John McCain is walking into the buzzsaw of denouncing the evangelical community again. Walking away this time is going to be more difficult than McCain anticipates, because true believers are finally as mad as hell.
It's been a slow build including Ralph Reed and the Native American casinos; Rudy Giuliani endorsed by Pat Robertson then losing the primaries over his mistress' police car cab rides; the Heritage Foundation think tank wrong on every aspect of the war; graduates of Robertson's law school propping up Alberto Gonzalez before he had to resign, and Ted Haggart out of the closet.
In the last month, Barack Obama has backed away from some of his pastor's views, and James Carville has compared Governor Bill Richardson to Judas but none of that compares to how often evangelicals are denounced when they are no longer politically expedient. McCain was comfortable throwing Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones University under the bus until it cost him a presidential election. Now that he's in the ranks of the religious right, here's what he needs to know: You can pretend to be evangelical if you're not, but the true believers will eventually cast you out like babies pitched over the wall as in Old Testament Shibboleth.
I was raised evangelical, with devout parents and a father who traveled the world with mission work. We heard most rock songs backwards before hearing them like you did, so as to pick out the telltale "natas." You'd be surprised how many words sound like satan if that's what someone's listening for. It's hard to walk away from a lifetime of conditioning. So as McCain dimes out Hagee, Robertson and the rest after soliciting their endorsement, the community he's denouncing has one belief: everything in the King James Bible is true. Healing, prophecies, end times and speaking in tongues. And if you're not with them, enjoy the eternal lake of fire because that's where you're going, my friend.
It's a hard denomination to categorize because evangelicals worship in storefronts, megachurches, abandoned movie theatres and everything in between. The fact that they're so invested in believing makes it all the more difficult for them to stomach McCain seeking their endorsement only to dump them for the Catholic Church controversy. It's built into the religion. I know now that it's wrong, but there were murmurs of, "Why are there so many Catholic orphanages? All those priests and nuns," as far back as I can remember.
In the heartland, our communion was Saltine crackers and grape juice. I didn't attend a Mass until my late teens, and thought that after one sip of wine I was probably drunk. It's farm country, and it is full of voters who are tired of being a joke behind closed doors after their votes are counted.
Church youth groups now volunteering to clean up New Orleans are coming home to ask their parents why their political party has no plans to ensure that America's next infrastructure victims won't be subjected to a similar Homeland Security implosion.
Meanwhile, Oral Roberts, Jr. has stepped down because the evangelical "name it claim it" theory (the richer you are, the more god loves you) is under IRS investigation in case grassroots donors did not know they were buying private jets for pastors who wield political influence. Hagee hasn't been busted yet, but eventually it won't pass the smell test when the congregation becomes as poor as the pastor is rich.
As kids we called it the "blab it, grab it" theory. That still seems to hold.