Monday, August 18, 2008

Was church the right site for candidate forum?

I watched Saturday's forum at Saddleback Church with interest -- not just to learn more about Barack Obama and John McCain, but also to see how the church's pastor, Rick Warren, handled the questioning.

He did well, I thought. His questions were probing and thoughtful, and I would have loved to hear the answers the men would have given had they been sitting around a campfire in a remote wilderness, not campaigning on national television.

That's the only change in locale I would have wanted, and then only if I could have been privy to honest, open conversation. But I've heard a bit of grumbling here and there that holding the forum at Saddleback was an unseemly mix of church and state -- and some in the pew fear the taint of politics as much as some secularists shun the sacred.

It seems to me, though, that the civic participation of houses of worship can remind the candidates (and voters) of the importance of values, meaning and character when choosing our president.

What do you think? What role should any religious institution play in a presidential campaign? What should be the limits to its participation?


pornstudent said...

Religious institutions can't help but influence presidential campaigns. This is one reason they should not be tax exempt.

The Heretic said...

I didn’t watch it, not that I’m not interested in what the candidates have to say, but because I felt what they’d say would be tainted by their kow-towing for votes based on what they perceived the minister and congregation of a sectarian group – and other similar groups - want to hear. At least most of the questions I’ve heard about were not “charged”. Don’t think they were asked how they felt about evolution, for example.

We have a secular, not a sectarian government. It has to be as fair and as accommodating as possible to all viewpoints, secular and sectarian. On the other side, I don’t see “hard-core” sectarians making much effort to keep church separate from state. Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean freedom of the moral majority at the expense of individual liberties.

Leave the candidate forums to the League of Women Voters or to any group that can maintain at least the appearance of true neutrality.

chupacabra said...

I hate to see politicans prostitute themselves in this way. It isn't exactly good for 'the church' either. If they want to engage in politics then give up that tax exempt status and at least pay property taxes on that huge estate.

Bob said...

They should debate in a church that speaks in tongues, for practice.

Iztok said...

I have an issue with what Rick Warren said that the only person he could not vote for was an atheist. Because the presidency is too big for any one man… and he sees atheism as completely arrogant.

But tell me it’s not scary that a man with his influence can throw out an entire group of people as unworthy of holding the office of President because they respect evidence over faith.

Imagine someone saying that he could vote for anyone for the office of president except Catholics. Because they think a cracker is the body of Christ and that is just arrogant.

The Heretic said...

Warren’s comment, past or present, is even more reason why the forum should not have been held in a church. It also doesn’t speak well for either candidate. What it says is that “Yes, we candidates believe that fundamentalist evangelicals Christians have such a correct dogma as to how individuals should act and be treated that it should be incorporated into our secular government regardless of what our founding fathers said. We believe ALL the people of the United States feel likewise, and that’s why we’re here tonight - groveling for votes in one of the most biased venues possible”. They both should have politely declined to participate in that type of setting. Otherwise they present the image of supporting Rick Warren’s one-sided views.

Warren has the right to make his comments, and is free to vote for whomever he pleases, regardless of the reason. But as I wrote earlier, our secular government has to accommodate the beliefs and non-beliefs of ALL citizens, not just some of them.

Frankly, I think we’d stand a better chance of having our individual freedoms preserved or enhanced under an atheist, than under a Bible-thumper. I think atheists would have the sense to honor freedom of religion in the sectarian part of our lives, but keep it out of the secular as our forefathers intended.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok wrote, "...Rick Warren said that the only person he could not vote for was an atheist."

Good for him! It's a start.

Iztok said...

Danbo: "Good for him! It's a start."

Yes I expected support for bigots like him from you Danbo.

Lucky for the rest of us our founding fathers knew better and protected us from people like him (and you) with secular constitution. It really shows however where this country would be if we would end up in theocracy. It shows that people like Danbo just pay lip service to morality and freedom and their true intentions are completely different.

Anonymous said...

Now we can see why China treats religion like a controlled substance.


Bob said...

Not to mention voting.

Iztok said...

Anon1: "Now we can see why China treats religion like a controlled substance."

Chinese are not the most reasonable people when it comes to the government. Ideology is enemy of reason. China's dogmatic views rival those of most religions and we all know what happens when one's dogma is growing out of control. One can have too much faith/dogma while on the other hand one can't have too much reason.

Anonymous said...


I know that. And Communism is no better than Christianity. I see them as roughly equal.

We don't have economic and social parity between the US and China yet, but given the directions of both countries, they'll probably intersect in my lifetime.

I'd love to flash forward to China 2040 vs US 2040.


Robespierre said...


Anonymous said...

"Because they think a cracker is the body of Christ and that is just arrogant."

Your constant harping on this aspect of Christianity is very annoying. Either come up with something else in Christianity that annoys you or become an equal opportunity atheist and mock a sacred tenant of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons or any other religion.

We get it, you don't believe in God, but instead you believe in "reason" based upon your own definition. Fine, that is great if that works for you. However, just as you are adamant that you will never convert to Christianity, neither will ardent Christians ever convert to atheism.

Bob said...

And, by the way, how can anyone say that Communism was dogmatic? The Bolshevik coup, the Brest-Litovsk treaty, War Communism, the New Economic Policy, Socialism in One Country, the show trials, the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Chinese peasant revolution, the Great Leap Forward, the Thousand Flowers movement, the Cultural Revolution, market economy, 8-year-old gymnasts. Looks like a history of improvisation to me. And all guided by an unreasonable faith in reason.

