That Filthy Postcard

My readers in Moscow are by now aware of the storm surrounding a postcard purportedly mailed over the weekend, allegedly by the Friends of Gresham Bouma, who is a Tea Party, GOP, Religious Right candidate for Latah County State Representative.

The card was mailed to households throughout Latah County and has an American Gothic-style photo of Bouma and his wife on the front. It warns voters that they’re not “real Christians” if they vote for Bouma’s opponent, and it continues with a spittle-flecked tirade against Obama and the liberals, local and national, who support him. It winds up with an invitation to join in a “prayer service” at a local church — one that previously has held an evening of Tea Party-inspired imprecations against enemies and opponents real and imagined, although the church’s pastor has said he was mislead about the real purpose of that gathering. The focus of the promised evening of prayer is to ask God to strike down a litany of local and national politicians, and it constitutes a threat to those listed, a violation of campaign law and Postal Service regulations, and, if it’s a hoax, a terrible disservice to Bouma.

Was it a hoax, or was it from Bouma’s camp?

Accusations and speculations are flying. Some have suggested that the moderate Republican defeated by Bouma in the primary was behind it — a slanderous notion that anyone who knows the man, and I do, would reject out of hand. Some of Bouma’s supporters have blamed the Democrats, who issued a statement denying involvement and condemning whoever was involved in sending out the postcard. I could never be convinced that the Latah County Democratic Party, or anyone associated with it or with Bouma’s Democratic opponent, would do anything like this. Bouma has insisted that neither he nor his supporters are behind it, and has offered a thousand bucks for proof of who is. Another reward fund, organized by Bouma opponents, has already collected $4,000.

The ugliness of the card — a vicious imprecation against perceived liberals, enemies, and antichrists, written in the name of Christ — is almost breathtaking. Whoever sent it — Bouma, his allies, his opponents, or some crazy fringe-dweller — is despicable. If it’s an anti-Bouma hoax, it’s grossly unfair to him, and I hope the perpetrator is hit with the maximum penalty appropriate. The damage to the electoral process, the community, and the Gospel itself is incalculable; if it was intended as a hit job against Bouma, the damage to him and his campaign is tremendous, and he has my sympathy and my prayers.

However, I’m not ready to conclude that it’s a hoax.

The card echoes current and past rants made from the pulpit by Bouma’s pastor. That kind of preaching is not only a violation of the church’s tax-exempt status, given that they specifically speak to Bouma’s campaign and those opponents of his that his pastor deems contemptible, and it’s certainly a violation of even the most basic pastoral decency that ought to be expected of a minister of the Gospel. Bouma has been challenged to repudiate his pastor and his extreme views regarding Mormons, homosexuals, liberals, Barack Obama, and every other attack target of the Tea Party and the crazed Right, and he has, at this writing, refused to do so. Bouma himself has embraced much of the same language and has repeatedly insisted that questions about his religious views — and many of his political views — are, in reality, just attacks against his faith.

That’s right. A man who demonstrates fealty to his hate-spewing pastor claims that concerns about that alliance are attacks against his religious faith. My, how the definition of “martyr” has diminished in the last few centuries.

I’m not claiming that Bouma himself sat at his kitchen table and wrote, designed, funded, and mailed these cards — mailings made in the name of his campaign. And while his campaign manager called the cards “despicable,” what was clear is that she found the mailings, taken as a smear of Bouma himself, despicable. Her initial condemnation didn’t extend to the sentiments expressed. How could they, given that Bouma won’t repudiate the very same message when preached by his own pastor?

Clearly, a hoax linking Bouma to the postcards is criminally and morally wrong — it’s a sin to pose as someone else, whether what you say in doing so is innocuous, distorts their position and views, or reflects them. While this is a concept foreign to Moscow’s most prominent pastor, it remains a simple and easily grasped moral truth. But Bouma must acknowledge that IF the one impersonating him is on his
side — someone who didn’t intend the postcards as a hoax, but some sort of prophetic warning or rallying of the troops — he not only isn’t a victim but bears responsibility. And if that’s the case, if one or more of his pals thought this would help or would at least please God as an arrow shot in righteous battle, then Bouma’s sufferingg is largely self-inflicted. He would be owed an apology, and he would owe all of Latah County, and specifically his opponent, an apology as well — prromptly, personally, and publicly.

My prayer is that such an apology would be only the beginning of a long season of repentance and reflection that brings about a change of heart that reflects the opposite of the horror written this weekend in his name.

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