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The New Christians

saddlebackchurch6.jpgMethinks the biggest story this week is not BO’s choice of Papa Rick to give the inaugural invocation.  The biggest story this week is how big this story is.  It won’t go away.  I’m sure BO’s people thought it might last one news cycle, but we’re now on day four of this.  And it’s showing no signs of going away.  Google News shows 1900 stories, and Google Blog Search shows 35,000 blog posts on the topic

What is it with the staying power of this story?  I’ve got a few theories, but I don’t if one of them — or any of them — is on the money.  Let me know what you think.

A) After the last two years, we are political news junkies.  We’d never heard of Joe Scarborough or Rachel Maddow a few months ago, and now we watch them every day.  We still check Politico, Huffington, and Andrew every day.  But since the most dramatic primary and general election season maybe ever, the last six weeks has been boring as hell.  Cabinet appointments? Caroline Kennedy?  Rahm Emmanuel’s potty mouth?  Yawn.  What this story has is enough political and celebrity intrigue to get people to turn on Larry King.

B) The pro-gay marriage movement is bigger than we thought.  A big part of the flap is that Papa Rick vocally and financially supported Prop 8, and that he has even since compared gay partnerships to brother-sister incest, etc.  Rick clearly believes that gayness is an ailment than can (and should) be cured.  Fine.  He has every right to that opinion, and to promote that opinion.  But the dust-up over his selection by BO was clearly underestimated by BO’s people (or they would have done more pre- and immediate damage control).  Indeed, most of us would not have guessed that there’d be this much uproar…because most of us believe the commonly cited statistic that 68% of Americans are steadfastly against gay rights.  In fact, Americans are shifting their views in favor of same sex marriage at one percent per year.  Maybe the staying power of this story shows it’s shifting even faster, and that the passage of Prop 8 has hastened that.

C)
Conservatives are recoiling at Papa Rick as the successor to Billy Graham as “America’s Pastor.”  In fact, I think that journalists might be recoiling, too (liberals, of course, get no vote on “America’s Pastor.”)  Throughout Papa Rick’s extended interview with Steve Waldman, he shows a sorry lack of theological sophistication, not to mention gramatical sophistication.  I mean, can anyone imagine Billy Graham making so many unmeasured — even unbiblical — statements?  Let’s take just one example:

Rick says: The fundamental
issue is, people often ask me, “What’s the worst sin?” They
expect me to say adultery, or taking drugs or something.  The Bible clearly
states, in the book of Isaiah, it’s pride.  It’s pride.  It was
pride as Isaiah talks about Satan to get kicked out of heaven.  And the middle
letter of sin is “I” and the middle letter of pride is
“I.”

The Bible (Jesus!) says: Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven these men (the Pharisees), but
the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says
a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks
against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in
the age to come.

Or can you imagine Billy Graham asserting that marriage has been practiced the same way in every human society for 5,000 years?  I can’t.  The evangelical intelligencia liked (not loved) Billy Graham because, though he wasn’t a theologian, he usually spoke carefully (anti-semitic comments in Nixon’s office being the exception that proves the rule.  Papa Rick is not nearly as circumspect.  He and Billy are probably 98% sympatico, but Rick’s a SoCal dude, and Billy’s a southern gentleman.

Well, it’ll be interesting to see if this story fades over the weekend or if calls for Papa Rick to be removed from the dias daisintensify.  In either case, both BO and Papa Rick have to be happy that the holidays are upon us, and new tends to die over the holidays.

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