So Help Me God

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Brody is puffing this little public religion stunt by a couple of B-list Beltway evangelicals. He sees it as an admirable expression of conservative evangelical readiness to pray for the new Democratic president. I don’t quite see it that way.
It seems that Rob Schenck of Faith and Action and Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition took it upon themselves last week to bless the Capitol passageway through which Barack Obama will make his way to be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. Turned back by Capitol police, they happened upon Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who shepherded them to the place. There, as you can see, amidst the praying for the president-to-be and his family, Schenck anoints the door posts with holy oil from the Holy Land, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What’s up with this? In the video, Schenck declares that he is consecrating the passageway “as they did the furnishings of the Tabernacle and the Temple to the use of God and to His will and to His Word.” That would be a reference to what God tells Moses to do in Exodus 30; to wit:

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, 23 “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels [k] of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane, 24 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin [l] of olive oil. 25 Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. 26 Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, 27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, 28 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.

Evidently Schenck takes the passageway (which he repeatedly refers to as “symbolic”) as symbolizing the entry of the president-elect into the nation’s most holy office. Never, to my knowledge, has the presidency been so literally sacralized. Some would call it idolatry.
Schenck belongs to what might be called the establishmentarian wing of American evangelicalism. That is to say, he belongs to the world of the National Prayer Breakfast and other exercises in sacred-nation-building, as detailed in Jeff Sharlet’s recent book, The Family. He himself brings a somewhat Judaizing tendency to the enterprise–not perhaps surprising in someone who started life as a Jew. Faith and Action, for example, proposes that Hanukkah (n.b. the feast of the re-dedication of the Temple) be adopted as a Christian holiday. For his part, Mahoney comes out of the anti-abortion activist wing of evangelicalism, but he’s also an establishmentarian sort, having put his shoulder to the wheel for Roy Moore’s crusade to enshrine the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court. Last summer, he turned up at Obama’s office building with a sign showing the then presumptive Democratic nominee dressed as Uncle Sam over a legend that read, “”I WANT YOU TO PAY FOR ABORTIONS!”
Their hope, presumably, is that the president-to-be will be led into the path of pro-life righteousness by passing through the anointed portal. Michael Newdow take note.

  • Asinus Gravis

    This could well have a lot more to do with fundraising for some aspects of the Religious Right than it does with Obama. That, and keeping one’s image before the gullible public.

  • bbuudd

    So – I wonder if either of these ministers spoke with P-E Obama. Or, do they just parade about anointing whatever inanimate objects would get their name in the paper?

  • If one is an atheist and is sworn in, I cannot help but wonder what text would be sacred for the ceremony. Perhaps the constitution.