they attend Lakewood Bible Camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. It’s a Pentecostal training ground, lead by Pastor Becky Fisher, for children just as excited about Jesus as they are about “taking back America for God” – ie ridding the USA of evolution, the global warming myth, and most importantly, abortion.

The critical response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s hard to legitimately argue that the documentary isn’t well-made. Christian responses are decidedly mixed. I think many want to try to distance themselves from the charismatic Christianity portrayed, isolating them in the black/white, they/us distinctions the Religious Right is so good at. By pretending we aren’t like that it’s easier to deny a problem and blunt the impact of Jesus Camp’s hard message. But we’re not being honest with ourselves if the Christians on screen seem nothing like us. Pentecostals are Evangelicals too, and the Religious Right is an Evangelical movement — one who has a stranglehold on American politics these days. Undoubtedly your reaction to the movie will be largely influenced on how you feel about that fact. If, like Pastor Becky Fisher, you find President Bush to be a great representative of Christianity (giving us “legitimacy”) then Jesus Camp is likely to offend. If, like me, you’re a little more disgusted by our current administration, then Jesus Camp is likely to, well, offend still.

Unlike the former group, it is not offensive because I feel the film unfairly blasts Republicans and the Religious Right. It’s offensive precisely because the Republican party and the Religious Right is offensive itself. Jesus Camp simply illuminates what many of us are (re)discovering: the more the church allies itself with the RNC the more we look completely unlike anything the church Christ preached. Jesus Camp does not need to resort to clever editing or hidden cameras to accurately present its subjects. Really, the film is only funny and tragic if you’re already aware of how ridiculous the Religious Right’s rhetoric really is. Jesus Camp has the power to galvanize more than Michael Moore ever will. We laugh at the irony (and there’s lots of it in Jesus Camp) but have to quickly check ourselves because it’s sick and sad. For regardless of political affliation, the film hits hard because it exposes what amounts to Christian brainwashing. Jesus Camp depicts a childhood many of us Cedarville students can relate to. Theologically, many of the children portrayed speak a private religious language that I don’t understand; they frame their Christian belief in alien words but I’m very willing to grant them this right. The revolting and offensive part comes when the adults openly manipulate the children (Pastor Becky Fisher has no qualms with the word “indoctrination”). Kathleen Falsani’s excellent article on Jesus Camp in the Chicago Sun-Times ruminates on what exactly constitutes “spiritual abuse.” She’s absolutely right to focus on the spiritual scars of such an upbringing, wounds many of the kids portrayed (us?) will carry for many years to come. To rationally and intellectually weigh the issues and still opt in to the Religious Right is perfectly legitimate (though baffling to me). To engage in the propagandizing of impressionable children, recruiting future RNC foot soldiers, is to me inexcusable. Jesus Camp will thus enlighten and repulse precisely to the extent that we were unaware of how much brainwashing is really going on. To paraphrase Mike Papantonio, the sole liberal Christian voice in the movie, this isn’t tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories: it’s happening and it’s scary, scarier still when you consider that Pastor Becky Fisher endorses the film. It’s a tribute to the quality of Jesus Camp as a documentary that both “sides” approve of the movie. Christians of all kinds, of all political leanings, ought to see Jesus Camp simply to wrestle with the issues and force themselves to ask the tough questions about both the church in politics and the role and responsibility parents have in raising their children.