What We Can Expect From McCain at Compassion Forum 2

John Fea

As a follow up to Matt Sutton's recent post about the Obama-McCain showdown at Rick Warren's church I thought our readers might find this video interesting. (This is painful to watch on so many levels).

In the comments section, John Turner has offered a different view of McCain as a man of faith that is worth adding to this post. (Much less painful and, from where I sit, quite inspiring).


John G. Turner said…
Yes, that is painful. But I thought this McCain interview on faith was very moving regardless of partisanship:

rjc said…
John and John, could you articulate what you found in McCain's story that tells you something significant about his faith?

We discussed this story in one of my classes last semester, in the context of discussing the role of religion in the presidential campaign. McCain has told it many times. Nearly all of my students felt that the story said more about McCain's guard than it did about McCain, and most felt that it was the one and only story that McCain had to tell about religion in his life. That is to say, though several felt that the story was moving, they were quite cynical about McCain's repeated narration.

The question my students asked me was why so many people think this story says something meaningful about religion in McCain's life (and how it might relate to the presidency). So now I'm asking you.
John Fea said…
Chip: I think your students are correct. One of the things that frustrated me about the Messiah College Compassion Forum was that both Obama and Clinton told nice little stories about their Christianity or shared their beliefs about evolution, etc..., but did little to connect their faith to policy.

This story does not tell us much about McCain's faith apart from the fact that he was willing to be inspired by this Christian Vietnamese soldier. I guess I am not cynical enough yet to suggest that McCain is only telling this story to win political points with Christian voters. He seems to have been moved by this experience and in that regard it might tell us a little bit about a certain compassionate dimension to his Christianity.

Does this story make him a better presidential candidate? Not any more than being shot down in Vietnam makes him a better candidate.
lamonte said…
The first video shows a man who IS trying to make points with the religious right and his delivery is torcherous. The second video shows a man more comfortable talking about a spiritual moment shared with another that has obviously stayed with him for life. The question is - Which McCain will occupy the White House if he is elected? Can you tell?
John G. Turner said…
"John and John, could you articulate what you found in McCain's story that tells you something significant about his faith? ... The question my students asked me was why so many people think this story says something meaningful about religion in McCain's life (and how it might relate to the presidency)."

I didn't find much of anything significant about his faith. I agree with the previous comment that the story from his captivity seemed more authentic. At the very least, he suggested his faith got him through the toughest experience of his life (which I suppose is almost cliche). He didn't describe his faith or beliefs in any detail, however. Unlike Reagan and GWB, he'll never convince the Religious Right that he's one of them (mainly because he isn't).

I think what's impressive (at least superficially) about the second video is the notion of self-sacrifice, love of country, love of fellow marines, etc. It suggests that at least once in McCain's life he didn't place himself or his own interests first, that he has some gut principles he won't compromise. That tells me something about him as a human being, and next to nothing about how he'd be as a president. [And I'm aware there are less savory aspects of his biography].
Matt Sutton said…
Watching that McCain video makes me long for Mike Huckabee. It also discourages me that the political climate is such that our leaders have to pander so pathetically.
John G. Turner said…

When was the last time in which politicians on both sides of the aisle didn't pander? Barry Goldwater in '64?

But I agree -- I hate religious pandering. All this talk about attending church regularly (Obama), reading the Bible regularly (most Republicans), etc. There's no way to separate authenticity from falsehood. I actually thought Hillary Clinton was authentic talking about her faith getting her through her personal struggles (and quietly attending a Senate Bible study), but who knows?

On a non-historical note, hope you all have seen the new jibjab.com video. I like the parody of pandering at the end.
The Editor said…
I predict that McCain is going to have a very rough time at the Compassion Forum in August with Obama. Great post and blog BTW!
Anonymous said…
Both Obama and McCain pander on the issue of faith. The difference is that Obama is better at it.

Ray Suarez commented on his discomfort when Obama began a rally (this was back in early 2007) in Illinois by saying something like, "I just want to begin by saying praise God."

Obama's abundant use of Christian language has made George W. Bush seem like a secularist.

Obama knows what he's doing, and he knows it will work.
Anonymous said…
hmm ... yeah, mccain is not exactly the most charismatic speaker. huckabee has more conviction and sheer personal appeal.
to rjc, perhaps you'd be interested in this discussion. it's a debate at Opposing Views about whether faith should matter when electing public officials. although they let people post comments, the debate itself is moderated, so it never sinks to trashy or abusive levels.
Anonymous said…
Does anyone have an idea where the euphemism "person of faith" or "man of faith" started? Speaking as a Jew in the Bible Belt (where it really is much worse than anyone in a Blue State can imagine), it seems both meaningless and Protestant. Judaism, like some other religions, is not based on "faith" but on ethical practice. I suppose the usage is a small blow for religious sensitivity (not that one can really expect that from evangelicals), but it still gets on my nerves.

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