Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Religion and Politics

So there's an election coming up and a post on politics is inevitable for me, don't you think?  But perhaps my topic is a bit unexpected.

This is where I come out in support of Christine O'Donnell.  Sort of.

Not her politics or her beliefs about sexuality or her honesty (finances, education) or her character or her fitness to serve as a U.S. Senator. 

It's the witch thing.

Liberals have jumped on O'Donnell's admission that she "dabbled in witchcraft."  (She's also a former Catholic, liberal, and she used to be pro-choice.)  They seem to believe that this history will discredit O'Donnell with the religious right.

Maybe it will, but maybe not.  After all, Evangelical Christianity is about being saved.  About turning from darkness into light.  Accepting Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior and being Born Again.  A fresh slate.  Perhaps you remember our 43rd President?  Many did not hold the "sins" of his "youth" against him because he repented.  And that's huge.  The importance to evangelical Christians of being saved cannot be over-estimated.

Despite this flaw in the logic of attacking O'Donnell's previous religious practices, there's a much greater problem with the approach and it's the same problem with "attacking" Obama by suggesting that he's Muslim.  Use of religion as a vilifying personal characteristic suggests that there's something terribly wrong with being of a particular religion.  Is that really what liberals want to say?

Liberals did crow about O'Donnell's comments regarding witchcraft, just as they enjoyed her filmed comments about the evils of masturbation.

But of course the ones most excited about O'Donnell's revelations were the media, and not because they're "liberal" but rather because this sort of sensational story is news, baby!  We tune in, we listen, we talk about it.  In short: it sells.  We're buying it. 

And so nothing will change and instead of talking about substantive issues related to the direction this country should go, we're talking about a political cartoon in which O'Donnell's limousine is drawn as a broom parked outside the Capitol.

Happy voting.


keribrary said...

But she actually described some sort of strange ritual, possibly satanic, that has nothing to do with modern wicca, neo-pagan practice, or "witchcraft". So, whatever. I'm still in the mode of muting the TV when anything about politics comes on. As always, the election can't come fast enough.

Sarahlynn said...

Agreed on all accounts. And I'm really not defending O'Donnell here as much as I'm frustrated with this particular attack on her. She's the target, but there are so many better things to go after her for. And instead of just hitting her qualification or policies, a misguided attack on her religion makes a joke of the practices of actual wiccans and neo-pagans.

sarah said...

The message that came across to me about the O'Donnell witchgate, is more an attempt by the media to make her a laughing stock rather than a condemnation of witchcraft as a religious choice.

Sarahlynn said...

I agree about the intent, but I think the underlying message is still the same. If she's a joke because she once "dabbled in witchcraft," what does that say to someone who is a Wiccan?

sarah said...

She is a joke because of the videos released by Bill Maher filmed when she was what, 20? I just hope no one has film of me when I was that age, I was ridiculous :)

I don't think any one is taking her claims of witchcraft seriously, and Wiccans have come out and said what she described has nothing to do with their religion, so how can the media sending a message about it?

The media seems to have more of a problem with fundamental christianity than anything else.

Sarahlynn said...

Much of the analysis I've seen suggests that O'Donnell's problem is that the witchcraft thing fits into a larger pattern. She says some embarrassing things in front of cameras then later has to defend them, and many of her quotes make fabulous sound bites. (The old quips about witchcraft and masturbation plus more recent comments about tax evasion, education, and the constitution.)

Personally, I'm glad I'm not held accountable for everything I said as a passionate teenager and college student. Over the years I've developed a little more compassion and context! (Of course, I didn't spend much time airing my opinions on television back then, either.) I think moving forward it will be interesting to see how future candidates - kids now whose entire lives are cataloged online - deal with these issues. Hopefully we'll move to a place where current issues become more important and what crazy/silly/offensive/or just different from our current platform things we did in college are less of a big deal.

But I disagree that no one is taking O'Donnell's religious experimentation seriously. After all, people are still talking about it and O'Donnell spent lots of money on an "I'm not a witch" ad campaign. Rove and Gingrich and others who want to get their names in the news - both on the left and on the right - have weighed in publicly. Sadly, this thing has legs.

I don't think the *media* has a huge problem with evangelical Christianity, or even fundamental Christianity. I think "the media" are a profit-driven enterprise and they sell what we buy.