Twitter users woke up Wednesday morning to a fresh outrage from Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
By the afternoon, as you might have imagined, things had taken a turn and had put things in perspective.
That said, while what Whitmer did was only not-so-bad by comparison, it was still pretty terrible. Yes, it was minor-key terrible — but terrible nonetheless.
This was morning at the Whitmer household:
Good morning! pic.twitter.com/wfE14Ikyzd
— Gretchen Whitmer (@gretchenwhitmer) January 6, 2021
This was the morning after the Georgia Senate runoff elections. At that point, it was clear that one of the Democratic candidates, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, had defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and it was pretty clear that documentarian and … guy who did something else, I’m sure, Jon Ossoff was on his way to a victory over Sen. David Perdue in the other race.
For those of you who aren’t Roman Catholics, by way of explanation: Prayer candles of the sort shared by Whitmer are usually burned when one seeks the intercession of a certain saint.
In other words, the governor decided to thank Abrams, patron saint of Georgian Democrat martyrs.
I couldn’t find any evidence Whitmer was a Catholic, mind you. It’s interesting because, while votive candles like these can be used to honor a saint, usually they’re lit because the “light signifies our prayer offered in faith coming into the light of God. With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or petition the saint to pray with us and for us to the Lord,” according to Father William Saunders.
In other words, you know, if you were going to light this thing, a good time might have been before the election.
Then again, I didn’t suspect everyone who bought celebrity political votive candles was necessarily doing it because they were good Catholics being slightly misled.
(By the way, that really is a thing — the celebrity politician votive candle. Apparently, the kind of person who loves C-SPAN and whose idea of a Catholic hymn is Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” needs something to go with that, so there you are.)
Catholics weren’t terribly happy with this.
“As a Catholic, I am insulted that Governor Whitmer would mock such an important religious symbol to make a political statement,” Michigan GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox said, according to Fox News.
“I wish I could say I expected more from Governor Whitmer, but unfortunately her term as governor is rife with these type[s] of political stunts and poor attempts at humor. The governor owes Michigan’s 2 million Catholics an apology.”
But then, you know who wasn’t happy about this? Pretty much everyone else, too.
First, let’s take conservatives who weren’t necessarily former altar boys like myself (or who are Catholics and in-the-know, and simply didn’t want to go with that angle):
I’ve always hated this vile celebrity/politician candles. A totally mockery of faith. Not surprised at all Whitmer is a proponent.
— Amanda (@AmandaPresto) January 6, 2021
This from the group that voted God out of their party a decade ago…
— JT Lewis (@thejtlewis) January 6, 2021
There is something deeply weird going on with all this and I think if the people doing it reflected on it for even a little while it would make them uncomfortable. This is not a troll. I think this is weird and honestly dehumanizing. https://t.co/IorHIWDgwq
— Daniel Foster (@DanFosterType) January 6, 2021
This is peak upper-middle-class white woman. https://t.co/i0tPLqtBlc
— Jon Gabriel (@exjon) January 6, 2021
The Governor of Georgia is Whitmer’s savior https://t.co/jSE9XdndkQ
— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) January 6, 2021
This is weird https://t.co/nmxjmY7U5N
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) January 6, 2021
This is the difference between Democrats & Republicans. Dems worship politicians & govt, Repubs worship God. https://t.co/hH3ZhtOmQm
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) January 6, 2021
The Left worships man, not G-d, proving once again it is a secular religion https://t.co/KNIoAu5zlQ
— Benjamin Weingarten (@bhweingarten) January 6, 2021
— Eric Esshaki for Congress (@EsshakiCongress) January 6, 2021
“[O]ffensive on so many levels” sums it up nicely. And you know what? Liberals also weren’t too happy with it, either!
Here was Christina Emba, writing in The Washington Post: “Some have suggested that the super-organized Abrams be given the task of vaccine distribution — since, you know, she can (and must want to) do everything. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) posted a picture of a Stacey Abrams prayer candle.
“The clamor is meant to be flattering, but it feels more than a little demeaning. Black women — a faceless mass — are painted as devoted servants of the Democratic Party, with near-mystical powers of organization and determination. They can be directed toward any impossible task the public desires. They are carrying America on their broad, untiring backs. Their sacrifice is for you.”
Here was who Emba quoted:
The “Black women save us” stuff from a certain subset of twitter gets really strange really fast. Quickly feels like the mammy and magical Negro tropes.
— Jonquilyn Hill (@jonquilynhill) January 6, 2021
Of course, a Vox explainer appropriately titled “Blasphemous, appropriative, and wildly popular: the rise of the celebrity prayer candle” may have put it best when it quoted University of Toronto sociology professor Ethan Fosse, who did his dissertation on Americans’ departure from faith.
“I think [celebrity prayer candles are popular] because in some sense you see religions becoming more personalized,” Fosse said. “Saying you’re spiritual is saying that this is a personal relationship between myself and my bonds. It also kind of reflects the therapeutic movement … religion less as a collective enterprise and more as self-help.”
Vox concluded, “If you’re in need of guidance, in other words, the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ may not be as helpful as ‘what would Michelle Obama do?'”
No, that’s not as great of a tragedy for anyone as what happened on Wednesday afternoon. It should still worry us deeply.
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