04/27/2008 10:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain and the Jesus Thieves

While the media and Sen. Hillary Clinton continue to trash Rev. Jeremiah Wright, John McCain's consorting with a flock of Jesus Thieves -- the people I describe in detail in my new book, Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America -- receives scant attention.

On Friday morning, NBC's Today Show led with a story that breathlessly told viewers that Rev. Wright's interview (which the reporters had not yet seen) had resurrected the issue and would do further damage to Sen. Obama. "Will voters now hold Rev. Wright's remarks against Sen. Obama?" Andrea Mitchell asked, implicitly answering her own question with a resounding, "yes!" She reported that Obama "first said that his former pastor was like an uncle and that he had never heard any offensive sermons, but finally Obama gave a speech criticizing what he called Wright's offensive remarks." Finally? In fact, it took Sen. Obama only a few days to respond with a magnificent speech about race and American values. Mitchell concluded by driving home the point NBC was making about Rev. Wright's interview: "But, clearly, this is not helpful to his former parishioner, Barack Obama -- not at all."

The media continue to replay not only the snippet from one of Rev. Wright's sermons, but also Hillary Clinton's comment, "You know, we don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives; we have a choice when it comes to our pastors."

Why is there so little attention to the choice of pastors whose endorsement Sen. McCain has sought and with whom he has made the choice to ally himself? He has fallen in with a pack of Jesus Thieves who have kidnapped Jesus, stood him on his head and now use him as little more than a celebrity endorsement for the drug they are peddling, ChristianityLite (Say "JESUS!" and you don't have to do Jesus").

In an interview on ABC's This Week on April 20, George Stephanopoulos asked John McCain whether it had been "a mistake to solicit and accept" the endorsement of the Catholic-hating John Hagee, the Republican presidential candidate hemmed, "oh, probably, sure."

Then the con artist formerly known as Straight Talk quickly hawed, "I'm glad to have his endorsement." He's glad to have an endorsement that he says was a mistake to seek and accept?

McCain explained that he disagrees with the Irreverend Hagee's "condemning of the Catholic church." A difference of opinion about the Church this respectable man McCain admires calls "the Great Whore" was fitting on the day the Pope (whom Hagee has identified as the Antichrist) was concluding his American visit.

But, the fair and balanced Republican candidate added, "I admire and respect Dr. Hagee's leadership. I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel, the independence of the state of Israel." Hagee's advocacy for the State of Israel is based on the belief he shares with such other Jesus Thieves as "Left Behind" Tim LaHaye that Israel must exist in preparation for Armageddon and the Rapture, at which time Jews who do not convert will be annihilated.

While visiting New Orleans on Thursday, McCain was pressed to react to Hagee's view that a Terrorist God sent Weather of Mass Destruction to punish the sinners of New Orleans. (The storm, Hagee had said, "was, in fact, the judgment of God against ... New Orleans" because of the city's level of sin. Last Tuesday, Hagee repeated, "What happened in New Orleans looked like the curse of God.") McCain repeatedly labeled Hagee's position "nonsense" and declared, "I don't have anything additional to say." Then he added, clubbing Obama with the content of the North Carolina Republican commercial McCain was simultaneously saying there is no place for in his campaign, "I didn't attend Pastor Hagee's church for 20 years. There's a great deal of difference in my view between someone who endorses you and other circumstances."

Hagee is, however, just one of the many televangelists, hypocrites, imposters, snake-oil salesmen, and just plain snakes of the Irreligious Wrong with whom John McCain has climbed into bed. It is true that Sen. McCain has not been worshipping with these people who have perpetrated identity theft against Jesus for twenty years. In 2000, before he was born again as a buddy of the "Christian" Wrong, Sen. McCain went into Pat Robertson's home base, Virginia Beach, and denounced the Irreverends Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Saying they are like union bosses who "desire to preserve their own political power at all costs," McCain declared: "We embrace the fine members of the religious conservative community, but that does not mean that we will pander to their self-appointed leaders." "Unfortunately, Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore," McCain continued correctly. (Bush did, of course, lose the popular vote to Gore.) He went so far as to link the Jesus Thieves with Louis Farrakhan. "Those who practice [intolerance] in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country." A few days later McCain said on Meet the Press: "Governor Bush swung far to the right and sought out the base support of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Those aren't the ideas that I think are good for the Republican Party."

But, after many years of communion between George W. Bush and those who have aborted Jesus from their pseudo religion, McCain realized that his party had been taken over by the sort of people he had condemned in 2000 and the ideas he had denounced in 2000 had come to dominate the Republican party. He is now willing to pander to the self-appointed leaders of ChristianityLite and become -- or least act as -- a Pat Robertson Republican. He sang with a different choir on Meet the Press in 2006: "Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?" Tim Russert asked the reprogrammed, if not born-again, senator. "No," McCain said, "I don't." (This statement was made while Falwell was still alive.)

In 2000, McCain proclaimed: "We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not Bob Jones." Now, he understands that his party has become the party of James Dobson and Bob Jones.

As for all the concern over Rev. Wright's "God damn America" snippet, let us recall that those "Christian" leaders whom McCain now finds so admirable said much the same thing after September 11, 2001. Less than 48 hours after the attack, Falwell said on Robertson's 700 Club that God had given America "probably what we deserve." Pat ("I'm not a Christian, but I play one on TV") Robertson quickly and completely agreed with Falwell -- and with Osama bin Laden and Muslim extremists -- that God punished the United States on 9/11. While these Right Reverends, like other scoundrels, are always ready to take refuge in the pose of super-patriotism, they are also quick to make themselves the drum majors of the "Blame America First" parade. Their love for America is anything but unconditional. They are willing to love America as much as it is willing to follow their dictates, which flow from their perverted and inverted brand of "Christianity."

They may join in singing "God Bless America," but they readily switch their tune. Falwell and Robertson could have formed a barbershop quartet with Osama bin Laden and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to sing their own special rendition in four-part harmony of "God Damn America":

God Damn America,

Land that we hate.

Stand astride her, and chastise her

Through the night with a Lite from below. . . .

Just as four years later they would see a storm named Katrina as an agent of God, many of the Right Reverends saw a man named Osama bin Laden and his storm troopers as agents of God in 2001.

Jeremiah Wright saw God damning America for the nation's arrogance and killing of noncombatants. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and a host of others among John McCain's newfound friends see God damning America (and New Orleans) for tolerating gays and abortion.

Sen. McCain has apparently concluded that the path to the White House is lined with Jesus Thieves and that kissing their posteriors is the way to get elected.

It is high time for the media to give McCain's Right Reverends their due.

We already know where a president who has made pacts with the devils of the Irreligious Wrong will lead us. We have had that experience during the past eight disastrous years under the Jesus-Thief-in-Chief, George W. Bush.

Robert S. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. His latest book, Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America, has just been published by Crown.