"Kill him!" shouted one audience member after Gov. Sarah Palin again accused Barack Obama of "ties" to former terrorist Bill Ayers. Did the man want Ayers or Obama dead? And was Gov. Palin aware of what her jingoist repetition of this non-news was creating in the audience? "TERRORIST!" yelled another man during a McCain speech which also focused on the alleged Obama/Ayers connections.
Ayers, a member of the violent Weather Underground in the 1960s, went to prison back then for his part in a bombing incident. At the time, Barack Obama was eight years old. Obama met Ayers through a Republican (one who contributed to John McCain, it turns out) as part of a committee aimed at school children in Chicago. Ayers is now a professor at the University of Chicago.
But let's really look at why, and what, John McCain is doing here. I'm not asking you to vote for my candidate, mind you. I'm just asking you to stop McCain/Palin from creating a dangerous environment and encouraging dangerous minds.
Even someone as calm as commentator David Gergen worries that the Republican Party is creating a potential for violence with their current anti-Obama crusade.
"There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we're not far from that," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday. "I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now. I think it's really imperative that the candidates try to calm people down." [CNN]
Consider this new McCain/Palin slogan: "Who Is Barack Obama?"
Could this question be seriously asked of anyone who was named "John" and didn't have the middle name Barack has, or the funny-sounding (to many American ears) last name?
Could this question be seriously asked of a white candidate?
And SHOULD this question be asked by Evangelical Christians, even those who may be disheartened by their own candidate's slip in the polls?
No, it should not be. We know who Barack Obama is, and whether or not one chooses to vote for him, the hate mongering campaign currently being mounted by McCain/Palin's ticket is outside the bounds of propriety, decency, and -- can I clearly say this and be heard? -- Christian discipleship. We are called to be Jesus followers. Even in the midst of disagreeing over which candidate is better for our nation, we must not dishonor the name of Jesus Christ by allowing a hateful, xenophobic rage to enter our discourse.
Rage is a self-righteous anger which excuses its own excess. Unbelievable acts of horror -- including 9/11, I might add -- occurred as the result of arrogant rage. This type of anger dehumanizes its targets. Once dehumanized, they become puppets in the hands of hate, to have done to them whatever the hater in his/her own distorted sense of duty finds to do.
This election is historic. We've seen the first black man ever nominated by a national party as its candidate for President. Unfortunately, we're also learning this election season that the old American demons can be recalled. Rage is a tool, but so is Christian charity. Disciples of Jesus, whomever you support, make sure your calling is manifest in how you support them. And here's an Obama campaign response to "Who Is Barack Obama?" -- a video that shows us the same guy we've been watching all election long. We know who Barack is. Whoever you support, stop the hate.