You can tell we’re in the middle of the Olympics. The pundits are trying to determine who took the gold medal when Barack Obama and John McCain appeared jointly (but answered separately) at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback mega-church in California on August 16.
McCain should have benefited the most and most likely did. For all intents and purposes he was playing with the home field advantage. Evangelicals have been a significant voting bloc in the GOP for years and years now. Despite not being cut from the same cloth as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Rick Warren is also an evangelical, a supporter of the war in Iraq, and pro-life.
Evangelicals are not madly in love with McCain and will fall right out of mildly liking him if he picks a pro-choice running mate (bye-bye Tom Ridge, hello Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty).
I wouldn’t go so far to say as the fix was in for McCain, but there wasn’t much chance Obama was going to win over many new converts to his cause. He definitely had the tougher sell to make.
Consider Obama’s appearance at Saddleback as the flipside of McCain’s appearance at the NAACP convention in July. It probably didn’t help much in changing minds and winning votes, but give credit to the candidate who goes where he knows he’s the underdog. It didn’t hurt McCain to speak to the NAACP and it won’t hurt Obama speaking to a gathering of evangelicals.
I don’t think either candidate gave any particularly shocking, surprising or eye-opening answers. The caliber of the questions Warren asked wasn’t all that drastically different from the ones the candidates have been answering for the last year or so. Simply because the ordinary folks are asking questions of the candidates means that they are good questions. There is a tendency to think Joe and Jane Six-pack will ask smarter and tougher questions than professional pundits and journalists, but that isn’t always so.
More distressing to me is why presidential candidates feel they must talk about their faith and religious beliefs all the time. I could care less personally when Obama or McCain’s moment of religious awakening came. I’d much rather know what their plans are to get the economy going or combat global warming or what their foreign policy initiatives will be rather do they kneel and pray before making a tough decision.
Whether it’s Jeremiah Wright, John Hagee, Father Pflager, Rod Parsley, or Rick Warren, I’ve had enough indulging of the egos of clergymen who want to flex their muscles and demonstrate how much juice they have with the
presidential contenders. They should get back to their full-time jobs of saving souls and out of the game of playing politics.
It’s time for a little more separating in the separation between church and state.
Too much coziness between politicians and preachers isn’t a good thing. Warren said he set up the joint interview with Obama and McCain by calling them on his cell phone. Rick Warren has the private phone numbers of both of the two men who would be the next President of the United States.
Why does that fact bug me more than it should?