Aug 16 2008

Rick Warren, Obama and McCain to talk

Category: abortion,election 2008,McCain,Obama,theologyharmonicminer @ 1:51 pm

On Friday evening, Hannity and Colmes on FOX (with Michael Steele subbing for Hannity) interviewed Richard Land and Tony Campolo in preparation for Rick Warren‘s Saturday interview with Obama and McCain at Saddleback Church.

Land was representing evangelicals from the Right, and Campolo from the Left. This is being written before Warren’s interviews of the candidates. I’ll probably follow up with further comments. But, to set the table:

Warren is a strong evangelical pastor and author who is known for adding more traditionally “liberal” concerns to his list of issues, including the environment and poverty, without releasing his traditional commitments. He is, I suppose, a moderate, politically. He signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, (The entire statement is here.) If Warren has endorsed a candidate, I don’t know about it.

Land did NOT sign the Evangelical Climate Initiative. One presumes this is not because he does not care if the world melts, or boils. He is generally conservative on most social issues. He is generally not in favor of starving the poor, or bombing the capital of any nation that annoys the USA.

Campolo did NOT sign the Evangelical Climate Initiative. That could be because the second paragraph begins with this line, “We are proud of the evangelical community’s long-standing commitment to the sanctity of human life.” Campolo could not credibly sign such a statement, being a very-Left liberal Democrat, even though he probably does agree with the eco-panic expressed in the Evangelical Climate Initiative. He is a member of the Democratic Party platform committee for 2008.

Here is what I’ll be watching for:

1) Will Warren’s questions imply some kind of moral equivalence between concern about global warming and abortion? We can definitely reduce the number of abortions, first by repealing Roe. v. Wade, and then by education and incremental change in the states. It is not clear we can do anything about global warming, if, indeed, it is even happening, and if human activity is even a significant cause. In fact, the data have significantly altered since Warren signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, as NASA corrected earlier errors, and as there have now been two more years that are cooler than the 2nd hottest year of the last 100 years, 1998. It is not clear that warming is happening, certainly not that it is happening fast, and especially unclear that it is human caused. There are no such doubts about abortion… just look in the yellow pages, and no doubts that abortion numbers can be reduced starting with a repeal of Roe v. Wade.

2) Will Warren’s questions imply that the words of Jesus mandate that Christians must try to get the government to solve social problems like poverty and health care? This is manifestly NOT the case. But many Christians who are “moderate” speak as if it is the Christian thing to vote for socialism. Campolo calls himself a “red letter Christian” (as if there could be such a thing), and claims that Jesus’ words for individuals apply to what society should do by force (and therefore what we should vote for). If Obama implies something like this, will Warren call him on it? Or does Warren agree with this?

3) Will Warren ask a question about judicial appointments and philosophy? Does Warren want the same kind of careful originalist interpretation of the Constitution that he presumably applies to the Bible? Not that the two documents are to be equated, but if words mean things, it affects how we read both. In my experience, people who believe in a “living Constitution” do so from a philosophical framework that causes them to read the the Bible with great, uh, elasticity. There are hints in some of Warren’s statements that he holds to a more originalist interpretation of the Constitution. I hope he does this part well.

4) Will Warren question Obama’s relationship with liberation theology, the “social gospel”, etc.? Or will professional courtesy to Rev. Wright prevent this?

5) Will Warren question the candidates on their perspectives re: the “separation of church and state”? The phrase is not in the Constitution, but was found only in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Will Warren remind the candidates of this, and get their responses?

6) Will Warren ask tough follow-up questions when the candidates duck? Or will Warren act as if Christians don’t ask the tough questions, or demand answers to them?

Warren has said a few things I find troubling in the run-up to this. In particular, he talks about divisions between “the religious Right, the religious Left, the secular Left and the secular Right”. I would purely love to hear his identification of the “secular Right”. Who, exactly, would those people be? Can he name ten prominent spokespersons? Similarly, on the religious Left, we will find the mainline denominations (which are dying off fast, and in some cases imploding even faster), and the “emerging church”, whatever that may be…. no one is very interested in defining it, including its adherents, so I’ll reserve judgement. Warren can’t change the fact that overwhelmingly, religious people are from the Right, and equally overwhelmingly, secular people are from the Left. There are outliers on all sides, but those central associations are indisputable, and it’s pointless to pretend that they do not form the central dynamic of this election, and all the relevant issues surrounding it. Yes, there are pro-life atheists, and pro-choice Baptists, and probably pro-war Mennonites and anti-war Aryan Supremacists. But the dynamics are what they are, and pretending otherwise is obfuscatory.

The huge majority of the people who bought his book are pro-life, and vote that way. He’d do well to remember that.

I’ll be TIVOing this whole thing, and writing about it tomorrow.

One Response to “Rick Warren, Obama and McCain to talk”

  1. harmonicminer » Rick Warren, Obama and McCain, post mortem #1 says:

    […] expressed my concerns about how Rick Warren would handle the Obama/McCain interview, I have to express my appreciation […]

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