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August 19, 2008 / JV

Only In America: Obama and McCain Go To Church

On Saturday August 16, Democratic Senator of Illinois Barack Obama and Republican Senator of Arizona John McCain, the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, met up at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California to discuss politics. This was known as the Saddleback Civil Forum. The Orange County mega church claims 22,000 members, and just completed a $20 million student ministry facility called the Refinery in June. The church’s founding and senior pastor Rick Warren interviewed the presumptive candidates.

In response to the obvious inquiries about the separation of church and state that supposedly exists in the United States, Warren said on the Today Show: “I believe in separation of church and state. I do not believe in separation of faith and politics because faith is simply a worldview. Everybody has a worldview.”

Since when has faith “simply” meant worldview? And who died and named Rick Warren Webster? Who is this guy? If the church is in fact the “greatest force on earth” it has been in the service of colonization, slavery, and The Holocaust. “The Church” itself, an entity created by man, has been behind some of the greatest atrocities in the history of humankind on this earth.

But even that is beside the point. What I’m wondering is why we are having a key political event — the first time Obama and McCain “share the same stage” — at a mega church with a revenue that could pay my tuition 1,000 times over. Why, for a national political event, is the host a pastor of a white evangelical church? That just doesn’t add up to me.

Probably because Obama and McCain feel like they need to fight to win the vote of the white evangelicals.

Let’s get into it for a minute.

What is an evangelical? Theologically, evangelicals believe Jesus Christ was the sinless son of God, who was resurrected on Easter Sunday and is coming back to culminate history. They believe that salvation involves belief in Him and His sacrifice. Evangelicals also believe that they have a responsibility to share their faith with as many people as they possibly can.

Politically, about 20% of the electorate describes itself as evangelical or born again (a la GWBush). 40% of evangelicals describe themselves as moderate or liberal. (Moderate probably meaning McCain).

George W. Bush won about 78% of the evangelical vote in the last election, and Kerry carried 22%. In the polls, Obama has not gotten any more than 21% of the evangelical vote, and political analysts think this is because he is “more radically pro-choice” than any previous Democratic candidate. (Thanks to kcts for the stats).

When asked at what point a baby gets ‘human rights,’ McCain responded “at the moment of conception.” My follow-up question to McCain would have been “and when do those rights end?” because for a pro-war, pro-prisons, Vietnam vet I feel like there could be a handful of possible answers . . . Is it when you are born outside of the United States? When you decide not to marry? When you get arrested? Come on. People all across the board are claiming to be in favor of human rights for an embryo, yet they don’t support human rights for half of the people walking the earth. How are you anti-choice and at the same time in favor of capital punishment and a fervent cheerleader for an unjust war? What was I saying about holistic living

Another statistic worth mentioning is that 70% of evangelicals say they plan to vote for McCain, but only 15% are enthusiastic about it. That’s not surprising. What Obama has to do to take advantage of McCain’s lameness is to emphasize his interest in reducing the number of abortions overall. Clearly, he’s not anti-choice and never will be, but winning more of the ‘moderate’ evangelical vote lies in reiterating his point that he does not encourage abortion, and that a situation where one has to consider abortion is undesirable in the first place. This goes back to “age-appropriate” sex education (uh-oh!), as well as access to contraception.

Speaking of unwanted children, when’s the last time you’ve seen one of McCain’s seven kids? Exactly. They’re hiding. Also, why hasn’t he been given more flack from the religious right for the failure of his first marriage (not to mention that he applied for another marriage license before the divorce was official and married 5 weeks after the split). And what about his vote against Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a moral failure? His public response to that was that “we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing”.

But getting back to the forum, did anyone else notice that McCain, 71, seemed particularly fluent during the interview with Warren? Judging by his prior television appearances, there seem to be signs that he’s suffering from onset senile dementia. So how was the fellow so glib…

Well there is talk of McCain having some prior knowledge about the questions he would be asked. Of course the McCain camp vehemently denies this, and Rick Warren has called the accusations “sour grapes,” but who’s to say? We don’t know what McCain heard.

We Do Know, however, that when Rick Warren said jovially that McCain was in a “cone of silence” where he wouldn’t be able to hear the Obama interview, that he was lying. Lying’s bad, pastor. McCain wasn’t even in the building. He was on his way to the church in a motorcade supervised by the secret service. Meaning that he wasn’t present at the so-called “coin flip” that determined who would go first. As though there was a choice.

But we can’t be sure that McCain’s quick answers despite his tired brain were the result of having access to the questions. Maybe he’s on some new meds. Or maybe Obama’s just a better actor. The latter may be closer to the truth considering the New York Times Caucus blog says that Warren gave both candidates the general topics he would cover, as well as a heads-up about a few specific questions, including What is your greatest moral failing? What is America’s greatest moral failing? And who are the three people you rely on most for wise advice?


But I digress.

As an American (yep, i just identified), I am not down with mixing politics and religion.. nor politics and “faith”. That is not to say that candidates should not be able to run focused campaigns and address their constituencies specifically. But it is to say that no disproportionate amount of attention should be paid to a candidate’s religious beliefs, and, that a candidate’s religious stance should not be referenced during interviews and debates to imply his or her stance on a political issue. If religion does inform a candidate’s position on a particular issue, then that is fine, but at the end of the day it is still a political issue, which at most should be talked about in relation to morals and ethics.


One Comment

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  1. John McCunt / Aug 19 2008 12:38 am

    Hypocrites everywhere.
    Vote for me.
    America is white and will be.

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