Wilson’s Folly

We’ve all heard sermons admonishing us to either behave or dress appropriately in church. One of the illustrations I’ve heard numerous times goes something like this. “If the President of the United States appeared here on the platform how would you receive him? Would you dress in your nicest church clothes? Would you pay attention to his message and not chit-chat or text while he’s speaking? After all, he’s the President and out of respect you’d be on your best behavior, wouldn’t you? Well, someone more important than the President is here. His name is Jesus.” And so the exhortation goes. If you’re willing to pay that kind of respect to the President, how much more respect should you pay to Jesus?

Based upon the wisdom of this sermon illustration, I’m thinking that many of our Republican congressman and senators only pay lip service to loving Jesus. After all, they openly disrespect the President and if they can’t even behave civilly and respectfully while he’s standing in front of them and speaking before a joint session of Congress, what hope does Jesus, who is far away in heaven, have of getting their respect?

As examples I offer up Representative Eric Cantor from Virginia, the Republican Whip. While Obama was speaking about the relatively low cost of passing healthcare reform in comparison to the cost of the war in Iraq and the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans passed at the beginning of George W. Bush’s first term in office, Cantor could be seen typing into his Blackberry. Then there’s Representative John Shimkus, Republican congressman from southwestern Illinois. Shimkus was photographed walking out on Obama’s speech a few minutes before it finished.

But the award for the most disrespect shown to the President of the United States while addressing a joint session of Congress goes to Representative Joe Wilson, Republican congressman from South Carolina. During a part of the address where Obama asserted that the healthcare reforms proposed would not cover undocumented aliens, Wilson shouted, “You lie,” in a voice loud enough to be heard around the world.

When I heard it I was stunned. Our President had actually been heckled and called a liar to his face by one of our elected officials during a solemn occasion. Wow! I read that the last time George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress he had approval ratings in the mid-20’s. Three-quarters of the population disapproved of the job he was doing. Did anyone walk out on his address? Are there videos of people typing into Blackberry’s while he spoke? Was he heckled and called a liar? Obama’s approval rating at the time of this speech stood at 51%. That’s twice as high as George W. Bush’s at the time of his last address to a joint session of Congress. Bush was treated with the respect that he deserved from being our President. Obama was not extended the same respect even though he holds the same office. Why is that?

A spokesman for Eric Cantor said that he was typing notes, not sending text messages. I can believe that. It looked disrespectful, but maybe it is a sign that Cantor is a very studious fellow. Congressman Shimkus explained that he was frustrated. That’s a juvenile excuse for juvenile behavior. Wilson issued an apology for his behavior stating that his emotions got the best of him. Another juvenile excuse for juvenile behavior?

It is interesting that Congressman Wilson lost his composure when the topic of undocumented workers and healthcare reform came up. The President said that the proposed exchange for those without health insurance would not cover undocumented workers. Wilson shouted, “You lie.” But, Obama was not lying. Even CNN, which is a right-of-center news organization, agrees that HR 3200 would not cover “illegal immigrants.” See http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/08/27/cnn-truth-squad-will-health-bill-pay-for-illegal-immigrants-an-update/ for their take on the issue.

Why would a dispute on the coverage of undocumented workers by a healthcare reform bill cause Wilson’s blood to boil over like that? Why couldn’t he just listen to the speech respectfully and then use the public platform of his office to lobby for his views like so many others have done for so many years? Why is it that our first African-American President was not given the same deference given to all of the White Presidents before him?

It is interesting that Joe Wilson has reportedly been a member of both the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. See http://www.ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=2083 for more information. Now the SCV is an interesting organization. Because of changes that have occurred over the last decade, the SCV has made the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups. In fact, their chaplain once attacked “racial interbreeding” as ungodly and described slavery as biblically sanctioned. Please see http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=1027 for the full story.

Most have forgotten this already, but Joe Wilson made the news back in the late 1990’s when as a state senator, he was one of 7 people who voted against removing the Confederate battle flag flying over the South Carolina state house. Wilson called the Confederate heritage “very honorable” in a BBC interview at the time (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/503579.stm).

