I am still not sure how this story is front page news, but let me summarize the situation that led to dozens of religious leaders issuing a statement of outrage on Thursday that included a word that is sure to become a favorite of persecuted (American) Christians everywhere: Christophobic. Here’s the controversy:
- WikiLeaks released a bunch of “shocking” emails from Hillary Clinton’s camp, including a Top Secret guide to making creamy risotto.
- Included in the latest email dump is a conversation between campaign chair John Podesta, communications director Jennifer Palmieri, a Catholic, and think-tanker John Halpin.
- In the email, Halpin wonders if 21st Century Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and NewsCorp Chairman Robert Thomson are both attracted to the Catholic faith because of “systemic thought and severely backward gender relations.”
- Palmieri, a Catholic herself replied, “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable, politically conservative religion — their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelical.”
The End. That was the whole conversation between a Catholic staffer and a contractor, without any comment by John Podesta.
Shocking? Well… a little over simplified? Sure, the whole conversation consisted of two sentences between colleagues (one who is Catholic), this was not a doctoral thesis on comparative religion in America today. A little snarky? Well, to be fair to the Clinton camp, Murdoch does own a few media outlets that could be considered “sexist” and once labeled Clinton as a “facist” over her support of marriage equality. Not to mention, Murdoch later had to fire his FoxNews co-founder and friend, Roger Ailes over sexual harassment charges.
So, How Did Religious Leaders Respond? In short, they used this as the latest opportunity to lose their minds and claim persecution under the blanket of what they consider, “Christophobia.” Dozens of leaders from Catholic and evangelical groups expressed their outrage in this joint statement:
As Christian leaders, Catholic and evangelical, we collectively express our outrage at the demeaning and troubling rhetoric used by those within Secretary Clinton’s campaign—and those associated with the campaign—to describe our communities.
Recently released emails clearly ridicule, demean and smear Roman Catholics and evangelicals. It is especially alarming that the Chairman of the Clinton Campaign, John Podesta, was copied on these emails between Jennifer Palmieri, now Director of Communications for the Clinton campaign, and a fellow at Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Podesta’s refusal to raise any objection makes him equally party to this bigotry. It is inexcusable. It is shameful. It is un-American.
Historically, evangelicals and Catholics have had significant theological differences, dating back to the Protestant Reformation. In spite of those differences there has been a mutual respect for one another and an ability to work together on important issues of mutual concern.
The WikiLeaks emails reveal a contempt for all traditional Christians, and we are—Catholic and evangelical—united in our outrage and united in our call for Mrs. Clinton to immediately apologize for the Christophobic behavior of her associates.
Christophobic! Heh… really, folks? Did none of the signing parties object that this might be going a little too far? Or, were there others who didn’t think this went far enough? Let’s look back at the original emails: “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable, politically conservative religion — their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelical.”
Of course, it should come as no surprise that in his speeches yesterday Donald Trump referenced the emails in connection with what he calls Clinton’s “deep hatred for faithful Americans.” Not be be outdone by the boss, running mate Mike Pence said Thursday, “If only on behalf of her catholic running mate, Hillary Clinton should denounce those bigoted anti-Catholic, anti-evangelical remarks and her campaign staff should apologize to people of faith and do it now.”
If you are wondering how this outrage is playing out among Christian voters, I’ll just let one Trump supporter sum it up in her live interview with CBS, “If Hillary Clinton gets in, she’s going to make Merry Christmas a banned phrase… Hilary is going to effect every aspect of my life. I’m not going to be able to say Merry Christmas. I care about policies… We will not be able to say Merry Christmas.”
Uhh… speaking of phobias… Yes, leave it to politics and religion to manufacture many! ;-)
Takeaway: Of course, the real problem here is that, once again, instead of having any interest in an actual conversation about the actual content and ideas exchanged in the two sentences uncovered by WikiLeaks, these “leaders” chose the path of outrage and dismissal. For what it’s worth – I was raised Catholic and when I eventually left the church, no – my friends couldn’t and still don’t understand why I became an evangelical. Much like my evangelical friends can’t understand why I left my life of ministry and eventually faith. So, if the strategy of these Christian leaders is to express mock outrage and bury their heads in the sand anytime there is an opposing view on the wind, well… some things never change.
Newt Gingrich: “’Calista and I both feel this is an assault on Catholics.’ He referred to Clinton’s “bigoted, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic staff.” (Talk Media News, 10/12/16)
Bill Donohue: “Yesterday, I stopped short of asking Hillary Clinton to fire John Podesta, her campaign chairman. In light of the latest Wikileaks revelations, she has no choice but to cut all ties with this man. The man is hell bent on creating mutiny in the Catholic Church and must therefore be fired.” (Newsmax, 10/13/16)
Joseph Cella: The emails illustrate “the open anti-Catholic bigotry of her senior advisers, who attack the deeply held beliefs and theology of Catholics,” (Catholic News, 10/13/16)
Speaker Paul Ryan: “If anything, these statements reveal the Clinton campaign’s hostile attitude toward people of faith in general. … All Americans of faith should take a long, hard look at this and decide if these are the values we want to be represented in our next president.” (Fortune, 10/13/16)
Wait, wait, I thought Donald Trump said he didn’t want Speaker Ryan’s help? ;-)