In February 2000, in the heat of the primary campaign with George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain launched an angry attack on what he saw as religious intolerance aimed at him and other like him. He famously called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.” His speech can be found here. It was an important speech and its significance is often lost in that single snappy sound bit about Falwell and Robertson.
McCain said he was resented because, “I don’t pander to them, because I don’t ascribe to their failed philosophy that money is our message.”
What a remarkable statement – McCain attacking the self-appointed pharisees of the time and saying that money isn’t the answer to our problems; John McCain sounding like Jesus in the temple chasing out the money changers. Then McCain did something even more amazing. He talked about his own faith – something he rarely does.
Many years ago, a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam was tied in torture robes by his tormenters and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening, a guard he had never spoken to entered the room and silently loosened the ropes to relieve his suffering. Just before morning, that same guard came back and re-tightened the ropes before his less humanitarian comrades returned.
He never said a word to the grateful prisoner, but some months later on a Christmas morning as the prisoner stood alone in the prison courtyard, the same Good Samaritan walked up to him and stood next to him for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. Both prisoner and guard stood wordlessly there for a minute or two venerating the cross until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.
This is my faith, the faith that unites and never divides, the faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. That is my religious faith and it is the faith I want my party to serve, and the faith I hold in my country. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our creator with unalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is a faith that should buckle our knees.
This weekend in Orlando at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual conference, however, John McCain will be appearing as Jerry Falwell’s guest. He will be pandering. I wonder what that Vietnamese guard would think?