Sunday, January 06, 2008

Grisham & the Baptists

The politicization of the New Baptist Covenant, brainchild of former presidents Carter and Clinton and actually described as a celebration to be held in Atlanta January 30 – February 1, is already abundantly obvious since nearly half of its main speakers are now or have been connected to politics at the highest level. They include Carter, Clinton, Al Gore, senators Graham and Grassley, and until recently, Bill Moyers – all good Baptists, though personal details are off-limits.

The timing of this affair at the outset of the primary wars and the onset of deadly serious campaign shenanigans couldn’t be better for the democrats, whose top actors are initiators of the convocation, and one of whose spouse is running to be top banana. The politicization has been deepened – as if that’s possible – with the recent announcement of Moyers’ replacement as a featured speaker (schedule conflict given as the reason), top-selling author and Baptist, John Grisham, whose novels are also turned into movies.

There can be little doubt that this organization is the new Religious Left, the answer to the much-maligned-in-the-mainstream-media Religious Right, though its Baptist orientation seems a bit exclusive, notwithstanding the fact that most of the so-called Religious Rightists are considered Baptists/evangelicals. The denominational mainliners, bogged down in internal internecine arguments over such things as what to do about homosexuality, may get on board unless their divisive doctrines are too important to sacrifice to wooly Baptists, even the most moderate being against such things as same-sex marriage (at least nominally), though it must be mentioned that Carter is a same-sex-union guy.

One may justifiably wonder about the influence of Grisham in the NBC celebration, since it demonstrably works to the advantage of Hillary Clinton, who could be in trouble vis-à-vis the black vote, always taken for granted by the democrats in general and the Clintons in particular. Why the trouble? In a word, Obama, huge winner over Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.

The NBC will take place in Atlanta just as conventions of the three largest African-American Baptist denominations end their conclaves there, and their attendees have already been invited to participate in the NBC – probably desperately invited in order to make the whole affair appear “inclusive,” the magic term for the politically correct these days. With a black guy running against Queen Hillary, the black Baptists own far more importance than ever, since they might desert the Clintons, already considered co-presidents, as was the case in 1993, albeit mistakenly, as it turned out.

Grisham will speak Jan. 31 during the second evening session of the Baptist meeting on the topic of “Respecting Diversity.” What a coincidence, though he apparently was scheduled before the Iowa caucus-charades! Grisham has aided Hillary Clinton’s fundraising efforts, sending an e-mail to potential supporters urging them to contribute to her presidential campaign, according to Newsmax.com of October 01.

Grisham and Hillary Clinton appeared before a crowd of about 1,000 people at a restored Charlottesville movie theater in September. Grisham said in an interview after the event that it raised $200,000 for Clinton’s presidential campaign and that his role as host was “beyond an endorsement.” According to Fox News, Grisham had this to say to the Des Moines Register in September concerning the president and his administration: "I've always thought that they were bad people with evil intent... I can't stand those people and their incompetence is astounding."

That’s not very charitable, especially as applied to a meeting of Christians…sounds more like Carter’s remarks about Bush in Arkansas last spring to which Mike Huckabee took exception and consequently exempted himself from the NBC clambake, at which he had previously agreed to speak. This is what Carter said: "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." This is what Huckabee said at the time: “I feel it would be best for me to decline the invitation and to not appear to be giving approval to what could be a political, rather than spiritual agenda." Also considering his slurs at Bush while on overseas trips, Carter may be the most mean-spirited Baptist at the celebration, but Grisham will run a close second.

As reported by Ethics Daily, According to Virginia Public Access Project, Grisham and his wife have contributed $357,000 to Democratic candidates since 1996. This makes Grisham, who sat with Bill Clinton during one of the debates, among the heavy hitters, with both money and name recognition. This makes the popular and gifted writer’s appearance at the NBC celebration a virtual slam-dunk as a political ploy, regardless of the NBC’s stated objectives – high-sounding as they are.

It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist in Grisham’s first book, A Time To Kill, was a lowly lawyer who successfully defended an African American in a murder case. Ironically, some of Grisham’s sleaziest characters, millionaire ambulance-chasers appearing in his King of Torts, are personified in Clinton-opponent John Edwards. Whether any of this signifies with respect to helping Clinton is hard to gauge, since the vast majority of the NBC attendees will be there for the proper reasons, but one wonders since the mainstream media will be out in force to spread the word.

Adding to the transparent politicization of the convocation is the fact that Nobel Prize winner Al Gore will deliver his presentation on global warming (a religious matter?) during a luncheon in his honor on Feb. 21, according to Associated Baptist Press of December 21. This may not help the NBC effort much since the notion that global-warming is essentially manmade is being methodically disproved now. Indeed, Gore’s award-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, may not be shown in English public schools unless the teacher informs the students that it is a political feature, not a scientific one, and points out at least nine glaring errors in it. Since this is common knowledge, Carter and crew would do well to dispense with the film, at least, and just let Gore do Baptist-talk. Actually, his presence detracts from credibility.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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