Blowin' in the wind...

I watched Rick Warren’s hyper-objective and honest conversation with the candidates for the US Presidency tonight – and it was illuminating in four key ways:

+ First it showed America (and I hope the wider world) that the evangelical church – and Christianity in general – is both more diverse than the Religious Right and more compassionate than some of our former public incarnations. The fact that Pastor Warren can authentically speak of both McCain and Obama as his friends is an important distinction; it is clear that ideologues like Dobson et al seek to demonize those they disagree with – and the new culture of evangelical Christians oppose this with passion and vigor. Indeed, TIME Magazine is right: the new generation looks more to Bono than Focus on the Family.

+ Second tonight’s broadcast spoke to the need for healing in the American body politic: Pastor Warren made it clear that just because good people disagree – and both Obama and McCain disagree profoundly – does not make one good and the other evil. Indeed, Warren stated that the time has come for America to move beyond the ugly demonization of our recent past – a sin both political parties have played with in spades.

+ Third, if there was any question about how these candidates differ – and which issues they sense are the most vital to their hearts and the soul of our nation and world – this conversation was clarifying. When asked which Supreme Court justice he would NOT have ratified, McCain said, “Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy and Sutter” while Obama said, “Thomas, Scalia and Roberts.” Very interesting, yes? You may draw your own conclusions about why these folk were picked by each candidate – and their clarifying comments are worthy of study – but they clearly show a very different direction and worldview and this distinction matters. Further, when asked about the nature of evil in the world, Obama spoke of walking with humility, knowing and owning the horrors that have sometimes come when trying to end evil only to create more and the faith that ultimately evil will be overcome by God, while McCain spoke solely in terms of terrorism, national interest and the war. Again, this is a distinction worth serious and even prayerful consideration.

+ Fourth, both men – Obama and McCain – are good men in the best sense of the word. For 10 years I enjoyed the work Senator McCain did for both Arizona and the United States when we lived in Tucson. He is a man of conviction and true commitment. Yes, he has his faults, and the old Barry Goldwater Republicans in my church loved to tell stories about him and his failings. Senator Obama has a proud record, too. I have worked with the church-based community organization that trained him and know what this means – and I have heard their stories of his less than righteous attributes, too. I guess it is fair to say that both men carry their treasures in earthen vessels – and this should be a part of our prayers for them both.

During the broadcast, Mr. Obama used more scripture than Mr. McCain while the Senator from Arizona drew more applause from the Saddlebrook Church audience than the Senator from Illinois. Interesting for a church, yes?

Yesterday, the polls put both men at 44% with 10% undecided. This is a fascinating year – one pregnant with possibilities – and ripe with danger. As a pastor, it is neither my place to publicly endorse or encourage one candidate or another (although back in the earliest days of Massachusetts clergy, the minister regularly preached election day sermons and clearly spoke about which candidate was the man of God!) Rick Warren got it right when he said that there IS a public and important connection between faith and public policy - it is not a private matter as some like to suggest - it is a matter of worldview.

Richard Rohr speaks of faith as a worldview - a commitment and trust tha God's justice, compassion, hope and integrity will prevail even with the evidence is obscure - and I think he is right. As this election matures, my prayer is that we will all look towards the very clear Biblical mandate when it comes to claiming our worldview: “to love justice, to act with compassion and to walk with humility with our God” (Micah 6:8) and pick accordingly.


Anonymous said…
Frankly I find it terrifying that the vote is this close. As we move more towards being a police state, I can't help but wonder if people are still voting (and acting) out of fear of losing what is "mine" rather than hope and a vision of God's reign where all people to have what they need. Thank you for your words.
- Barbara
RJ said…
I find this moment in time simultaneously wonderful and horrible. The fear and willful misunderstanding - even lies - are as ugly as ever and yet... there are small signs of beauty and hope all over the place, don't you think? A paradox of biblical proportions, my friend. Glad we can stay in touch a bit...
Monte said…
Thanks for the thoughtful post. I too was struck by the amount of scripture quoted and yet the resounding applause for towing-the-faith-party-line short answers. What does that say about the Church in general (not just Saddleback). I'm not a huge Rick Warren fan, he just doesn't do it for me. And I have to admire and encourage his leadership and management skills to develop such a large and seemingly functional faith community and have such influence for global change beyond the confines of Orange County.

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