I’m not ashamed to admit I that I like Joel Connelly. Sure, he’s a curmudgeonly old curmudgeon with a penchant for repeating the same old jokes and stories again and again (and again), and yeah, as a writer, he’s one of those persnickety old-timers who apparently believes that Strunk & White was carved in stone by the almighty hand of, well, Strunk & White. And then there’s his wistful nostalgia for the mythical days of statesmanlike bipartisanship. Oy.
But Joel’s also a walking encyclopedia of Northwest political lore and a deft practitioner of the lost art of the follow-up question, and unlike the rest of our local media’s persnickety curmudgeons and curmudgeonly persnickets, he respects us unruly whippersnappers enough to actually engage with us… sometimes passionately.
Take for example his column today at SeattlePI.com (or, “coloooom” as Dwight Eisenhower used to pronounce it), in which Joel attempts to slap me and Erica for our “anti-religious bigotry.” At least it shows he cares.
Militant secularists in the Internet estate are demonizing the former KIRO-TV anchor and candidate for King County executive. David Goldstein, on his Web site Horsesass.org, sneered at Hutchison for her Honolulu prayers, and witness that the prayers were answered with the message that God wanted her both “professionally ready” and “spiritually ready for the next step.”
“What is this thing with Christians praying for touchdowns, and lottery tickets and news anchor jobs, and thinking that God doesn’t have more important things to do than answer their petty, materialistic prayers?” Goldstein wrote.
Huh. I think I snickered more than “sneered” at Hutchison getting down on her knees and asking God “Why aren’t you doing this for me?” in regards to a coveted job promotion that wasn’t happening, but regardless, I think I raised a valid theological question.
I mean, what is it about this Santa Clausification of God in which earthly rewards are lavished upon those who pray (to the right God, in the right way), and at what point does this brand of religious devotion border on mere magic? I’ve read my Max Weber, and I understand the Calvinist ethos in which our material success here in this life is supposedly a reflection of our eternal glory in the next, but I don’t need to accept or respect it. Praying for a weeknight anchor job just strikes me as petty and narcissistic, and voicing that opinion is not an act of religious bigotry. Perhaps Hutchison is one of the millions of her fellow Christians who absolutely believe that I am going to burn in Hell for all eternity, simply because I refuse to accept Christ as my savior; would it be religious bigotry for me to question that particular religious tenet as well?
Whether Hutchison actually talks to God, and whether He actually answers back in His own voice—as in, “And He told me something then that I have never forgotten…”—or whether her reported conversation with the Lord was merely meant as a metaphor for her own internal dialogue, I don’t know. But when she uses this anecdote to talk about how being “spiritually ready” is more important than being “professionally ready,” I think it a reasonable springboard to a discussion of how professionally unready she is for the job she seeks.
If Joel wants to get his undies in a knot over such blunt theological discourse, that’s up to him, but when he argues this Christians-as-an-oppressed-minority bullshit, I’m totally unapologetic. First of all, to even imply that my opposition to Hutchison is based on religious bigotry is patently ridiculous when I’ve been such a famously unrepentant fanboy of Ron Sims, an openly devout Christian himself. It’s not their faith that sets them apart in my mind, but how Hutchison, through her association of with the Discovery Institute, endorses the dominance of a Christian theistic world view in the public sphere.
Second, from my perspective as a non-Christian in a nation dominated by Christians, Joel, I’m not sure you understand how incredibly overbearing, intrusive and insulting your people’s incessant proselytizing can really be.
Missionaries are allowed to come to my door to tell me that I’m going to burn in Hell for not believing what they believe, and that’s okay. Preachers are allowed to go on television and tell me that I’m going to burn in Hell for not believing what they believe, and that’s okay. Rev. Ken Hutcherson is allowed to come on my own radio show and tell me that I’m going to burn in Hell for not believing what he believes, and that’s okay. But publicly critique their crazy religion, and apparently that’s off limits.
Or, God forbid, publicly embrace my own atheism, and that makes me, in Joel’s eyes, a “militant secularist.” Talk about a double standard.
The truth is, Joel, as both a Jew and an atheist, I’m the oppressed minority, not you or Hutchison or any of your Christian brethren. I’m the one your people are so convinced is condemned to hellfire (except, technically, for the Catholics, who officially grandfathered us Jews into Heaven under Vatican II), and honestly, if they believe their benevolent Lord would have me tormented for all eternity in the next world, how can I trust them to treat me with respect in this one?
Tell me Joel, in all your years of covering politics, how many overtly open, self-proclaimed atheists have you ever known to be elected to Congress? And how many Bible-thumping Christians? Now tell me, in the political realm, who is the real victim of bigotry here?
As for Joel’s other critique, that I am a brazen sexist:
Goldstein is also brazenly sexist in his treatment of Hutchison. He calls her “Suzie” and headlined his commentary: “Susie talks to God.”
That’s just plain silly. As Erica pointed out in her own response to Joel, that’s what Suzie’s close friends call her, and in fact I was merely mimicking what her close friends and fellow far-right-wingers David and Peggy Boze called her on air (as in, “Hey Suzie… you are our Sarah Palin”). Similarly, my close friends call me “Goldy,” which is an admittedly faggy nickname for a grown man, yet I don’t consider it anti-gay to hear it come from even total strangers.
In referring to Hutchison’s job as director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences, he has called her a “philanthropic kept woman.”
Yeah, sure, that snide quip comes off as a little sexist, I’ll give Joel that. But it sure was funny, so I stand by it 100 percent.
But all this misses the point, which is: are Hutchison’s religious beliefs pertinent to her campaign for King County Executive? Joel emphatically says “no.” Erica and I say “yes”… not because we are religious bigots, but because we rightly fear that Hutchison would attempt to use the office to impose her values on others in a way that the equally Christian Ron Sims never did. Indeed, even those issues, such as Intelligent Design, which on the surface appear to have no bearing on the duties of the county executive, offer voters a useful glimpse into the candidate’s character and competency, yet Joel would apparently consider such a discussion off limits if she came to the issue from of a position of faith.
Had Hutchison rejected the science of evolution due to a cognitive deficit resulting from an unfortunate boating accident, I suppose even Joel would agree that voters had the right to know, and the right to reasonably question whether her head injuries might similarly impact her capacity to grapple with other complicated issues. But reject evolution from a position of faith….
Yeah… I better pull back from that analogy before I prove Joel’s premise.
The point is, Hutchison’s presumed opposition to abortion, her rejection of evolution, and her financial support of candidates who oppose even birth control, are pertinent campaign issues, however relevant they are to the duties of the executive, because they speak to her values, her intellect, and most of all her willingness and ability to decide complex issues based on the facts, rather than her faith.
Ironically, for all his fury, I think it’s safe to say that Joel, Erica and I are on the same side in this race, and that none of us wants to see the woefully unprepared Hutchison win office. Which briefly brings us to one last point of Joel’s, that of strategy.
Charles Darwin is not an issue in deciding how King County will better deliver services, cope with budget deficits and manage growth in a place of great beauty where 1.6 million people live.
[…] Instead, we should ask a question she didn’t answer at Thursday’s debate: Will Hutchison try to change (read dismantle) King County’s urban growth boundaries? Will the Building Industry Association of Washington find in her a willing ally? Hutchison has excoriated the county’s Critical Areas ordinance as a scourge on rural residents. “It tells citizens who own land how they will use it,” she told a Bellevue debate on Thursday.
OK, but how do you protect endangered salmon populations and keep building in flood plains?
Problem is Joel, people don’t vote for issues, they vote for people. And with the latest poll showing Hutchison still attracting support from 28% of Democrats and 18% of liberals, there are clearly plenty of voters who haven’t yet gotten to know Hutchison well enough.
So you stick to the issues Joel, it’s the responsible thing to do, while I do my thing and drag Hutchison through the muck. My muckraking may not be as noble as your pursuit, but after all, it’s the only time the persnickety curmudgeons seem to pay much attention to anything I write. Even, alas, lovable persnickety curmudgeons like you.