Miserable sinners, the lot of you

(Apologies for missing Kathy’s earlier post on this subject!)

When CNN talking head Soledad O’Brien clinched the Worst Journalist on Earth award by asking John Edwards to name the biggest sin he ever committed, Edwards might have responded thusly:

While I can’t bring myself to reveal all the particulars of my transgression, I’ll just say that it involved a can of whipped cream, a bathtub of gelatin, a bottle of Jack, and three of the Pussycat Dolls.

An appropriate response to an intrusive query, but Edwards didn’t say that. Nor, sadly, did he say this:

This is a pathetic and insulting line of questioning that violates privacy, debases faith, and demeans the electoral process, and I decline to go along with it.

No, Edwards instead talked about what a big sinner he is – aren’t we all? – and so responded much as any of the big three Dem presidential contestants did in the Sojourners/Call to Renewal forum. That is, Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama burnished their religious bonafides in an attempt to demonstrate that Democrats – like their Republican rivals – are down with the whole God thing.

Religiosity or the lack of it is properly just one aspect of any politician’s makeup that may indicate what kind of officeholder he or she will be – and is generally used as an easy shorthand for what constitutes an individual’s concept of right and wrong – but the understanding of that context seems to be increasingly lost as candidates pander for the votes of the faithful. In any case, “faith” has become so narrowly construed publicly as belief or nonbelief in a specific Great White Bearded Guy that the whole exercise becomes unhelpful at best.

The Sojourners forum may have been intended as an opportunity to step beyond this paradigm – to talk about values, which are more fundamental and pertinent than any particular mythology – but with questions about personal sin framing the discussion, that opportunity seems to have been lost.

Cross-posted.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Miserable sinners, the lot of you

  1. Melissa McEwan

    and is generally used as an easy shorthand for what constitutes an individual’s concept of right and wrong

    That’s the problem. Right there. In a nutshell.

  2. asking John Edwards to name the biggest sin he ever committed

    I can think of a possible answer. If a question like that is going to have any use at all, it should stick to the intersection of morality and public life. Does a candidate view political decisions as existing within a moral framework, and how specifically does that affect the candidate’s decision-making? Otherwise it’s just platitudes.

  3. Azelie

    It’s telling that they labelled this forum “Faith and Politics” but only solicited questions from Christians, and moreover from Christians who show no interest in examining how the candidates would balance the importance of their religious beliefs in motivating their actions vs. their responsibilities as office holders in a constitutional government that includes the separation of church and state.

  4. Nik E Poo

    … pander for the votes of the faithful.

    IMHO its a political fad. As you might already suspect, I’m gonna pull out the old saw … follow the money. In this case, campaign money. Typically candidates need to secure some rich bastards … to pony up the long leafy green … in order to make a decent go of it.

    The configuration of these rich bastards … is classically:
    – a central person or small group of say 3-5 stinking rich bastards
    – orbited by a few dozen rich bastards
    – each of these with 50-100 satellite comfortably well off bastards

    These configurations bear a strong resemblance to VC (vulture capitalist) structures and I assert … share the love of fads.

    Anyone remember TQM (Total Quality Management)? How about ISO 9000? I think we all remember the Dot-Com Bubble.

    The hallmarks of a good fad … is that its importance be both blown way out of proportion … and completely misunderstood by those who advance it. I think, its no accident that Bush has no clue about what the Bible says … any more than some dick CEO would understand TQM … and yet, they cram it down everyone’s throat.

    The good news is … fads eventually pass. The people who always hated the them rejoice … and the people that understood … or possibly even embraced the ideas … lament the passing.

    Such is the world of money-whoring, fad-centric, ass kissery.

  5. Evelyn

    These guys need help. The correct answer to an asinine question like that is: “That’s between me and God. Next question.”

  6. Nik E Poo

    [Soledad O’Brien] “Name the biggest sin he ever committed.”
    [Bush] “Well Soley Sole … thats a tough one. heh heh … er … I’d have to go with starting a war … that killed … um ya see … lots of people did the dying thing … heh heh … and then me and my friends made alotta money. In Texas there’s an old saying … um … er … what … a … what was the question again?”
    [Capt. Picard] “We have no punishment to fit your crime.”

  7. Arkades

    Religiosity or the lack of it is properly just one aspect of any politician’s makeup that may indicate what kind of officeholder he or she will be – and is generally used as an easy shorthand for what constitutes an individual’s concept of right and wrong

    The destructive upshot of this line of thinking is that anyone who espouses the correct religious attitudes is necessarily also moral and ethical. (To name one example among many possible: DeLay certainly believes this about himself, regardless of what anyone else thinks on the matter.)

    Unfortunately, too many ‘cultural conservatives’ rely on *exactly* this kind of shorthand and consequently judge politicians on whether they *say* the right things, rather than making sure they actually *behave* in an appropriately moral and ethical manner.

    The equally nauseatingly flipside of the same argument is the idea that someone who is low on religiosity (or, in the case of atheists, may lack that quality completely) must necessarily also be amoral and lacking an ethical compass. Which completely ignores the possibility of enlightened humanism and/or beneficent forms of philosophical thought.

  8. Doktor Wankenstein

    Evelyn, that’s exactly what I thought before I got to your post.

  9. nightshift66

    Nik,
    There are times when you are positively brilliant. Your quote from Picard is just such a time.

  10. Melissa

    Urgh. These questions are ridiculous–it sound more like a game of truth or dare about 5th graders than a question a journalist would ask a presidential candidate.

  11. “Well, when I had that centerfold of you, Soley, some call what I did a sin. But you, thankfully, just smiled throughout.”

    Turn those questions around, Senator, to make the pundits squirm a bit. Maybe more tactfully than my example, but still.

  12. "Fair and Balanced" Dave

    While I can’t bring myself to reveal all the particulars of my transgression, I’ll just say that it involved a can of whipped cream, a bathtub of gelatin, a bottle of Jack, and three of the Pussycat Dolls.

    You too?! 😉

  13. Unfortunately, too many ‘cultural conservatives’ rely on *exactly* this kind of shorthand and consequently judge politicians on whether they *say* the right things, rather than making sure they actually *behave* in an appropriately moral and ethical manner.

    They want politicians just like them.

    heh 😉

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