Sunday, August 17, 2008

American Jesus

[AP photo/Altaffer]
Religion was on stage, front and center, last night, as megachurch pastor, Rick Warren hosted the two candidates for president, in a Q & A forum, at Saddleback Church.

With each candidate given an hour to answer questions and discuss issues pertinent to evangelical Xians, facilitated by America’s purpose-driven pastor, both Mr. Obama, and Mr. McCain acquitted themselves well.

While I didn’t watch the interviews in their entirety (surfing back and forth between the forum, and Red Sox baseball and the Olympics), I heard an extended segment with Mr. Obama, and Mr. McCain’s answers to Warren’s questions on evil, as well as abortion.

Hard line partisans probably won’t be budged from their candidate on the basis of Mr. Warren’s efforts at creating a forum to civilly discuss the issues. Those on the fence, however, or who happened to tune in and pay attention to either candidate’s responses, got a representative sampling of their leadership styles, and ideological orientation.

I think Mr. Obama had the greatest challenge, since some on the right assume being a Democrat and having core values rooted in faith are mutually exclusive. Others on the left fringes of the ideological spectrum may even view discussions of faith by a left-leaning candidate to be a liability.

As someone with a background rooted in spirituality, and a working knowledge of religion in America, I think Warren’s effort was done in good faith. I’ve not always been a fan of Warren, and the megachurch movement in general, but allowing candidates the room to answer questions like adults, and allow them an opportunity to tackle issues steeped in faith is necessary, in my opinion, in a country that at least pays lip service to religious values.

Interestingly, while more conservative evangelicals will probably consider is a slam-dunk win for Mr. McCain, younger evangelicals, many whom probably attend Warren’s church, will have a more difficult time pulling the lever in November, for Mr. McCain. Much of this has to do with changes that have occurred within American Xianity, and the inroads made by new evangelicalism. To think that today’s evangelical movement occupies a monolithic viewpoint is to reveal the kind of ignorance common among the drive by media.

While I’ve been critical of Mr. Obama, his willingness participate in this forum demonstrates an ability to cross party/political/religious/ lines. The nonpartisan view on this, I think is that he displayed wisdom, showed consideration, and came across as human to anyone who watched this with an open mind. Others will disagree, saying that his “nuance” was trying to be all things to all people, and give “safe” answers.

What is most interesting, the morning after, is viewing various websites (here and here) and reading media accounts, noting the predictability of the reactions (particularly the comments), when ideology is factored into the mix.

1 comment:

Jason Hotham said...

Rick Warren is for me no more evangelical as is Pope Benedict XVI...taking a closer look at his universalistic theology will confirm that...having said that, him holding such a forum holds no weight with this voter.

Obama and McCain do have some serious cozying up to do with true evangelicals. I am still uncertain who I will vote for, but I do know one thing, saying your against abortion but not willing to reverse Roe V. Wade is definitely giving a "safe" answer.