Now we have a chance to see what the Religious Right is made of–if it truly stands for ethics and values, as its leaders profess, or whether its leaders can continue to engage in gutter politics and get away with it.
According to a report in EthicsDaily.com, Richard Land, during a visit to Criswell College at the end of January, referred to Democratic Senator Charles Schumer as “the schmuck from New York.” Land, one of the most prominent leaders of the Religious Right, is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
At the very least, we now can now confirm what Land and the Religious Right regard as “ethical” behavior.
As Bob Allen, managing editor of EthicsDaily.com explains about the epithet “schmuck” (as if any explanation were needed), “The slang term for a stupid, obnoxious or oafish person entered the English lexicon as a borrowed word from Yiddish, where it is an obscene word for male genitalia and an insult.” He adds that Lenny Bruce was once arrested for using the term.
But Land wasn’t finished. In the same remarks, he speculated that if John Kerry had won the 2004 presidential election, Kerry would have appointed Hillary Clinton as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. “Clinton would be parking her broom at the Supreme Court for the next twenty-five years,” Land said.
These remarks–both of them–are outrageous and unworthy of anyone who numbers himself among the followers of Jesus. (They’re even more chilling when you listen to the audio version.) Land should apologize and tender his resignation immediately. And if he doesn’t have the grace to do so, he should be dismissed as an embarrassment to the Southern Baptist Convention and an insult to the faith. If the leaders of the Religious Right fail to censure Land, and if officials in the Southern Baptist Convention put up with obnoxious remarks like these, then they’re even more mendacious than I thought they were.
Land had the temerity later in the lecture to add the following comment: “If a person says that he or she is a person of faith, then we–it is perfectly kosher, it is perfectly legitimate to examine how that person’s faith impacts [sic] their life, their character, their performance of their office, their positions on the issues and their visions for the country’s future.”
Yes, indeed. And on those very criteria, Land comes up wanting.
Richard Land has fashioned an entire career out of bald partisanship and offensive comments. But even by Land’s standards, these remarks represent a new low.
You’ve crossed the line once too often, Mr. Land. It’s time to go.
Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, is professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School. His most recent book is God in the White House: A History: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush (HarperOne).
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