Ask anybody today whether they believe the Spanish Inquisition was a Good Thing, and I bet they’ll say, “Of course not!” (Those who know what the Spanish Inquisition was, anyway. The others will say something like, “Duh?”)
But the shadow of the Inquisition fell across a stage in California last night as a latter-day Fray Tomas de Torquemada (pictured at left) cross-examined the two U.S. presidential candidates. Television cameras duly recorded the event and the usual suspects duly provided cable-TV viewers with an analysis afterwards.
The penalty for heresy is no longer torture and imprisonment, but to a U.S. presidential candidate it’s close – loss of political support from America’s multitudinous evangelical community.
From what the pundits said in their analysis of the event, Barack Obama would have to undergo a lobotomy to win that support.
The inquisitor, whose name is Pastor Rick (pictured at right), was a smug multimillionaire who writes self-improvement books when he isn’t preaching to a flock of millions at the quaintly named Saddleback Church. This self-anointed prophet asked the usual questions that define the dogma of the Religious Right in America.
Do the candidates believe in abortion and stem cell research?
Does life begin at conception?
What do they consider America’s greatest moral failing?
What was the candidate’s most grievous sin?
Does evil exist and what would they do about it?
And so on…
Obama (pictured at left), who is nothing if not earnest, struggled with the answers. He does not believe in abortion but he supports the right of women to choose their own reproductive destiny, and he would leave some room for medical considerations in banning “late-term abortions.” He doesn’t seem to know whether life begins at conception or not. (Do you?) He doesn’t see anything wrong in using fertilized cells for research if the cells are destined to be discarded anyway. And while he would confront evil, he does not promise to defeat it all over the world. He thinks that’s a job only God can handle, and he has faith that God will handle it.
McCain’s answers (photo at right) conformed precisely to the script of the catechism. He believes …
– Roe v. Wade must be reversed to outlaw all abortions.
– The Supreme Court must be stacked with anti-abortionists
– Americans should be called to serve some cause “greater than themselves.”
– Evil exists and he would defeat it. (Think about the implications of that response!)
As I listened to this simplistic nonsense, I recalled a sign that sat on the desk of Ran Ide, my boss at the Ontario Educational Communications Authority back in the ’70s. It said:
The trouble with the world today is that there are too many simple answers and not enough simple questions.
McCain had the simple answers.
Pastor Rick provided the simple questions.
But what must educated viewers all over the world have thought of America as they witnessed this display of bigotry, self-righteousness and dangerous simple-mindedness?