John McCain finds another crazy preacher

Asked to name an author who inspired him, John McCain chose “prosperity gospel” preacher Joel Osteen.

Matt Taibbi goes full-out after John McCain in the latest Rolling Stone, accusing McCain not merely of running for GWB’s third term but of running GWB’s third campaign, consisting entirely of appeals to the reptilian brain and its fears.

Here’s a sample:

We all know what the deal is. When it comes to presidential politics, you either are or you aren’t. And Barack Obama aren’t. If you can’t grasp the simple math of that statement, you don’t know much about elections in this country. It’s not about the war, or the economy, or the faltering Republican brand, or any of that: This is about hate and fear, and a dark instinct in our blood going all the way back to Salem, and whether or not a desperately ambitious ex-heretic named John McCain can whip up a big enough mob in time to drown the latest witch.

Taibbi also makes a good catch on something I haven’t seen reported elsewhere; McCain has chosen to link himself to yet another sleazy TV preacher, in this case Joel Osteen.

At a recent town-hall meeting in Nashville, when asked to name an author who inspired him, the candidate — who once described televangelists of the Jerry Falwell genus as “agents of intolerance” — put none other than Joel Osteen at the top of his list. “He’s inspirational,” McCain said.

I had never heard of Osteen, but Taibbi had:

Of all the vile, fake, lying-ass, money-grubbing shyster scumbags on the face of this planet, there is perhaps none more loathsome than Osteen, a human haircut with plastic baseball-size teeth who has made a fortune selling the appalling only-in-America idea that terrestrial greed is actually a form of Christian devotion. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen once wrote. This is the revolting, snake-oil-selling dickhead that John McCain actually chose to pimp as number one on his list of inspirational authors. So much for “go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,” and all that other hippie crap from the New Testament.

The technical term for this is “prosperity theology.” (Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Prayer of Jabez,” which is much more dynamic and positive than the “Prayer of Jesus,” alias the Lord’s Prayer.) Prosperity theology is linked to a Pentacostal/charismatic idea called “Word of Faith” or “positive confession,” which essentially ascribes magical powers to believers: whatever they “confess” with sufficient conviction will come to pass. (Which, come to think of it, does put you in mind with the metaphysical principles of Bushism.) Osteen, who inherited the business from his father, has built it into an empire: a 40,000 member mega-church with a claimed TV viewership in the millions.

After all, if your preacher convinced you that God wanted you to be wealthy, wouldn’t you be inclined to share some of that wealth to keep the ministry going?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: