A Subtle Message: Vote for Obama, Burn In Hell UPDATED

[Content note: the embedded video includes homophobic, Christian supremacist rhetoric that is also hostile to reproductive rights. There are links in this piece to news pieces referencing misogyny and rape.]

A group of conservative Catholics wants you to know: God is watching how you vote. And if you are Catholic and vote for Obama, you are PROBABLY GOING TO HELL.

Video description: DRAMATIC! MOVIE! MUSIC! to make Hans Zimmer WEEP! A hammer hits a piece of glowing metal. Text: "In generations past, the CHURCH has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her SACRED RIGHTS and DUTIES. This generation of Catholics MUST DO THE SAME." DRAMATIC MUSIC! Now with DRAMATIC CHOIRS and SOARING BRASS, probably left over from an Avengers preview. The camera swoops in on the back of a white man with a hammer at a forge--is it Thor? OMG y'all, THOR is the Catholic Church's new spokesgod! Neat!!!

Anyway, text continues: "This November... Catholics across the nation will be... put to the test." The camera now shows the white hammering dude from the front. He is older and white haired. Probably not Thor. Maybe Vulcan? I am holding out for Vulcan. Anyway! Whoever-he-is keeps hammering! We see what he is hammering--WORDS! BIG WORDS! The first is ECONOMY. While he hammers the text continues: "Many issues in America... require hard work." Now the forge-word is JOBS. Then we see fire. Then forge-word TAXES. Forge-word ENERGY. "But how do we know... if we are building in vain?" The hammer droops and falls (I am not kidding). Whoever-he-is now has a TRAY full of forge-words. Text: " 'Unless the LORD builds the house those who build it labor in vain.' Psalm 127:1"

Now the forge-dude approaches the fire as the DRAMATIC MUSIC adds more choirs and LUSH STRINGS! I think not-Hans-Zimmer has turned into not-Trevor-Jones! And forge-god has turned into the back of a white woman walking towards a door. Text: "Catholics across the nation... will have an opportunity... to shape the future... for our generation." Back to forge with fire foregrounded. Back to white woman, now shown from the front, walking down a long hall! In slow-motion, because it's more dramatic! And holding...a ballot! OMG I THINK THIS IS ABOUT THE ELECTION, Y'ALL!!!

The brass is back as the white lady pushes aside curtains. "And generations to come." Brass gets all lush again, as not-Trevor-Jones goes for not-John-Williams. Forge-word JOBS is on fire. White woman's hands raise her ballot in slow-mo. Text "Many issues are at stake." Forge-word: ECONOMY. White woman's fingers holding a pen make an X next to a box labeled "Congress." Where the hell do they use this ballot? The one with no candidates?

Anyway, back to the text: "But some issues are... not negotiable." Helpfully, forge-word LIFE appears to let us know which issues are non-negotiable, because apparently we were just kidding around with JOBS, ECONOMY, and ENERGY. Text: " 'The protection of life... from conception, until natural death.' Pope Benedict XVI." Back to forge dude. "Marriage should be reinforced... not redefined." Forge-word MARRIAGE is on fire! Back to white woman either filling out her ballot or writing the Declaration of Independence (it is dark and kind of hard to tell).

Forge word FREEDOM is on fire! Text, helpfully: "Forcing the Church to buy insurance that goes against her teachings is a violation of religious freedom... 'When the government tampers with religious freedom, one shudders to think what lies ahead.'- Cardinal Dolan."

White woman emerges from behind curtain, looking serious. Text: "Your vote will affect the future... and be recorded in eternity." Eternity! Wow! You will go to hell for voting wrong! But no pressure. Anyway, back to forge guy, standing by fire. He walks forward. Back to white woman's hand dropping ballot in an actual box labeled "BALLOT." Text: "Will you vote the values... that will stand the test of fire?"

The forge-words MARRIAGE LIFE FREEDOM are laying on top of an American flag, because this advertisement is very subtle. White man's hand places Mjolnir his totally not-Pagan hammer down next to the words. Music fades out on extremely long, extremely basso note. Text encourages: "Share this video with a friend." Credit is given to something called "Catholics Called to Witness: Inspiring Catholics to Live Their Faith." and then to "Creative Lab," presumably the actual makers of the video. Finally, the end, praise Jesus Thor the unnamed god of cheesy forge-words.

There is so much fail in this video that I hardly know where to start. Here are my observations:

1. While the video does not name any specific candidates, the issues that it says are non-negotiable are clearly associated with Obama, particularly the birth control mandate. So whooops even the thinnest veneer of non-partisanship! Telling people they will go to hell for how they vote is, ah, pretty much the definition of violating the tax-exempt status thing, although I'm sure hiding behind an interest group makes this crap legal. I await with breathless anticipation a statement from the Vatican explaining that this group is not an "authentic teacher" of the faith, just like they did with the nuns. (Just kidding! I am actually expecting nothing of the kind!)

2. Notice which issues are non-negotiable--and which ones don't even appear in the video. Where are words like POVERTY or HEALING? I certainly recall from my years in Catholic school that Jesus had a thing or two to say about these issues. He told Peter (the first Pope, if you're Catholic) THREE TIMES: "Feed my sheep." (John 21: 15-17). He didn't add, "...unless they're gay!" Again and again, he healed the sick. (Too many sources to quote, but see here if you are interested.) He didn't say, "...unless it's endometriosis or another icky lady-problem requiring birth control." PRIORITIES: JESUS HAD THEM. I get that Biblical interpretations differ, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that poverty and healthcare don't even warrant at least a MENTION in the flaming forge-words of God's will.

3. Not to be all history-nitpicky, but marriage is about the worst institution to choose if you want to claim it shouldn't be "redefined." Considering that St. Paul gave marriage the not-exactly-ringing endorsement that it was second to celibacy, but better than burning with lust, and the Catholic Church didn't even rank marriage as a sacrament until the 12th century, I'd say it's been "redefined" a time or two already, by the Church itself. Aside from that, it's been redefined by secular governments in all kinds of ways, from recognizing married women's right to their own bodily autonomy to making allowances for divorce. Pretending that the world will come to an end if the Catholic Church isn't allowed to define secular marriage is mendacious and historically indefensible.

4. It's also pretty astonishingly obnoxious to claim that religious freedom is being threatened by the birth control mandate, only to turn around and insist that the Catholic Church should be specially privileged to define civil marriage in a nation that includes Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Quakers, Unitarians, agnostics, Wiccans, Heathens, Pagans, Buddhists, Baha'i, and approximately a gazillian other belief systems and philosophical frameworks. But okay, players.

Finally, a word of advice for future crappy conservative Christian video makers, from Liss: "You know what that video needs...? More Kirk Cameron looking confused."


UPDATE: Here's an interesting exercise. When you Google "Test of Fire" and "parish," you get a rather impressive string of results for Catholic parishes that have embedded this video on their homepages. For an "unofficial" video, it's certainly getting a lot of "official" stamps of approval.

[Hat tip to Republic of Gilead. Commenting note: please take care when commenting to remember that Catholics are not a monolith, and many of them are in disagreement with the statements and actions of their leadership.]

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