"We can all be thankful" that "after 30 years of taking Christianity hostage and claiming that the church was really the Republican Party at prayer, this election actually revealed that the church is owned by neither Democrats nor Republicans," MSNBC's Martin Bashir pontificated at the open of is "Clear the Air" commentary which closed his eponymous November 9 program.
Fortunately for Mr. Bashir, making straw-man arguments and spouting overheated political rhetoric is not a sin. What is, however, is hypocrisy. You see, Bashir has been fond of using the Bible as a cudgel to attack conservative Republicans for having allegedly unbiblical, even anti-Christian politics. Take his hostile interview with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) back in May, in which Bashir slandered Barton by saying he was for slashing funding to Meals on Wheels and that cutting back funding to the program was unbiblical:
Bashir wasted no time getting straight to his biased, loaded questions:
We want to recognize your support for Meals on Wheels and your service to the community, but, are you, as Rep. Gwen Moore said on this broadcast yesterday, are you really going to vote with your colleagues in the House to cut food deliveries for the elderly, school lunch subsidies for 280,000 poor children, and vote for 300,000 poor children to lose their health insurance. Are you going to vote for that?
Barton responded that he was committed to voting to "honor our commitment that we made last summer to begin to reduce the gigantic federal deficit." Barton added that he and his wife personally financially support the Meals on Wheels program, and that his wife regularly volunteers for the program.
Bashir, of course, wasn't satisfied with Barton's exercise of personal charity and sought to use the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and later the Bible, as cudgels to accuse Barton, who is United Methodist, of being a bad Christian.
"You will know that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed some very real criticism of this targeting of the poor and the refusal to raise taxes on the super-rich," Bashir complained before turning to attack Barton by ripping a psalm out of context:
How do you square your approach to the words of Psalm 146, where the psalmist writes this:
"He gives food to the hungry, the Lord protects the foreigners, he defends orphans and widows." Isn't this the exact opposite of the cuts that are being proposed by Republicans in Congress?
Christians of good conscience can agree to disagree about the size and scope of social welfare programs. The Bible is clearly silent on what measures, if any, government should take to provide social welfare, and it most certainly has nothing to say about funding levels and budget cuts that affect the same. Yet it seems Mr. Bashir is more than comfortable attempting to use the Bible to suggest that Democratic budget priorities receive Jesus's stamp of approval while Republican efforts to trim government spending are worthy of his wrath.
Back to Bashir's commentary, the MSNBC host insisted that, in the closing days of the campaign, Paul Ryan, "in a desperate attempt to play the religion card... accused the president of taking America on a dangerous path that restricts freedom and liberty and Judeo-Christian values."
"But that too didn't wash," Bashir exulted, noting exit polls that showed that white evangelical support for the president went up a few ticks from 2008 to 2012 and that Obama won the Catholic vote.
But either Bashir is ignorant of or is deliberately misrepresenting Ryan's comments, made to the Faith & Freedom Coalition on November 4. Ryan was not attacking the president's faith but rather his policies which infringe religious freedom, according to no less an authority that the Catholic bishops Bashir loves to quote when they're critical of Ryan.
Don't take my word for it. Here's a report from Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post, hardly a conservative rag (emphasis mine):
On a conference call Sunday, republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan aimed to energize evangelical voters by laying out the stakes of the election in dramatic, religious terms.
Obama’s policies on health care and religious freedom are a “dangerous path,” Ryan, a Catholic, told members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, according to the New York Times. “It’s a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”
Ryan noted that members of his church sued the Obama administration over a mandate that most employers cover contraception.
“We should not have to sue the federal government to keep our constitutional freedoms,” he said. “Imagine what he would do if he actually got reelected. It just puts a chill down my spine.”
While Ryan often talks about his faith on the campaign trail, his language here was unusually harsh. The sharp warning comes as Ryan and presidential candidate Mitt Romney are emphasizing bipartisanship on the campaign trail.
Ryan spokesman Michael Steel told reporters that the vice presidential candidate ”was talking about issues like religious liberty and Obamacare — topics he has mentioned frequently during the campaign.”
Tens of thousands of evangelicals were reportedly on the call. Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed has launched what he describes as the organization’s biggest voter registration and mobilization effort yet. Reed said last month that he has a voter file of 17 million evangelicals in battleground states, and that each household would be contacted seven to 12 times before the election through mail, e-mail, phone calls and text messages.
This campaign season, Bashir loved to cite the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when they attacked the Ryan budget blueprint, but failed to laud them for their lawsuit against the Obama HHS over the contraception mandate. Indeed, like every other anchor at his network, Bashir was eager to portray the GOP as hostile to women and both their "right to choose" and their access to subsidized contraception.
Bashir never attempted to explain how taking the lives of unborn children comports with the values of the Christian faith. Indeed, in October 2011, Bashir tag-teamed with a pro-choice Democrat to denounce the GOP as misogynist and lethal to women.
As we've noted time and time again, Bashir is an invective-spewing partisan who resorts to Bible-thumping for political cover on issues of import to the Left, that is, when he's not inviting on guests like Frank Schaeffer who slandered evangelicals as a Christian version of the Taliban.
Now that the campaign is over, maybe Mr. Bashir would do well to retire the holier-than-thou shtick and try to be an objective secular journalist for a change.