Too bad to be true

Did you hear the one about the "Religious Left praying to Obama"? I hope not. Here's the embarrassing story: a video clip of a pro-universal-health-care prayer service, originally posted on the Gamaliel Foundation web site but appropriated, "captioned," and distributed by the obviously trustworthy Naked Emperor News and on, caused a stir on right-wing blogs yesterday because it reportedly showed liberals chanting the petition, "Hear our cry, Obama." With apologies for insulting your intelligence, let me clarify: it wasn't true. You can see the original video on the homepage of the Gamaliel Foundation. The people gathered (nine months ago, Media Matters notes) are responding to petitions by saying, "Hear our cry, O God" -- which was obvious to many who viewed the video on other sites, despite the fact that it had been captioned to suggest otherwise.

This "Lefties think Obama is the messiah!" meme is really getting old. The only people fooled by it are the ones spouting it -- just as the only people who call Obama "The One" are people who think they're being satirical. This was a desperately crude smear that shouldn't have fooled anyone -- certainly not anyone familiar with what prayer sounds like. And yet, Mark Shea posted it on his blog, commenting (irony alert!) that it "must be seen to be believed." Rod Dreher picked it up and did some concern-trolling over at Beliefnet (e.g., the Left have only themselves to blame!). And, when their error was pointed out, they both fell back on "I'm pretty sure at least some of those people are saying 'Obama.'" Come on, really? Todd at Catholic Sensibility called it "an Emily Litella moment" for both, but in fact a sheepish "...Never mind" would be an improvement over their response so far. Seems like they're taking their cues from, which posted this hilarious "editor's note" upon being called out:

Editor's note: We've updated this post with the longer version of the original event. As you'll see in the comments and related links there is a debate over what is actually being said. Does the crowd say, "Hear our cry, Obama" and "Deliver us Obama?" Or are they saying "Oh God?" In the longer version the first two repetitions seem to have a distinct "uh" sound at the end that resonates as "Obama." The later repetitions are a little fuzzier. Did some of the religious leaders present become uneasy? Or was there a mix of what was being said? [They forgot option 3: "Or is the entire thing a shameless, trumped-up smear?"] Read some of the blogger analysis below. What do you think?

Yes, perhaps thinking is a good tool to bring to this matter... Ah well, better late than never! The whole thing reminds me of the false story about the Council of Macon -- meant to discredit the Church, it ends up reflecting poorly on the person who uncritically repeats it. Doesn't a tale this outrageous deserve just a little skepticism?

The obvious moral here is don't be so quick to assume the worst about your opponents that you abandon all your critical-thinking skills. But I would also like to see "people of faith" be a little bit more careful about using religion and prayer to score such cheap political points. Christians shouldn't be so cavalier with the "messiah" jokes, and we surely ought to be hesitant to mock an interfaith prayer service. Deliver us, O God, indeed.

Update: More here.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads