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Rick Warren’s Chat With The Candidates

I finally got time to watch a recording of Saturday night’s Saddleback Church event [1] with Obama and McCain.  DJ made some excellent observations [2] earlier in the week, which I thought I might supplement a bit.  If you have not seen it yet, I strongly suggest that you view this event [1] as I think it provides the most candid view of these candidates available to date.

I don’t really know Rick Warren that well.  I have read “The Purpose Driven Life”, as have millions of others, and I did find the book helpful in my perspective on and relationship with God.  I appreciate his work on that.

Rick rang a bell I’ve been tolling here from time to time… we need to find ways to engage in productive [3], civil [4] discourse without all of the useless, antagonizing, confrontational venom that has poured out of so many blogs and talk shows this year.  In my opinion, if you need to resort to name-calling, gutter language, threats or other forms of verbal intimidation, then perhaps even you don’t consider your opinion to have much credibility.

Faith/World View

Obama was probably the best prepared that I’ve ever seen him.  He acted very personable, friendly, and seemed reasonable in his presentation, and worked the conversational approach to his answers which for many could easily hide the fact that he didn’t really have much to say.

Barack, talking about his faith, said a lot of the right things, which I hope he would have been prepared to do, although I found it interesting that he ended that by saying:

“And it means that those sins that I have on a fairly regular basis hopefully will be washed away.”

The words “hope” and “hopefully” are funny words in how they are understood.  “Hope” has a larger variety of meanings, ranging from “a desired result carrying a strong certainty” to “a feeling that something desired can happen”, but lacking certainty.  There are other related definitions tied to people whom we place hope in, etc. In the Christian faith, the word “hope” is often tied directly to “faith”, such as in Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The word hope in this context lacks any sense of uncertainty, and quite the opposite, is part of a strongly confident statement of faith.  “Hope” in our faith relates closely to a high level of confidence, and directly as a reference to our Lord Jesus.

“Hopefully”, on the other hand, is a word beset with uncertainty.  This word tends to convey, in almost any context, that the desired outcome seems, not unlikely, back lacking strong confidence.

It may seem like I am over-analyzing unplanned word choice here, but if you watch the video, he is almost being flippant about one of the core aspects of the Christian faith: Christ died for our sins and has made them clean and never needing to be paid for again.  To those of us who believe, this is an unshakable truth, and the hope we have in this is an absolute confidence that our sins are washed away.

I don’t want to convey doubts that his faith is real, I’m just pointing out that something that should be, if his faith is real, an absolute in his life, appears to be an area where he lacks confidence.  I would hate to see this kind of confidence while negotiating an arms treaty with Iran.

McCain answered this question succinctly “I’m saved and forgiven”.  Direct and without wavering.  He shared what I think is an already well-known story about a guard in the POW camp where he was held.  The guard apparently provided him some relief while he was being tortured and later communicated why by drawing a cross in the sand.  Again, I’m not in a position to know the place of John McCain’s heart either, but his confidence and sense that the Christian faith is relevant on the world stage is appealing.


As many others have already stated elsewhere, Obama sure copped out with the “above my pay grade” statement. Since the question was “at what point is a baby entitled to human rights?”, it seems that someone seeking to be the President of the United States should actually have an answer for this question.

Essentially, Barack made one thing clear: he does not believe that life begins at conception.  But he also attempts to be conciliatory, saying that there are too many abortions.  He also states that he opposes late-term abortions.  But he never actually answers the question.

After this one, I sort of wish he had asked Obama “When would it be okay to use nuclear weapons?”.  I suspect that one is above his pay grade as well.

I was somewhat disappointed that Warren said “I know that this [subject of abortion] is a complex issue”.  It should not be complex for Warren, unless he also does not believe that life begins at conception.  It is hard for many to work it out because they either struggle with the emotional aspects of the issue (especially when considering rape and incest cases) or simply lack any meaningful respect for life at all (which is the plague we have beset upon ourselves in the past century).

At any rate, McCain was again direct, and answered the question: “At the moment of conception”.  He went on to state his pro-life record.

Both candidates came down essentially in support of embryonic stem-cell research, although McCain thinks he has an out by pushing other similar research on skin cells.  It’s unfortunate that we’re not able to confront one of the issues that has made it possible and yet hard to deal with this, and that’s the fact that in vitro fertilization is already killing babies.  This is where Obama is content taking stem-cells from.  But neither candidate, nor much of the media on any side of this discussion, has the stomach to say what needs to be said: in vitro fertilization itself if wrong because it requires the conception of many sets of early forming embryos, and often destroys all but those that are transferred to the mother (although cryogenic storage of excess embryos does occur… I can’t even begin to tell you how much that bothers me).  And current successful pregnatncy rates are about 35% in the US.  If you believe that life begins at conception, you have to face this situation head-on.  I feel for the needs of those who have trouble conceiving.  I feel for those who put their hope (there we go again) in the possibiliy that stem-cell research will lead to cures for horrible diseases.  But taking a life, is just wrong.

Supreme Court Justices

(I know I skipped a bunch of topics, including Marriage.  If it really bugs you, leave me a comment.)

According to Omaba, Clarence Thomas was not intellectually prepared to be on the Supreme Court (“I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time…”).  Somehow, that same kind of thinking permeates my mind when I think about Obama as President.  But I digress…

McCain hit the key on this question of whom he would not have nominated to the Supreme Court.  McCain lists the four that I would have listed (Ginsberg, Breyer, Souter and Stevens).  He hits the targets by stating that the Court should adhere strictly to the Constitution, and should NOT legislate.


I thought that McCain’s most shining moment was in answer to this question: “Does evil exist, and if it does do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it or do we defeat it?”.

Obama said that it exists, and that it has to be confronted, and then he got kind of wishy-washy by saying that sometimes we do evil when we say we are trying to eliminate evil (sounds like Congress to me).

McCain simply stated: “Defeat it!”.  His intensity as he said that was inspiring, and his follow-up in describing the critical need to capture Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice was impressive and compelling.


Both men were very personable in this setting, and I think the event gave them both an opportunity to be seen as real people to some degree.

As DJ stated, McCain was much more direct overall, and very much on top of all of the topics.  Some have concluded that perhaps McCain was not has secluded during the Obama portion of the event as Warren had intimated.  That is just ridiculous.  I prefer to think that the two men have different styles, and different degrees of experience to draw upon.  My friend BitHead today published the following information [5]:

Candidate Congress Military
John McCain 26 years 22 years
Barack Obama 143 days 0 days

Now granted, Obama has other areas of experience, but politically and particularly in working across the aisle, he simply lacks the experience to be as well prepared for this interview that McCain has.  The more opportunity to see the two fo them side-by-side, the more convinced I think most people will become that an Obama presidency is extremely risky.

We’ll see… I may come back to some of the other topics another day.

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