The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Sunday, September 30, 2007

How Many Times Can Giuliani Say 9/11

Try as I may, I cannot keep from tuning in to what might be called the "Religious Dimensions of Presidential Politics, 2008 Edition." Perhaps it is because I bought the later discredited hype that attributed the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004 to the "values" campaign waged by Karl Rove and his anti-abortion, anti-gay political hacks. More likely, my interest is attributable to the ongoing concern I have as a scholar and minister for the representations of the faith that resonate with the majority of Americans who call themselves Christian.

Whatever the sources of my interest, I found myself biting when I read the headline "Giuliani Cites Bible on Personal Life." I wanted to know the limits of pandering in the Giuliani campaign. Would Hizzoner (Emeritus) actually manufacture a relationship with the Christian scriptures in order to bolster a would-be romance with the Christian conservative Republican base? The answer was both a more and less cynical appeal to the heart of his base than I anticipated.

In the first instance, I had to admit that perhaps Giuliani's resort to scripture was not entirely manufactured. Taking his testimony as a true confession, one discovers an adulterer who finds comfort in the refusal of Jesus to stone one such as himself. Although in some sense it is objectionable, this use of scripture is wholly conventional. Many a person living a ragged moral life has intoned, quoting Jesus, "Judge not." In the Black church tradition, this usually manifests as "The Lord knows my heart."

Given the fact that Giuliani has a difficult mountain to climb if he hopes to be the poster-candidate for the family values niche of the Republican base -- what with his public display of marital infidelity while in Gracie Mansion, his estranged children, and his support of abortion rights -- it may be prudent indeed to summons the Savior himself to silence his most judgmental followers. And if that doesn't work, he can tell the public again that his family and faith, though profoundly important in his life, are none of our business.

What was more disturbing than Giuliani's comments about the Bible was his use of "September 11th" as a mantra. In an unforgivably self-serving way, Giuliani constantly reminds his audiences that for him, and presumably for them, 9/11 changed everything. He's prayed a lot since 9/11, and he has to take his wife's calls in the middle of speeches because of 9/11. In effect, he wants America to know that he needs to be President because of 9/11.

What scares me most about this tactic, is that it may actually work. It may be the case that the value most critical to the Republican base in this election will be the strong arm. Pro-Jesus and pro-family may actually be less important than pro-war.

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