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January 11, 2006

Alito Watch: Consecrating the Room

Senate-Prayer-1

Senate-Prayer-2

Senate-Prayer-3

At first, I thought this was an old SNL sketch.

This series captured two anti-abortion activists praying and "anointing the doors" to the Senate hearing room where the Alito confirmation hearings were to take place.  On first pass, I simply dismissed this display — recorded last Thursday in the Hart Senate Office Building — as a ridiculous stunt.  Ultimately though, the images stuck with me for a couple reasons.

First, ever since the Schiavo drama, I’ve been more conscious of the way religious activists tends to disregard or push the limits of physical barriers and boundaries (Curb Appeal – link).  In this case, these guys had no qualms about literally taking their fanatical case to the doors of the Alito hearing.  To be honest, I’m not sure what the policy is regarding political display and demonstration inside the halls of Congress.  One should not be fooled, however, that this is a simple or innocent action when the prearranged participation of the press and at least the tacit cooperation of Capitol security was required.  (Otherwise, these guys would be out on the sidewalk, fighting for attention just like everybody else.)

The other point here (although not a new one, of course) is the way the
religious right shamelessly exploits religious symbolism for political
gain.

The play here is a psychological one exploiting a reflexive
tendency to associate religious garments, objects, and physical
language and gesture with noble, even pious intention.  As well, the
simple visage of the minister already comes more than pre-packaged with
the connotation of authority.  With that kind of loading, the jump
involved in "reading" these guys as political activists or protesters
is relegated, at least cognitively, to a second pass — if it occurs at
all.

I should add that even an inherently critical viewer can be
warded off by the semblance of sanctity — especially in the light of
even more visceral God inspiring/God fearing associations.  If SNL’s
"Father Guido" and Dana Carvey’s "Church Lady" made great hay in mining
that territory, it probably also explains my initial impulse simply to
write this off as parody.

(images: Scott Applewhite/A.P.  Jan. 5, 2006.  Washington  Via YahooNews)

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    I saw the bottom photo somewhere else and a commentor said the guy on the right looks suspiciously like Adam Sandler.
    I would infinitely prefer to believe it IS an SNL sketch because the alternative is just tooooooo creepy.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/vicfitz82 Victor F

    I don’t really know the significance of “annointing” anything in religious ritual, but I agree: the more I look at these, the more uneasy I feel about the whole thing.

  • ummabdulla

    Everyone in these photos got the message about wearing red, too…

  • http://comespeak2.blogspot.com/ dus7

    They don’t belong there. Either all belief systems are welcome to perform their relevant rituals in our government premises, or none are. Did no-one else demand equal access? I think it would be put straight with similar publicized/ photographed appearances by a Wiccan, say, a rabbi, a mullah, and most definitely by the (Flying Spaghetti Monster).

  • http://happening-here.blogspot.com/ janinsanfran

    Reminds me of the picture of religious notables denouncing a Gay Pride gathering in Jerusalem. Lots of old men in weird clothes. The NYT had a funny version of it, but I was only able to find that linked one quickly.
    At least in the Jerusalem one, you knew these were legitimate religious leaders for someone. It is not so obvious with the fundie clowns at the hearing room. Do fundies wear stoles? I thought they thought that was Papish.

  • mugatea

    It’s been so dry this winter a few of my door hinges need some anointing.
    If I was a whacked-high-rankin’ republican I’d appoint Kathrine Harris
    and Condi to be the official DC anointers …
    Oh, that’s hot … “Condi, debrief me on penal codes … and don’t take off those boots.”
    These photos tie in with your “red swarm” entry.
    Thanks for the Church Lady reference. ; )

  • lytom

    There is no doubt after this religious demonstration, that fundamentalists are taking over. They are taking over not in the streets, but on higher level, right in the sanctity of the US Senate.

  • http://www.body2see.blogspot.com Mary Godwin

    Note, too, issues anchored in race and gender: the authority of “the cloth” might extend to African Americans but not to women, and even then the center of attention is given to white males. I’m interested, too, by the attention apparently being given in photo two to off-camera persons. Who might have been “staging” this photo shoot? -mg

  • Aunt Deb

    Thank you for putting these photos up. I read about this event but didn’t give it much, if any thought, beyond an annoyed mental shrug. But looking at the pictures makes it important. Because suddenly I was wondering who let them in and then, there you were asking the same question in your post. And why didn’t the reporting of the ‘event’ tell us this?

  • SEAS

    These are not legitimate religious garments: this is entirely a costumed set up (even color coordinated) to project piety. The only denonminations I know that wear stoles are the Catholics, the Episcopalians and the Lutherans, and they also wear the stole with a collar. And this is not a religious season to wear red.

  • Cactus

    All the red in the photos…the robes trimmed in red and the woman wearing a red sweater. The BAG’s post a couple of days ago about all the red worn by the pro-Alito people. As a former christian, I don’t remember any particular significance to that color….is it something new to the right wing?
    There was also a report a couple of days ago about a group who had ’snuck’ into the hearing rooms and spread holy oil on all the seats. Nice to know our security is so tight. I’m sure any ‘terrists’ out there are taking notes.
    It’s the hutzpah of these people who think they have some kind of divine right to barge into OUR house of congress and lay down some chants and spells. If one takes a step away from this scene, it’s not hard to see it as a parody of an SNL parody.
    Maybe the reason no other religion is represented, including the flying spaghetti monster, is that they have more respect for the process the hearings represent, in spite of everything the current admin. has done to destroy that respect. I know what I’d do if they came into my office and cast spells all over the place, and it’s not a pretty picture.
    And for some reason, I can’t get out of my head the image of those doddering old, white-haired representatives/senators anointing the moonie as emporer and savior of the world. Maybe they’ve all gone mad and we just haven’t seen it yet.

