A ‘Satan Sandwich’ with ‘Satan Fries’ on the side

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) declared the new deal raising the national debt ceiling and cutting federal spending to be a … Continued

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) declared the new deal raising the national debt ceiling and cutting federal spending to be a “Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich.” Not to be outdone, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it a “Satan Sandwich with Satan Fries on the side.” Am I the only one who finds this deeply offensive and even potentially dangerous?

In the midst of endless backbiting and both sides’ extremists accusing those across the aisle of destroying our economy and leading our nation to ruin, do we really need religious language which links those we oppose to the personification of evil? Have we not seen what happens when people marry strident politics to faith-based declarations which are capable of justifying anything?

Whatever one thinks of the plan, referring to it as satanic food will make us all very sick. If the plan, and by extension its authors (all of its survivors too?) are truly evil, what are the limits on fighting them? Is anything out-of-bounds when it comes to opposing evil?

To be clear, I am opposed anyone’s use of demonizing language, whether from the right or the left. That’s why I wrote last week about the ugliness of those who referred to the “Gang of 666 Plan” and referred to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s approach to solving the crisis as the “Pontius Pilate Plan.” Though I have to say, especially in Ms. Pelosi’s case given her record of opposition to mixing religion with politics, the Satan references are particularly galling. Not only is the language dangerous and offensive, its use is completely hypocritical.

One might argue that I am being unfair to Rep. Cleaver – that he was not theologizing the debate, but simply referring to the red velvet cake version of the Moon Pie, a junk food filled with fat and empty calories which is not healthy for anyone who consumes it. Unfortunately, they would be wrong to offer that defensive of Cleaver’s metaphor.

In the same remarks to the press, Rep. Cleaver declared that the legislation and the cuts it included ran contrary to the teachings of every world religion. Clearly, the gentleman from Missouri wanted to talk religion and wanted to label as demonic all those who do not share his views.

Both Mr. Cleaver and Ms. Pelosi should retract their comments, not because they are wrong to oppose the plan, and not because it’s wrong to seek guidance from one’s faith when it comes to the biggest questions we face as a nation. They should retract for the same reason that those on the right should have (and still should) for their comments last week – because there is nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, when we use the faiths we love to teach hate of those with whom we disagree.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • LaGata8484

    Well, yes, I’m going to say that no one else is deeply offended, nor do they find it potentially dangerous. Now, when people are specifically called satan, or Hitler, THAT would be offensive and dangerous. The legislation, as it was passed, is immoral, plainly and simply. Perhaps calling it a satan sandwich is hyperbole, but it is not offensive, furthermore, it would be dangerous NOT to point out how immoral the legislation truly is! I believe the prophets would agree!

  • Brennnan99352

    What is with all this crazy religion talk lately, what is the deal with all the zeal that is coming from the far right conservative christians? I personally find it very offensive, frightening, and potentially dangerous. Extremist are always dangerous. And this demonizing of anyone one who does not agree with your position is a very old trick indeed and allows for people to see other people as less than themselves. And therefore justify the abuse they visit upon the demonized party. DANGER! I hope people are paying attention.

  • allinthistogether

    Rabbi,

    I agree with your general point. While these comments about Satan sandwhich and fries are not the most egregious use of religious allusions to intimidate, mis-inform or mislead, they are still a good example of extreme exaggeration. Bottom line is that the more we let politicians, faux journalists, etc. get away with any form of deceit, including exaggeration, half-truths, etc. the more corrupt our politics and likely our government will be. If a politician is deceitful when talking to us about something they think we agree with them on, (to curry favor and votes) what would make us think he/she is more honest when presenting info about something we may not agree with them on?

    Voters need to move “honesty and accuracy” up the scale by which they measure which politicians to support, and hold them responsible when they misrepresent. We need to push politicians and journalists to present the whole truth about an issue, another politician, etc. and let us decide ourselves what position to take.

  • WmarkW

    Like another famous sandwich of metaphor, they’re just saying that the more bread you have, the less Satan you have to eat.

  • YEAL9

    And I am deeply offended that Rabbi Hirschfield is paid $400,000+/yr for promulgating the flaws and falacies in the history and theology of Judaism.

  • paulhume

    I am afraid I disagree with this notion, Brad. However much bathos one can see in images like a Satan Sandwich or Satan Fries, doggedly trying to purge religious imagery – demonic or divine – from public speech would rip away a profound motherlode of English imagery and lingujistic culture from the speakers.

    Shakespeare (and to be sure Marlowe, Bacon and others) and the KJV came from the same period, and the same flowering of the English language which transformed it forever after. While a “Satan Sandwich” is not on a par with “How art thou fallen, son of the morning star,” to strike the former from public discourse is to ban the latter as well.

    Let the pop culture bathos flow freely, it is worth it for the flecks of gold that can be panned from the stream. Like wincing at misquotes of Shakespeare, that is th eprice one pays for those few modern speakers with a gift for the apt allusion and the dead-on-target quotation.

  • Rongoklunk

    I agree with you, I just HATE seeing Satan’s name insulted. I mean really. What did Satan ever do to anybody? He no more exists than god does, so quit slagging him off. It ain’t fair I tell you. Nonentities have every right to be respected and treated as decently as actual real live entities like me and you. After all they can’t very well speak for themselves can they? So go easy on these imaginary characters, it just ain’t fair.

  • 506redwood

    Much as we the people of faith might find the use of certain language offensive we must also realize that we live in a country that gives its people the right to do so, even politicians. By the way this has been going on for 1000s of years, so let’s get past it and focus on things like helping the homeless, feeding the poor and the thousands being harmed by the budget cuts that have been made that impact the weak and the poor in our communities. Our “smaller government will give Christians many opportunities to demonstrate their faith and not just talk about it.

  • drfeelrotten

    Oh whahhhh… You’re being “persecuted” again.. Someone makes fun of your god and all hell breaks lose, huh?

  • Secular1

    Are you kidding me Brad. You keep your big mouth shut while the scum bags from Republican party were spewing unadukterated hors manure for the past 3 years and a few democrats speak of Satan Sandwich and that get your goat? Where were you when your GF Palin drew target on the US Maps or Bachman called the administration Gangsta. When you cannot handle things evenly you better shut the f&^k up.

  • smitisan

    And notice how this stuff tends to escalate. Ann Coulter writes Godless: the Church of Liberalism, and follows it up with Demonic: the Liberal Mob, for example. One crazy nut shoots up a Democratic political rally in Arizona, the right denies any connection, so then another one kills some 70-odd progressive, liberal, Labor party KIDS in Norway, and once again the noise is all about how he’s not one of us. So what’s next?
    I’m not sure though that Cleaver wasn’t using “Satan” as a code word for another word that starts with s and is often followed by sandwich.

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