Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saddleback church and the candidates forum

I missed a very important event on Friday night....the Saddleback Church candidates forum. Pastor Rick Warren hosted a forum in which he would ask identical questions of both John McCain and Barack Obama. The questions were designed to get at the heart of the concerns of evangelical Christians.

Most of us probably missed it....but you can read a transcript of the whole thing on the CNN website.

Warren has done a great service in putting this thing together. While many Eagle and Child readers are wary of the megachurch pragmatism that Warren exhibits when it comes to church growth, I suggest that his capacity to host events like this are a very positive contribution to Christianity and the cultural dialogue. Read Al Mohler's assessment....I'm usually in agreement with Mohler on these type things....and he has a very balanced read on his reservations about the event and his positive evaluation following the event.

Of course the whole thing is posted on YouTube as well....I strongly encourage you all to watch this as you're able. Here's an index:

Section 1: Warren's introduction and initial questions to Obama.
  • Warren makes great points here about the relationship of faith and politics. "We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is just a world view, and everybody has some kind of world view. It's important to know what they are." Readers of the Eagle and Child will recognize that I make the same distinction btwn separation of church and state (institutions) and separation of faith and politics (spheres of human activity)
  • Warren also hits on a theme dear to my heart.... restoration of civility: "....they both care deeply about America. They're both patriots. And they have very different views on how America can be strengthened. In America, we've got to learn to disagree without demonizing each other and we need to restore civility -- Yes. We need to restore civility in our civil discourse, and that's the goal of the Saddleback Civil Forum. " the words of the book of James keep coming back to my head...all that about taming the tongue and the tongue being a consuming fire.
  • Warren has the guts to ask about the "greatest moral failure of your life" and the "greatest moral failure of America. Obama's answers -- for himself was drug use. For America, that we don't apply the command in Matthew to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Obama has good words about McCain for their work together on campaign finaince reform.

Section 2:
  • What have you changed your mind upon over the past 10 years. (Warren acknowledges that a change of mind is not always bad). Obama: welfare reform... he has come to understand that work must be a centerpiece of social policy. He acknowledges that we're made for work.
  • Most gut wrenching decision: Opposition to war in Iraq.

Section 3: Worldview questions

  • What does it mean to trust in Christ? What does that look like? It pays to quote his entire answer here to put to rest some of the crazy speculation that Obama is a "dark horse muslim"

OBAMA: As a starting point, it means I believe in -- that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. Yes, I know that I don't walk alone. And I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends. And it means that those sins that I have on a fairly regular basis, hopefully will be washed away. But what it also means, I think, is a sense of obligation to embrace not just words, but through deeds, the expectations, I think, that god has for us. And that means thinking about the least of these. It means acting -- well, acting justly, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with our god. And that -- I think trying to apply those lessons on a daily basis, knowing that you're going to fall a little bit short each day, and then being able to kind of take note and saying, well, that didn't quite work out the way I think it should have, but maybe I can get a little bit
better. It gives me the confidence to try things, including things like running for president, where you're going to screw up once in a while.

  • Abortion: when does a baby get rights? Obama comes down on being pro-choice, while acknowledging the great moral struggles in this issue. His goal is to work within the Democratic party platform to reduce the number of abortions.
  • Definition of Marraige: Obama says it is a sacred union of a man and woman. Against a constitutional ammendment: it is a matter of state law. Believes in the concept of Civil Unions (for issues like hospital visitation)
  • Stem Cells: Obama: let's avoid moral quagmires if at all possible, but the use of embryos that are about to be discarded (a careful, limited use) is OK.

Section 4:
  • Evil does exist and must be confronted. Acknowledgment we can't erase evil "that is God's task" we can confront it, however. We must have humility in confrontation....much evil is perpetrated in the name of good.
  • Which supreme court justice would you not have nominated (great question Rick:) Obama: Clarence Thomas. Scalia (acknowledges his brilliance). Guarded on John Roberts: because he has been "too willing and eager" to give power to executive branch.
  • Faith based organizations: believes in power of faith based organizations, but when using federal funds, they have to guard against discrimination in hiring.
  • Education: Merit pay for teachers. Obama: set up a system of performance pay (in consultation with teacher union). We need to reward excellence.
  • define rich: what is a number? (answer on next video, but it is below $150k as a definition of middle class.

Section 5:
  • Rich defined continued: if you're making $250k then you're doing well .... you're in the top 3-4%. Call for fiscal responsibility (irresponsible to spend huge amounts without paying for it now). tax cut for $150k down. "modest increase" for $250k up.
  • War. What's worth dying for? American freedom, national interests. need to co-operate internationally when genocide is involved
  • Orphans: (warren's pet issue) -- great idea to have a national plan for orphans working with nongovernmental organizations. Obama has priase for Bush on AIDS plan
  • Religious Persecution around the world. Obama: bear witness and speak out. Don't pretend it's not taking place. We also need to look to our own house...not engaging in torture and abiding by habeas corpus.

Section 6:

  • International Slavery: Obama, this is a high priority and we need to work on this
  • Why do you want to be president: Obama: grandmother made me imagine how the other guy feels.
  • What would you say if you knew there wouldn't be repercussions: Obama "Well, you know what I would tell them? Is that solving big problems, like for example, energy, is not going to be easy and everybody is going to have to get involved. And we are going to have to all think about how are we using energy more efficiently and there's going to be a price to pay in transitioning to a more energy- efficient economy and dealing with issues like climate change. And if we pretend like everything is free, and there's no sacrifice involved, then we are betraying the tradition of America.I think about my grandparents' generation, coming out of a depression, fighting World War II, you know, they've confronted some challenges we can't even imagine. If they were willing to make sacrifices on our behalf, we should be able to make some sacrifices on behalf of the next generation."

Section 7: McCain is on the hot seat.

  • Three wisest People you would rely on: Gen Petraeus, John Lewis, Meg Whitman (CEO of Ebay)Greatest personal moral faiulre and greatest moral failure of America: Personal is the failure of his first marraige. America's greatest moral failure is that we've not been devoted to causes greater than our self-interest. Post 9/11 we should have called upon people to serve a cause greater than yourself. When did you lead against your party's interests and own self interests: rattles off a list of places he bucked his party and "reached across the aisle" He dwells on opposing Reagan's desire to send troops to Beruit.
  • What have you changed your mind on from 10 years ago: McCain -- offshore drilling, we need to do it now.
  • Most gut wrenching decision: the decision not to be released from POW camp while friends stayed behind.

Somehow, a whole section is cut out from the online video ... and a very important section. Here are relevant answers from the transcripts:

  • What does it mean to be a Christian? McCain: I'm saved and forgiven. McCain tells the story of the Prison Guard who etched a cross in the dirt on Christmas day.
  • Abortion: McCain: life begins with conception. References his 25 year pro-life record.
  • Marraige: McCain: Defined as between one man and one woman
  • Stem cells: in favor of stem cell research....interested in new breakthroughs on skin cells.
  • Does Evil exist: McCain: it does and we must defeat it. McCain defines the transcendent challenge of 21st c: Radical Islamic Extremism.
  • Supreme Court Justices you would not have nominated: McCain: Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter, Stephens. Opposes them b/c they've been legislating from the bench.

Section 8

  • Role of faith based organizations and federal funds: McCain -- faith based organizations should have no restrictions on hiring. McCain talks about Resurrection Baptist Church co-ordinating relief after Katrina....more than the government organizations.
  • Education: McCain supports merit pay for teachers. Believes in choice and competition for schools. Charter schools, homeschooling, vouchers work. This is the "civil rights issue" of the 21st c.
  • Define Rich: McCain...I want everybody to be rich. Don't believe in redistribution. Let's keep taxes low for everybody. i don't think you can talk simplistically about this.
  • Line between security and privacy: Need to keep up with new technological advances for enemies to communicate...we have to step up to monitor those.

Section 9:

  • What is worth dying for? McCain: freedom. We can't fight every wrong, but we can be a beacon of hope for the world. Troops would be committed only if American National Security interests are threatened. Our obligation is to stop genocide where we can. Speaks extensively about Georgia (the nation)

Section 10:

  • Religous Persecution: Use of the bully pulpit, just like Reagan against the Soviet Union.
  • Orphans: Would you commit to an emergency plan for orphans? McCain -- adoption has to become a lot easier here. Teddy Roosevelt was the first to talk about the importance of it. McCain talks about adopting a child from India (who is now 17)
  • why do you want to be president: McCain ... to serve a cause greater than ourselves. To reach across aisles and talk with people.

Well, if you've made it to the bottom, I hope you've benefitted. This has been very helpful to me (though I'm still not telling you who I'm voting for).