One of the interesting outcomes of the McCain / Obama ‘debate’ is the new respect Rick Warren has gained. His friends have rejoiced. Those who previously looked at him askance sportingly admit that he did rather well, and grudgingly concede that he might indeed turn out to be the right kind of evangelical voice in an American political life soured by the Christian right and assiduously courted by worrisome emergent strains.
I for one salute his courage, if it had turned out badly, his critics would have had a field day. His approach is certainly preferable to that of the 70 odd Christian leaders who called for a vote for McCain in a desperate bid to have a ‘Christian’ president. As it is to the calls of the other group seeking to get Obama elected. Surely it must be an abuse of ecclesiastical authority that influence gained in the kingdom be employed for partisan politicking. Politics and religion have always made strange bedfellows, as I commented in a previous post.
What we need is the kind of fair, open discussion Mr Warren hosted. That both candidates could accept a forum in a church and that it be that well received in American public opinion gives room for hope. Let those who cry doomsday rejoice that there is hope yet to turn America into a Christian nation. The pendulum has not swung too far in the other direction, yet.
As to the substance of the summit itself, few surprises, save for Mr Obama’s remarkable comment on ‘his pay grade’. It sounded like what it was, a not so adroit attempt to evade the question. Other than that from the snippets of it that I watched, both did fairly well, McCain cleverly admitting to a moral failure he knew did not go down well with evangelicals to begin with, better confess than have it thrown in your face, smart. Yet it is patently obvious that American politics remains highly dualistic and believers seem to be equally polarized, and from the perspective of a Christian who grew up in the third world, it is an untenable position.
Does anyone else chafe at the fact that in the same breath we mourn the massacre of thousands in the Sudan, and we promote the massacre of thousands more in the womb and conclude that murder perpetrated by the one to whom the life has been entrusted is of no consequence? Or that in the same breath we weep the human sacrifice of thousands of nascent lives to preserve our own, and deny the right to a decent life to multitudes of human beings fleeing poverty, oppression and deprivation; we seek at all costs to keep them out of our prosperous sanctuary while maintaining good relations with the very authorities who keep them down, for geopolitical reasons.
That is why I salute Mr Warren’s efforts to, as I see it, reconcile these two divides in American public life. One of the logical outworkings of the gospel, though it is not the gospel that saves, let us be clear on that, is that we care for the oppressed and be the voice of those who have no voice whoever they may be. Indeed Christians in other nations are looking to Christians in the most powerful nation on earth to use their influence with their government to protect them, and not only their religious rights, but their right to live unharassed, their right to education, food, employment etc.
Let American believers straddle the religious divide and rather than side with any party, call each and every government to its moral duty to protect unborn babies in America and born babies in Africa.