Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

McCain13.jpgJohn McCain kicked off his Service to America tour yesterday in Mississippi, with an autobiographical speech that he’ll no doubt revisit in coming days as he tries to reintroduce himself to American voters. Considering his overly documented problems with the GOP’s evangelical base, God-o-Meter was surprised that he omitted any discussion of his personal faith. GOM identified four instances in the speech that might pass as “faith-talk”:

1. By his own admission, [my grandfather] never learned to fly well. A subordinate recalled later, “the base prayed for his safe return each time he flew.”
2. My father seldom spoke of my captivity to anyone outside the family, and never in public. He prayed on his knees every night for my safe return.
3. I have lived a blessed life, and the first of my blessings was the family I was born into. I had not only the example of my distinguished male relations, and their long tradition of military service.
4. The family I was born to, and the family I am blessed with now, made me the man I am…

Futher along in the speech, however, McCain makes what could be a veiled pitch to the Christian Right, laying out his views on the primacy of family and the government’s role in protecting the family unit as the building block of society, inveighing against taxes and welfare. He tied those views to his own experiences, all of which strikes God-o-Meter as pretty uncharacteristic of McCain:

The family I was born to, and the family I am blessed with now, made me the man I am, and instilled in me a deep and abiding respect for the social institution that wields the greatest influence in the formation of our individual character and the character of our society. I may have been raised in a time when government did not dare to assume the responsibilities of parents. But I am a father in a time when parents worry that threats to their children’s well-being are proliferating and undermining the values they have worked to impart to them. That is not to say that government should dictate to parents how to raise their children or assume from parents any part of that most personal and important responsibility. No government is capable of caring for children as attentively and wisely as the mother and father who love them. But government must be attentive to the impact of its policies on families so that it does not through inattention or arrogance make it harder for parents to have the resources to succeed in the greatest work of their lives – raising their children. And where government has a role to play, in education, in combating the threats to the security and happiness of children from online predators, in helping to make health care affordable and accessible to the least fortunate among us, it must do so urgently, effectively and wisely.
Tax policy must not rob parents of the means to care for their children and provide them the opportunities their parents provided them. Government spending must not be squandered on things we do not need and can’t afford, and which don’t address a single American’s concern for their family’s security. Government can’t just throw money at public education while reinforcing the failures of many of our schools, but should, through choice and competition, by rewarding good teachers and holding bad teachers accountable, help parents prepare their children for the challenges and opportunities of the global economy. Government must be attentive to the impact on families of parents who have lost jobs in our changing economy that won’t come back. Our programs for displaced workers are antiquated, repetitive and ineffective. Many were designed for a time when unemployment was seasonal or a temporary consequence of an economic downturn, not for a time when systemic changes wrought by the growing global economy have, while promising undreamt of opportunities for ourselves and many historically poor societies, have cost too many parents the jobs they had assumed would be theirs for life.
With the loss of work and the resources it provides families, come just as injurious losses to the emotional health of families. Work provides more than an income. It is a source of self-worth, pride and sense of purpose. Children learn as much from observation as instruction. The mother or father who has lost hope along with their job can unintentionally impart that hopelessness to their children. A welfare check can’t give a parent a sense of purpose. And among the most important things children can inherit from their parents is a sense of purpose, and an aspiration to be part of something bigger than themselves.

That must have been music to James Dobson’s ears. Yesterday, it was Dobson who seemed to issue a veiled invitation to McCain to make peace with the Christian Right by reversing his support for expanded federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. With all eyes on the interminable Democratic race, could McCain and the “pro-family” movement could be engaged in a furtive courtship?


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