  • readytoblowagasket

    My first, second, and third response: What a fucking OUTRAGE!

  • Mad_nVT

    Thank the Good Lord that these three reverends, from the Pentecostal, Presbyterian and Evangelical churches, were there to protect America’s interests.
    It took them fifteen minutes to get through, must have been that the direct-line-to-God was busy, what with all the other groups trying to contact Him about the desperate need to take away women’s rights.
    I think that these folks are trying to tie up the lines to God, so that the rest of us can’t get through to Him, if we wanted to send a message in opposition to Alito.

  • readytoblowagasket

    If I’m remembering correctly, the Nazis wore red accents too.

  • http://www.Palcewski.com/JP John Palcewski

    Mike, thanks for your email. I hope you can get some pics of Bush in his psuedo-town-hall meeting in Kentucky yesterday where he repeatedly misled and lied to a carefully selected group. For instance insisting that the secret wiretap program was legal, that congress had been consulted and reviewed it, and so on. The absurd performance was immediately followed by ridiculously transparent set-up “tough” questions by a few of the brain dead zombies in the audience who applauded whenever Karl wanted them to. Do you have any idea when this bizarre bullshit will come to an end?

  • http://www.Palcewski.com/JP John Palcewski

    P.S. As a former wire-service photographer I LOVE this site!!!

  • http://profile.typekey.com/error27/ error27

    Jesus was sometimes against the publicity stunt approach to religious expression, I believe he said that he’d prefer if people went home and hid in the closet behind some coats instead.
    Jesus’s dry sense of humour is often overlooked by his followers along with whole point of what he said.
    The red is concerning to me because it has religious symbols on it, but it’s completely political. It’s like engraving a picture of George Bush into the communion cup.

  • zatopa

    I find these photos terribly effective and terribly disturbing, primarily for the way they’re sure to play to the Church. There’s an old joke that I’ll sometimes receive as one of those “Forward to all of your friends!!!” emails from one or another well-meaning relative. The joke goes that a certain beagle puppy tagged along everywhere with its owner, a sweet little boy. The boy’s stern schoolmarm wouldn’t let the puppy inside the school, no matter how the little boy begs and promises that the puppy will behave. So, the teacher tosses the puppy out and shuts the door, and as the puppy sits and whimpers outside, who should come along but Jesus. The savior sits down beside the puppy, scratches it behind the ears, and says, “I know, I know, they won’t let me in either.”
    When my relatives see these photos, they’ll be seeing men of God standing outside the heavy wooden doors of the Senate, locked out, a bronze plaque stating “Authorized Personnel Only.” Unauthorized, you say? By whom, exactly? These men of God aren’t going to take that usurpation of God’s rightful authority anymore. Annointing with oil is not uncommon in fundamentalist churches; its powerful associations with miracles and healing will be very exciting for them in this context.

  • Cactus

    Thanks error27, if memory serves, the KJ version of the bible says (more or less): Tis better that you pray in your closet than to make a public display.
    Isn’t it wonderous how the fundie xians pick and choose what part of the bible they will follow. They are insulted that their god isn’t allowed in the senate chamber, yet they refuse to admit gays to their churches. Hmmmm…..
    Also, more on the red…..it seems to also have some significance in the kabalah since they wear red string tied around their wrists.

  • jt from BC

    Its a good thing these red robed rogues are not actually touching the “Authorized Personnel Only” sign, as a foreigner I might get the impression that Church and State had finally come to pass.
    Our potential new conservative leader Stephen Harper has started ending his speeches with “And may God bless Canada”!!!
    Where Multi Culture Rights were enshrined in Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.. this god stuff is foreboding…
    “Of ghosties and ghoulies and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us ” (from A Cornish Litany ?)
    These guys are like the Pine beetles coming out of the woods everywhere.
    What is really needed is a revised GWOT eg A Global War On Termites.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    “As a former christian, I don’t remember any particular significance to that color….is it something new to the right wing?”
    As a Presbyterian pastor, I can say with authority that the color red symoblizes the Holy Spirit and is usually worn on Pentecost Sunday (the day when the Holy Spirit blew through the disciples and birthed the church – Acts 2) and on days when people are ordained to be leaders of the church.
    THE CHURCH, not the Supreme Court.
    and as to what Jesus would say, go check out Jesus’ General. Warning: the site is satire.

  • readytoblowagasket

    As Mad_nVT noted above, these are no ordinary religious fanatics, they are professionals: Revs. Grace Nwachukwu (Pentacostal), general manager of Faith and Action; Patrick Mahoney (Presbyterian), director of the Christian Defense Coalition; and Rob Schenck (the one who looks like Adam Sandler; Evangelical), president of the National Clergy Council in Washington and one of the founders, with his brother Paul, of Operation Rescue.
    Interestingly, it’s not easy to find information about them.

  • http://blognonymous.com Kvatch

    Thought I’d add (since I didn’t see any comments on this), that when Rev. Schenck was barred from entering the hearing room by Capitol Police, he announced that the three had entered the chamber a day earlier and annointed Alito’s chair and the chairs of the committee members as well.

  • max

    hi pease share to all .. iwarn all the people who make fun of jesus that their death is near…….

  • max

    hi share to all … i warn all the people who make fun jesus that their death is near, tou ll be visited by jesus and ll be judged….

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