So who would have ever, ever thought that Sam Brownback is charming and hilarious?
Boyish at 50, he started out with love words for Obama—the topic for this session was "We Must Work Together"—and a story of having to precede him at a meeting of the NAACP. "They were very polite, and couldn't have been kinder, but when Barack followed, it was like, 'Oh, Elvis is here.' This time I'm more comfortable," he continued. "Welcome to my house." (Obama would later ding him for that, in what seemed to be the only deviation from his prepared remarks. "One thing I got to say, though, Sam: this is my house too. This is God's house." Cue fucking giant applause.)
And Brownback recited the 100th Psalm, and got choked up saying it. And he talked about Uganda, and AIDS, and genocide. "If we will just give them the crumbs off our table," he said, and then repeated it, "they will live, and we will save our souls." He talked about Lazarus and the rich man, and said, "I think this is our country today." That's right: our country will burn because we turn our backs on those in need.
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The gaybashing hasn't been working so much lately, and abortion seems to have lost some of its electoral zing. Maybe that's why leaders in the evangelical movement are in the middle of a battle for the soul of their church. Joel C. Hunter resigned as head of the Christian Coalition two weeks ago before he had even taken the post; he had wanted the Coalition to focus on poverty and global warming (the evangelicals call this—and I got no problem with it—"creation care"). Ted Haggard, before the Recent Unpleasantness, had as head of the National Association of Evangelicals focused on the same. Maybe that's why Dobson doesn't have time to cure him of The Gay.
Even Sam Brownback is talking the talk, and that's all to the good.
* * *
As for Obama, well, it was good to see him, and it was great to hear someone say the word condoms from the Saddleback pulpit. ("Fidelity is the ideal," he said, "but we are dealing with flesh-and-blood men and women, not abstractions." His call for condoms instead of expecting abstinence didn't draw huge applause, but it drew enough to impress me.)
But let's take another lesson from the Book: When Rick Warren and Sam Brownback, my prodigal sons, return to me and talk of poverty and AIDS (and separation of Church and State!) I throw them a party despite all the rest of them.
But when my dutiful son Obama says, "It has been too easy for some to point to the unfaithful husband, or the promiscuous youth or the gay man and say, 'This is your fault. You have sinned.' [But] my faith reminds me that we are all sinners" (my emphasis), well, I don't seem to give him credit for his miles more of good than Brownback and Warren. Instead I just kind of want to smack him in the mouth for even letting that kind of statement stand. There's just no pleasing some people (me). Fuck you, Obama.