A final example. Joe Wilson has stated that he would open his Congressional office to people participating in the 09.12.09 Tea Party movement’s March on Washington. On that web site, which I refuse to link, look it up yourself, there is a “bronze” sponsor listed by the name of the National Association of Rural Landowners. Their web site (www.narlo.org) contains links to videos that outline their beliefs. I watched one in horror. “The Coming Civil War” can be seen on YouTube here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5Ewwmikc9Q). Basically, the video makes the claim that if any portion of Obama’s mandate is passed, whether it be environmental legislation, healthcare reform, immigration reform, economic reform, anything at all, then groups such as NARLO will first cause states to secede from the Union and then will carry out a violent revolution to overthrow the federal government. But guess what happens before the secessions? There will be individual acts of terrorism directed against the federal government and against illegal aliens.

Let’s summarize. Joe Wilson was at one time a member of a hate group. He voted to fly the Confederate battle flag over the state house of South Carolina. He maintains an open door policy for members of right-wing extremist groups that advocate the violent overthrow of the federal government. No wonder his emotions got the best of him. It must be extremely irritating to him to have to listen to an African-American President characterize as a lie something that Wilson is claiming to be truth.

What should be the evangelical response to this whole thing? First, we should call on Representative Wilson to resign. An apology is not good enough. In Christ there is no racial or gender distinctions. We’re all children of God and all should be accorded the dignity and the respect due them by the fact that we are all made in the very image of God. In the Old Testament God expressly judged Israel in part by its treatment of the poor, the widows, and the aliens that sojourned among them. Wilson’s attitudes towards ethnic minorities and undocumented workers makes him unfit to hold public office.

Second, it’s time for evangelicals to stop supporting the Tea Party movement and repent of supporting their activities. The fact that they have welcomed right-wing extremist organizations like NARLO into the fold is proof that their ideologies are incompatible with Biblical principles and calls into question their base motivations.



5 Responses to “Wilson’s Folly”

  1. Maria Says:

    Excellent piece!

  2. mary Says:

    These are points I have been thinking for a while! Thank you for writing this.

  3. Patricia Spagnolo Says:

    Very well done Tim! It takes courage today to stand up and speak especially being a Christian who does not stand for a “political party”, status quo, or go with the “popular” even in the wrong.
    I remember that during the first and 2nd election, it did not matter “who” but the “party”. The party was preached from the pulpit and you could conclude that if you had a different opinion you were in the wrong, in sin! Secondly, it was pretty much concluded from these preaching’s that “Democrats” were not of God’s people neither were their agendas! God instruct us to pray for our Leaders. He did not say to pray a party, a specific name in office.
    Remember September 11… Our legal officials made a very important decision with insufficient evidence and declared war against a Nation that had made no threat to us nor were responsible for September 11. Our government ignored the people from every nation who pleaded with us not to go to war. Furthermore they ignored the United Nations. Would this have happened after the United Nations was formed, we would have called this type of action, dictatorial. Some of our leaders now, come out and say, it was wrong to go to war! Too late don’t you think? Where were they when the nation needed them the most in occupying their office to protect the nation, the people the United States of America!!!
    Thank GOD almighty, we have a courageous President Mr. Barack Obama who as an American has taken a solemn oath to lead this nation out of its trouble. No former president of USA has ever had the many obstacles that our present president faces. The mess that has been passed on to him is shameful. The abuses in government/politics, the abuses in the business world and also might as well say it in the church is very grave. We should repent and do our duty as a citizen and give our President Barack Obama our support and prayer. I will say this, that in the future, it will be said of our President Obama that he led our country with greatness (in the midst of opposition) and that the hand of God was upon him. He is born for such a time as this. He has great faith and has kindled a flame of hope for a future that we should embrace instead of else. I have taken oath to support my president. I am going to ride the wave with him and do my part. I was ashamed to be an American for a while. The haughtiness we have conducted ourselves toward other nations. As if we were GOD’s justice on earth. We should rule with humility and respect toward our fellow man. Going to war should never be so easy to declare. If I were a child growing up in Iraq, what would be my thought of America and or Christianity? We love the word Liberty without the word responsibility! Last thoughts, during the reformation the church officials did awful things in the name of God and Kings ruled for their own gain and power. What the reformation did is bring some changes. We welcome Martin Luther’s liberation of the church, but in his time, he was not so popular with the strong holds in the church and government… So it is recognize that in time of great changes, great oppositions break out.
    It is my belief that the mold is broken and we are at the threshold of better things for nations and the order of the church. WE NEED CHANGE! Changes mostly happen if not always outside the mold.

  4. Dulce Says:

    Excellent. It reminds me of another speech where the idea of feeding and healing for people outside of their own group incited a violent response (Luke 4).

  5. Anita Says:

    Keep writing. I’ll keep reading. ap

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