It appears that Sen. McCain has gone over the religious edge. In a new, exclusive inteview with Beliefnet, McCain reveals to my new colleague Dan Gilgoff – welcome Dan! – a remarkably sectarian view of America.
When John McCain ran for president in 2000 he did so as the captain of the “Straight Talk Express.” He talked bluntly about his views on the economy, our nation’s defense, government, and even faith. And when he did talk about faith, he had tough words for several self-appointed evangelical political leaders calling them “agents of intolerance.”
His was a refreshing voice – seemingly less tempered by poll-tested language and passive aggressive asides. He said what he thought and to an American public tired of political-speak, he was attractive.
Eight years later, that John McCain is long gone. What is left is a man pandering to what he thinks the Christian conservative community wants to hear. It is as if he is trying to sound like the “agents of tolerance” he once critiqued, thinking that will cause Christian conservatives to like him. It is a sad performance.
In the interview he says he says Islam is “basically” an honorable religion. Basically? How would Sen. McCain feel is he was described as “basically” an honorable man? Or that he was “basically” faithful to his wife? I’m guessing he wouldn’t be thrilled. It is a serious mistake for a man who would be leader of a government to be qualifying the integrity of another religion. Unless, that is, Sen. McCain is running for theologian-in-chief.
He says that since the country was founded “primarily on Christian principles…. personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith.” This lead him to call back Dan Gilgoff and qualify the answer saying he would still vote for a Muslim if he thought they were best qualified to lead the country. I’m sorry but that smacks of the “I’m not a racist because I have a black friend” response.
That answer might not be so disturbing save for his answer about whether or not the US is a Christian nation. Yes, he responded, it is, “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”
The Constitution? Really? I missed that. More than 200 years of American jurisprudence has missed that as well. To say the Constitution established America as a Christian nation is very different than saying our Founders were Christians (broadly, broadly defined to include deists) or that there has been a tremendous Christian influence on our country.
In fact, the Constitution pointedly departed from the experience of many of the states which had stated Christianity as an official religion. The Constitution was notable for not establishing Christianity and for not requiring office be limited to Christians.
Sen. McCain will have a lot of explaining to do about this interview. I hope he will resurrect his “Straight Talk Express” and apologize. Perhaps he will say that he said what he mistakenly thought some people wanted to hear as opposed to what he really believed. That would be a good start.