John Podesta, Clinton Campaign Chairman, talks to reporters as he walks to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's Washington DC home, Oct. 5, 2016. 
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

This Week in God, 11.5.16

First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected story about the right accusing Hillary Clinton’s campaign of being connected to, of all things, Satanic rituals.

No, really. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
A WikiLeaks-released email in which Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s brother invites him to dinner at the house of a well-known performance artist has prompted more than 400,000 tweets of a trending Twitter hashtag, a huge Drudge Report headline and a ton of right-wing news items, all claiming that the email proves a secret link between the Clinton campaign and Satan worship (which, just to be clear right here, it does not).
The Drudge headline, true to form, told readers that the chairman of the Clinton campaign “practices occult magic.”

In reality, he does not.

The truth is quite anodyne, actually. The Wikileaks materials, allegedly stolen by Russians to help boost Donald Trump, in this case point to an email invitation to a dinner party hosted by artist Marina Abramovic, who has used all kinds of materials, including pig’s blood, in her work, including the provocative “Spirit Cooking” exhibitions.

As the Huffington Post explained, “Although Abramovic created uncanny artworks under the label of ‘Spirit Cooking’ in the past, the dinner in question was simply that – dinner. Specifically, it was a reward for donors who had given the largest amount, $10,000 or more, to a Kickstarter campaign that Abramovic launched to fund a new art institute in New York’s Hudson Vallet.”

And as it turns out, John Podesta didn’t respond to the invitation, didn’t attend the dinner, and hasn’t met the artist.

So, to review, Marina Abramovic is neither a Satanist nor a practitioner of occult magic; John Podesta is neither a Satanist nor a practitioner of occult magic; the coverage in the conservative media was wrong; the dinner wasn’t a ritual; Podesta didn’t go to the perfectly normal dinner; and the artist said in a statement yesterday she’s “astonished and appalled that references to my work are being misrepresented in this way to use for political capital.”

Even by 2016 standards, this one was pretty dumb.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Here’s guessing the vandals weren’t counting on this: “Two days after a black Mississippi church was torched and marked with ‘Vote Trump’ graffiti, more than $180,000 has been raised to repair it. Thousands of people pledged to raise money for Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville by Thursday afternoon, far exceeding the original goal of $10,000.”

* Standing Rock: “More than 500 interfaith clergy members joined protesters in southern North Dakota on Thursday to stand in solidarity against the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline, which they believe threatens sacred land.”

* This awful case was apparently the first time Indiana’s “religious liberty” law was used as a defense by an accused child-abuser: “An Indiana mother who beat her son dozens of times with a coat hanger – and used the state’s new religious freedom law to justify the punishment – has been sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to battery.”

* Forever is a long time: “The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that women cannot be ordained as priests is likely to last forever, Pope Francis said on Tuesday as he flew back to Rome from Sweden.”

* As Rachel noted on Thursday’s show, a Catholic mass in Mosul this week was a rare sight: “Surrounded by charred walls and in front of a ruined altar, dozens of Iraqi Christians celebrated mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh on Sunday for the first time since it was recaptured from Islamic State.”

Rachel Maddow Show This Week in God and Religion

This Week in God, 11.5.16