Crucify Him! Vote for Steele!

barabbas2It’s time for the little big show here in Washington, since the midterm elections are never quite as big a show as the big big show, which is a presidential election day. However, the presidential election does officially start at sunrise tomorrow, to hang in there.

We will, of course, be looking for signs of the “values voter” collapse today — since that has been the template for much of the MSM over the past few weeks.

Listen for two or three key stats: (1) note the “pew gap” in the voting patterns of people who are most active in traditional forms of religion; (2) note the factor of marriage and, in particular, the percentage of parents with children who swing to the Democrats; (3) watch Tennessee and Virginia, to see if the new old Bible Belt Democrats play well; and (4) pay attention to the religion factor in Maryland’s election for U.S. senator and, in particular, see if many African American churchgoers swing over and commit heresy by voting for Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (an African American Catholic) in the race against Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.

This will be a hard day for me to write, since I teach all day and I have a Scripps Howard News Service column — non-election related, due to the lead-time factor — due tomorrow morning, as well.

But let me pass along what I think is the most amazing political quote that I have heard in a long, long time. It comes from that Washington Times story by reporter Jon Ward that young master Daniel mentioned yesterday.

With Cardin sitting in the front pew, the Rev. Delman L. Coates used this image in his remarks to 1,500 members of his flock at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, in Clinton. You’ll need to sit down before you read this one.

Mr. Coates preached that voting for Mr. Steele would be like voting to free the thief Barabbas instead of Jesus. In the gospels, Pontius Pilate asks a Jewish crowd whether he should free Jesus Christ or Barabbas, and the crowd shouts for Barabbas to be freed, and for Jesus to be crucified.

Mr. Coates implied that black people who vote for Mr. Steele would be deceived just like the crowd that shouted to crucify Jesus. He said people who supported Barabbas could be called “Barablicans,” and people who were for Jesus could be called “Jesuscrats.”

“Can’t you just see the commercials that were designed to endear Barabbas to the crowd?” he said. “I can just see [Barablicans] well dressed, well groomed [and] holding a puppy.”

The reference to one of Mr. Steele’s TV ads, which have featured Mr. Steele holding a puppy, drew laughter from the congregation and prompted several worshipers to stand and applaud.

We do not know, of course, if the pastor — seconds before making this remark — said something like this: “Now, I realize that I cannot endorse a candidate from this pulpit. I also can’t speak for this church. But, just speaking for myself, I think that this whole Senate race reminds me of a painful scene in the New Testament. You know the one, the one where . . .”

Was this an endorsement? And where is this quote in the rest of the Washington media? Try to imagine a pastor — black or white — on the other side of the race using this kind of language without anyone noting it.

That’s an amazing quote. Does anyone have a stronger one from a mainstream figure in this election year?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.

    What’s amazing is that the MSM constantly fails to mention things like this *delightful* little quote, and of course when the WashTimes or FOX news mentions it, they’re being “partisan.” (Wait for those accusations against them to be flung here, too.)

    It’s incredible that the double standards exist so blatantly on the Left of the political spectrum.

    A liberal paper here in New Hampshire, the Concord Monitor, ran a story in yesterday’s paper trashing these blatent political techniques, but laying the blame squarely on conservative Republicans. The Democrats in the story were portrayed as being “disgusted” by such a thing, and apparently, they would NEVER think of doing what this pastor in MD did (oh, never.)

    This quote was the story’s second sentence:

    “People are coming to Mass to have their faith renewed,” said Montesanti, who serves at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord. “The last thing they need is to get Rush Limbaugh-ed.”

    Nice anti-GOP slam there. But let’s get BOTH sides’ story here. As the WashTimes quote shows, both sides are offenders.

  • Tom Harmon

    Barry Lynn will, of course, be holding a public protest outside this church. Oh, wait…

  • C. Wingate

    Let us remember that the banner-bearer for this issue is All Saints Pasadena, hardly a right-wing church.

  • tmatt


    Wait! Wait! Wait! I would defend the sermon at All Saints all the way to the US Supreme Court. That was clearly an issue driven sermon not in the context of an election.

    In this case, you had clear ID of the good and the bad candidate, with a really strong attack on one and clear endorsement — in religious terms — of A PERSON, not an issue linked to a person.

    I would hope that even Barry Lynn would see that.

    Right Michael?

  • Michael

    I think what the minister said is very problematic and could violate the law. I think Barry Lynn would agree with that. African American churches have always walked much too close to the line when it comes to these kinds of sermons.

    It’s too bad they didn’t send reporters to the megachurches in the DC exurbs and the progressive churches in DC’s core to see what else was being said on the pulpit. Or covered the Bishop’s letters about the gay marriage amendment being read in Catholic churches across Virginia.

  • Don Neuendorf

    Boy am I redfaced. I preached on All Saints Day itself. You know… the old idea of us being the Bride of Christ and stuff.

    I feel hopelessly mired in irrelevance.

    I’d like to echo Michael’s closing remark for a different reason. I never get to travel around to hear what’s being preached in other congregations. Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were some religion reporters who were doing sermon summaries? Is anyone?

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    The returns seem to validate that values do matter–even if Democrats are winning elections. Of course the undertow to the story goes unreported. Democrats are running moderates (what Howard Dean calls “strong candidates”) up against Republicans. And that Ned Lamont mandate in Connecticut? He’s history as Lieberman keeps his Senate seat.

    But 8 states have an amendment preserving the “one woman/one man” concept of marriage. So far the 8 states are voting to keep the traditional concept of marriage.

    Enough “elephants” have had integrity issues to keep values a priority to Republican detriment.

    BTW, interesting choice of graphic–a variation of “Ecce, HOMO.” Now, realize, it’s Latin for “Behold, the man” when Pilate presents Jesus to the Jewish leaders–NOT, here’s a man of an alternate lifestyle.

    As for what one says in the pulpit, it has gone on for far too long on both sides of the divide. Ubfortunately, we only hear it from those on the conservative side. Yet I know here in Milwaukee candidates are invited to speak in churches during services. Is this to be construed as advocating a certain candidate? Hey, MSM reporter–get on this story once and see what dynamic exists between faith and politics in America, and on both sides of the aisle.

    BTW, local municipalities here in Wisconsin have referenda on the ballot on Iraq. The ones in Wisconsin are passing (not that the vote actually means anything). But reading the wording I was struck by how vague the wording is. And I had trouble disagreeing with what the referenda said at face value. But I know the “face value” isn’t the goal. The goal is a sound bite and a spin message without a real look at the wording. You *know* what Howard Dean’s talking points are going to be.

  • Jon Ward

    In fact, Barry Lynn has taken notice. This from an Americans United for the Separation of Church and State press release:



    Houses Of Worship Must Abide By Federal Tax Law, Says Watchdog Group

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate four houses of worship for intervention in partisan politics.

    Americans United said that most houses of worship appear to be following the law, but a few seem unwilling to do so. The four complaints to the IRS – two involving Democrats and two involving Republicans – come just one day before the national mid-term elections.

    “Unfortunately, some churches allow candidate endorsements from the pulpit, distribute biased voter guides and host partisan rallies,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Such blatant electioneering by tax-exempt churches flouts federal law and threatens the integrity of religion.”

    The churches reported today are:

    • Bethel AME Church, Cambridge, Md.: The church hosted a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley and other Democratic candidates on Nov. 2. O’Malley and others sought votes and were introduced by the pastor. Churches may host educational forums featuring all candidates but not partisan rallies.

    • Sioux City Baptist Church, Sioux City, Iowa: On Oct. 29, the church made available biased “voter guides” produced by the Iowa Christian Alliance, a 501(c)(4) organization. The guides violated several standards established by the IRS and were clearly stacked to favor Republican hopefuls.

    • Mount Emmon Baptist Church, Clinton, Md.: The church’s pastor attacked Republican senatorial candidate Michael Steele from the pulpit Nov. 5 while Steele’s opponent, Benjamin Cardin, sat in the front row.

    • Lakeview Assembly of God, Hot Springs, Ark.: The church hosted Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson on Oct. 15. It placed an ad in the local newspaper inviting people to hearHutchinson speak, identifying him as the GOP candidate. Hutchinson’s Democratic opponent was not on the program.

    Lynn noted that the IRS earlier this year announced a crackdown on non-profit groups, including houses of worship, that violate the Internal Revenue Code by intervening in partisan campaigns. As part of that effort, the IRS has repeatedly warned about provisions in the federal tax code that bar partisan involvement in campaigns.

    “No one can plead ignorance of the law,” Lynn said. “The word is out that electioneering by churches is illegal. Those who continue to flout the law should hear from the IRS.”

    In addition to the four complaints filed today, Americans United has sought investigations into four other examples of church electioneering this year.

    Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.