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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.