There’s been considerable discussion, at least online, about John McCain reaching out and embracing televangelist John Hagee, despite Hagee’s record of attacking people not like him, most notably Catholics, Jews, and gays. But it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s another right-wing televangelist with close ties to McCain whose background deserves closer scrutiny.
Senator John McCain hailed as a spiritual adviser an Ohio megachurch pastor who has called upon Christians to wage a “war” against the “false religion” of Islam with the aim of destroying it.
On February 26, McCain appeared at a campaign rally in Cincinnati with the Reverend Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, a supersize Pentecostal institution that features a 5,200-seat sanctuary, a television studio (where Parsley tapes a weekly show), and a 122,000-square-foot Ministry Activity Center. That day, a week before the Ohio primary, Parsley praised the Republican presidential front-runner as a “strong, true, consistent conservative.”… McCain, with Parsley by his side at the Cincinnati rally, called the evangelical minister a “spiritual guide.”
The leader of a 12,000-member congregation, Parsley has written several books outlining his fundamentalist religious outlook, including the 2005 Silent No More. In this work, Parsley decries the “spiritual desperation” of the United States, and he blasts away at the usual suspects: activist judges, civil libertarians who advocate the separation of church and state, the homosexual “culture” (”homosexuals are anything but happy and carefree”), the “abortion industry,” and the crass and profane entertainment industry. And Parsley targets another profound threat to the United States: the religion of Islam.
Now, in all likelihood, if Hagee’s anti-Catholic diatribes didn’t cause McCain any real political trouble, McCain probably won’t have to pay too high a price for Parsley’s anti-Muslim harangues. It’s unsettling, but in this political climate, it’s easier for a right-wing religio-political figure to get away with anti-Muslim animus than anti-Catholic.
But if McCain is going to tout Parsley as a “spiritual guide,” it’s certainly worth learning more about where Parsley might “guide” the Republican nominee.
Most notably, Parsley doesn’t just hate Islam, he wants to “destroy” it. Here’s what he wrote in one of his books:
The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.
From there, the lunacy becomes more predictable. Parsley argues, for example, that “Allah was a demon spirit.” There is no difference, he argues, between violent Islamic extremists and mainstream Muslim believers.
Keep in mind, Parsley is not just some fringe figure. In evangelical circles, he’s something of a powerhouse, and is widely believed to be one of the religious right’s new major players, after Falwell’s death and Robertson’s deterioration. It’s precisely why McCain, desperate for support from a right-wing constituency that has never trusted him, would cozy up to this hateful extremist (or, should I say, another hateful extremist).
I suppose waiting for McCain to denounce Parsley’s anti-Muslim bigotry would take a while, so there’s hardly any point to asking. But it would be worthwhile for campaign reporters, always looking for a new angle or story, to ask the senator why he’d stand alongside a “spiritual guide” who believes the United States has to “destroy” the “false religion” of Islam.
And lest there be any confusion, Parsley isn’t a one-trick pony — sure, he hates Muslims, but his bread and butter includes attacks on gays, abortion, the federal judiciary, and civil libertarians. Best of all, his rhetoric frequently includes what sounds like appeals to violence, telling his followers, “I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations. Ready your weapons.” (One wants to assume he’s speaking metaphorically, but it’s not entirely clear.)
This is the man John McCain has embraced as a politically ally. Remind me again how he developed a reputation as a moderate?