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McCain's Pastor Problem: The Video

In a taped sermon, the preacher McCain calls a "spiritual guide" calls on America to see the "false religion" of Islam "destroyed." Still, the candidate won't reject Rod Parsley's endorsement.

| Thu May 8, 2008 2:00 AM EDT

According to Parsley, there's no coexisitng with Muslims. He tells the tale of a Christian man who once dared to sell land to a mosque rather than to a church—an ominous sign that Christianity is losing the struggle against Islam. "You need to understand today" who was responsible for 9/11, Parsley nearly shouts. "Muslim Islamic fundamentalists and extremists are what did that, and your government and politicians and preachers want you to snuggle up next door to them and allow them to build a mosque next door to your church, while you sing hallelujah."

The preacher paints a dark picture:

Islam is growing rapidly and is becoming more violent. America has historically understood herself to be a bastion against Islam in the world…History is crashing in upon us...Americans need to wake up...We can tell you...Britney Spears' lyrics to her latest CD. But we don't know anything about other religions...'We ought to just all get along'...'We shouldn't say anything about other faiths.' Excuse me. Excuse me. The fact is that Americans are woefully ignorant of other faiths. This is not only tragic. But when it comes to Islam, now the greatest religious enemy of our civilization and the world, it's dangerous.

The problem, Parsley insists, is not radical Muslims who have hijacked a faith, but the religion itself:

I must state three important truths...No. 1, the God of Christianity and the God of Islam are two separate beings...Mr. Bush, I support you. You need to stop saying that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same God...No. 2, Muhammad received revelations from demon spirits, not from the living God. No. 3, Islam is an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world. Did you get those three truths?

In a long riff, Parsley maintains that Muhammad was tricked by a demon into believing that he had heard the word of God. Thus, he asserts, the entire religion of Islam is based upon a satanic deception: "Muhammad was tragically beset by a demon which he mistook for the living God. He thus became a mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil...There are so few who will talk about [this]."

But Parsley is willing. And he also readily offered McCain his endorsement during that February 26, 2008, campaign rally in Cincinnati. At the event, McCain extolled Parsley for his "leadership" and "guidance." Since then, McCain aides have said that the senator's acceptance of Parsley's endorsement was not an endorsement of Parsley's views. And they have dismissed any comparison between Reverend Wright and Reverend Parsley, noting that McCain has never attended a service conducted by Parsley. But imagine if Barack Obama had campaigned with an imam who had called for destroying Christianity. A media and political uproar would ensue—with wide-ranging calls for Obama to condemn the imam.

McCain has also refused to reject the endorsement he received from the Reverend John Hagee, a Texas-based televangelist who referred to the Catholic Church as "the great whore" and a "false cult system" and who called Hurricane Katrina retribution from God for the sins of New Orleans' homosexual residents. But Parsley may be the more politically crucial pastor for McCain. McCain probably cannot win Ohio in November without the support of large numbers of social conservative voters. In 2004, Parsley, whose megachurch boasts thousands of members, led so-called values voters to the polls, where they helped propel George W. Bush to victory over John Kerry. If McCain were to repudiate Parsley, he would risk losing Parsley as a surrogate and, perhaps worse, alienate his flock. So McCain has ducked, keeping quiet about an anti-Islam extremist who repeatedly proclaims in sermons, "I will be silent no more."

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