Gamecock said...

Compared to some of the antics I have seen take place during Democratic rallies inside Churches, especially Black Churches, not to mention the regular goings on at Obama's hate whitey America and love Farrakhan Church in Rev. Wrong Wright Chicago, the Saddleback challenge doesn't even register on the church-state Richter scale.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong from a civil standpoint. Each church has to decide, and should have the right to totally free speech. I oppose the 501c3 regs to the contrary.

That said, I wish Pastor Warren has held the forum off church property.

But so many positives came of the event (more later on that) that I see it as net positive by far.

more later (I promise)

Great blog Jane. You posed the questions precisely right!

Anonymous said...

The thing about the Chinese communists is that their communism is barely recognizable as such and changing all the time.

Deng Xiaoping changed it a lot.

And it is still changing.

Now they're starting to pass laws to protect private property.

And despite what many outside China think, the Chinese gov is getting a lot of internal flak from Chinese for the lip-syncing fiasco on Chinese blogs.


Iztok said...

"Your constant harping on this aspect of Christianity is very annoying."

Sorry, but such ridiculous notions of transubstantiation should be make fun of. Just as much as notion of people flying up in the sky on a flying horse.

People who believe in flat Earth (God made it to look spherical but in reality is flat) or those who still think Earth is only few thousand years old lost grip with reality. Those beliefs should be made fun of. However one should pity those who still believe in flat and/or young Earth.

Why I am not concerned with other religions? Because other religions as of now are not clear and present danger in US due to limited number of followers. (Exception might be small number of Muslim radicals however they too believe in the same type of nonsense.)

TheWar127 said...

The Saddleback Forum was an excellent idea for offering a non-partisan look at the candidates with respect to crucial questions related to faith and politics.

If it is true that a great majority of America’s voters are from an Evangelical Christian church tradition, then all the more churches like Saddleback should be encouraged to host similar types of forums. Would not this be a great way to keep the Evangelical Christian voter informed? Who really wants uninformed voters going to the polls?

To be certain, there does not appear to be any good reason for Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, or any other religious group from initiating similar types of forums with candidates addressing issues related to their faith and politics.

It is also a far better format than just having one candidate speak at a church, which appears to be a tacit way for a church to endorse a their favorite candidate while maintaining the appearance of being non-partisan.

The whole separation of church and state issue is also overplayed. After watching the televised broadcast of the Saddleback forum, I do not believe the unanimous perception of American is that the Saddleback church of the Southern Baptist Convention is the officially recognized church of the United States of America. At least not in the same way the framers of the Constitution understood a state recognize church. (For example, in their day the Roman Catholicism was the state recognized religion of Italy, Spain, and France, Lutheranism in Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, and the Anglicanism in England.) These state recognized religions would have been far less tolerant that what is displayed in the modern United States.

Iztok said...

I think that the whole forum was wrong and ultimately un-American. Setting two presidential candidates for religious interrogation is simply said wrong.

What is going to be next? Interrogation by rabbis, priests, or imams?

Anonymous said...

I can't think of anything less enlightening than interviewing anyone in a church.

More people probably hide rather than reveal the truth in churches.

It's all a dog and pony show.

Both candidates could kiss the pope's ring for all I care.

We'll never know what they really think.

So as far as uninformed voters go, we're all in that category and vote anyway.


Bob said...

It doesn't matter what religion political candidates have, as long as they're insincere.

Jason K. said...

Since many early Assembly Halls in our Nation were churches.... and considering that the US Congress Building once hosted a church, it isn't an issue.

While Church and State should be seperate, Politics and Faith should not, and cannot be seperate. Anyone who thinks that, either doesn't have, or fail to understand faith. Faith is more than simply a belief in God, it shapes one's worldview. To suggest someone check their faith at the door, when they step into the ballot box, is akin to telling them not to vote in accordance to their values.

Bob said...

You should not vote in accordance with your values. You should vote in accordance with my values.

The Heretic said...

"You should not vote in accordance with your values. You should vote in accordance with my values."

That's a good one, Bob. I like your humor. (That was just humor, right? right??)


I don't have a problem with faith, or with anyone believing in a supreme being. Unfortunately, history has always demonstrated that when two or three are gathered in somebody's name and concur on faith-based values, you can literally bet your life, liberty and sacred honor that the fourth guy who didn't join the club is going to burn at the stake.

Despite our nation's emphasis on individual rights, we've had a sad history of groups forcing religious values on a secular government.

It took 125 years to pry God from state in our taxpayer-financed public schools. Some folks said prayer is good - especially Protestant prayers from a Protestant version of the Bible - and so we had teachers and administrators trying to impose faith-based values on children of all religions and non-religions. What insanity. And that's just one example.

Mixing state and church is just as much a threat to freedom as allowing terrorists to take over our government. Our forefathers realized the importance of avoiding that. That's why they put a safeguard in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Since Obama and McCain are both guilty of aiding and abetting religious takeover of our government, I'm voting for myself as President.

Anonymous said...

You should vote using a random number generator.


Anonymous said...

Try this:

I did and asked for 1 random integer between 0 and 1 and assigned 0 to McCain and 1 to OBama.

It looks like I'm voting Obama.


Iztok said...

To Rick Warren:

Let me get this straight. You think the Creator of the Universe cares personally about your life, and that you know, with absolute certainty, what he wants for all of humankind.

While I think that we’re basically alone, not very special, and are just fumbling through our random existence trying to do the best we can.

And I’m the arrogant one?