I’ve clipped a little from a New York Times article. An interview with McCain in 2004 that flows into McCain’s description of a sermon he gave in Hanoi. What’s your response? (I begin with the NYT statement and then McCain’s own evaluation.)
White evangelical and born-again Christians provided their kindred spirit, George W. Bush, with a whopping 78 percent of their votes in 2004. But Mr. McCain just doesn?t speak their language, a point that hit home when I recently reviewed transcripts and notes of interviews I did with Mr. McCain in 1996 at his home in Sedona over July 4th weekend. Twelve years is a long time in politics, but Mr. McCain seems largely the same character now as then, despite some political repositioning. I was intrigued by a passage in which he described leading religious services in Hanoi for fellow prisoners of war. ?Not because of my particular excess of religious zeal,? he explained, ?but because I?d gone to that boarding school and, of course, to the [Naval] Academy, where you had to go to chapel. So I knew all the words to the service.?
Here?s Mr. McCain?s description of a sermon he delivered :
One day I talked about the parable of when they asked Christ whether they should pay taxes and he held up a coin and said, ?Render unto Caesar, etc.? My point was and still is that when we were flying in combat, we weren?t doing God?s work. We were doing Caesar?s work. So for us to go to prison and then ask God to get us out was not fair to God, to our religion, to our beliefs and to ourselves. It wasn?t a miracle that sent a SAM [surface-to-air missile] to hit my airplane. It was a guy, a technician at a SAM site.
I think it was important, a little bit for the stability factor, that it wasn?t God who was going to perform a miracle, end the war and bring us home. It was men. It was Caesar. I think the majority of those guys felt the way I did but we just had some, just as people turn to faith healing and that kind of stuff, we had some of that. A lot of times I would pray for strength and I think sometimes I got it. Pray for patience to get through the next minute when things were bad. I just don?t think it?s fair to expect too much out of what is basically not the Lord?s business.
As you may know, the Civil War was a battle of theology at times — some thought the hand of God was with the North; others with the South. Even when it was over, some in the South still thought God was on their side; some trumpeted that winning the war meant God was on their side. Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural (if I’ve got my facts straight here), was less confident: we don’t always know the providential ways of God in this world.