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Obama’s very big night in the desert…

posted by David Kuo

Note – Most of my blogging now occurs at Culture11.com a new media company. My blog is here.
John McCain had a good night at Rick Warren’s forum on faith and character and so on. Barack Obama had a better night. How much better? We’ll find out in a few months.
It isn’t that Obama out performed McCain. He didn’t “out Jesus” him or “out evangelical-ize” him. The crowd seemed to favor McCain a bit.
But that’s the thing.
He didn’t need to. For Obama a draw was a massive win.
Here was an audience of evangelicals in one of the most conservative counties in the United States. They interrupted him with applause on numerous occasions. They gave him a standing ovation. And HE is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Think this ever happened to John Kerry in 2004?



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maxcat06

posted August 17, 2008 at 3:30 am


Thank you, David….all I’ve been hearing from the “talking heads” is how McCain “nailed it”. I didn’t see it that way, and it’s refreshing to see that someone else saw Obama give a positive performance.



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suspicious

posted August 17, 2008 at 9:43 am


Wasn’t John McCain fed the questions beforehand, leading him to preempt questions he wasn’t supposed to know about (like, about Supreme Court Justices?) If so, that’s a big story.



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Doug

posted August 17, 2008 at 10:12 am


The President shouldn’t be the pastor-in-chief but seems to be. Other than the current President’s father, everyone who won the office was good at preaching. God analysis.



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johnny7

posted August 17, 2008 at 10:21 am


You obviously didn’t watch it… do yourself a favor and pick up the transcript.



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Paul,seeking wisdom

posted August 17, 2008 at 11:34 am


Both said what I expected them to say. But Obama said it with clarity and defined himself more as a thinker, while McClain just rattled off antidotes, stories and pat answers.
I know now a little of how Obama thinks but McClain is just locked into a mind set that doesn’t allow for compromise. Just like Bush, I speaks without forethought and reacts without reflection.
So, in my mind, for people who think, Obama is a winner and for people who act on gut reactions, McCain is a winner.
McCain preached the bully pulpit, Obama spoke of America’s needs.



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Nan Erickson

posted August 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm


Well, I have to say I felt uncomfortable about one of John McCain’s stories last night – the one about the Cross in the dirt. A couple weeks ago I read an eerily similar story in the book Gulag Archipelago, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn was a Russian historian and author who passed away earlier this month and the news articles about him piqued my interest. Which led me to check out a couple of his books from my library, one of which was Gulag Archipelago.
Gulag Archipelago was written in 1963 in Russia and chronicled Solzhenitsyn’s experiences in a Russian labor camp. The book briefly circulated in Russia, was suppressed by the Russian Government for several years and then translated into enlish and published in the western world in 1973.
I returned the Solzhenitsyn books to the library several days ago so have been looking online today to refresh my memory about the Cross in the Dirt story. I found this reference:
———————————–
[From Luke Veronis, “The Sign of the Cross”; Communion, issue 8, Pascha 1997]
“Along with other prisoners, he worked in the fields day after day, in rain and sun, during summer and winter. His life appeared to be nothing more than backbreaking labor and slow starvation. The intense suffering reduced him to a state of despair.
On one particular day, the hopelessness of his situation became too much for him. He saw no reason to continue his struggle, no reason to keep on living. His life made no difference in the world. So he gave up.
Leaving his shovel on the ground, he slowly walked to a crude bench and sat down. He knew that at any moment a guard would order him to stand up, and when he failed to respond, the guard would beat him to death, probably with his own shovel. He had seen it happen to other prisoners.
As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.
As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.
Solzhenitsyn slowly rose to his feet, picked up his shovel, and went back to work. Outwardly, nothing had changed. Inside, he had received hope.”
———————————–
I’m not going to make any judgements about whether or not John McCain had an alike experience with a guard in Vietnam but the similarity between his story and the one Solzhenitsyn chronicled does make me feel uneasy.



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Paul, seeking wisdom

posted August 17, 2008 at 2:57 pm


You mean that “Honest John” may have plagiarized a story to boost his support among the Evangelicals? He wouldn’t do that, would he?
what other stories has he told? Like he supports green bills and then never votes for them? He opposes lobbyists then records show that he is in the pocket of big oil? He supports the little business and the working man but rejects higher pay for non-union workers AKA the minimum wage.
John McCain is a hawk who believes in the sanctity of life for the unborn yet is willing to sacrifice the lives of young Americans for the wealth of the oil industry, how Christian is that? He wants to close down public education and have tax payers pay for private education. He opposes comprehansive medical coverage for all americans and wants government funding to private medical groups.
I don’t think the questions where varied enough, they seem to favor conservative and rightist values while not addressing the rest of the needs of America, the right of health, liberty and the pursute of happiness.



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Thinker

posted August 17, 2008 at 3:45 pm


I thought the questions were fair and both answered fairly well. However, he story about the cross in the dirt – I’ve heard it about many people over the years. John made that one up. Obama was very good, very thoughtful while McCain seemed to be speaking a language foreign to him.
I agree with Paul seeking wisdom. If we want an impulsive, thoughtless and rigid kinda guy – McCain’s our man.



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Boone

posted August 17, 2008 at 4:29 pm


I generally don’t take time to comment on other bloggers’ postings, but in this case it seems appropriate.
John McCain was in a N. Vietnamese facility used to house and torture prisoners of war. That much we know. John McCain has been telling that same story for years with very little change, which we know also. His story is in a recent issue of Time Magazine as well.
What we don’t know is whether or not the “cross in the dirt” story actually took place, and since we don’t have the N. Vietnamese torturer here to verify, you simply have to trust John McCain.
What this also means is that basically, if you find Senator McCain trustworthy, you probably will believe his story. If you don’t, you’re more likely to be cynical about it–from what I can tell.
Faulting him for telling a story about receiving hope from a N. Vietnamese torturer is no good… and debating whether or not the story really took place is also no good. Its something that will never be solved, and by being cynical about it, you are telling more about yourself than you are about the Senator from Arizona.



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urraca

posted August 17, 2008 at 6:36 pm


John McCain first told the story of the cross in the dirt publicly in 1999, around the time he was preparing for his first presidential run. It is missing from his 1973 account of his time in prison, though there are other stories of decent behaviour by the guards, without references to Christianity.



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canucklehead

posted August 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm


Solzheneezenburger (spelling isn’t my strong suit) couldn’t have had that Cross drawn in the dirt experience before McCain, b/c isn’t God duty bound to reveal himself to Americans first?



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Brian Horan aka New Age Cowboy

posted August 17, 2008 at 11:52 pm


After the excesses of the Bush years, and the majority of ways in which McCain lines up with Bush – I’d say Evangelicals aren’t the most discerning group of folks. I don’t know how it speaks for the Evangelical movement.



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Jimmied

posted August 18, 2008 at 8:04 pm


Obama’s standing “O”. The only standing “O” I saw was at the very end of Obama’s question period. One guy stood up to applaud in the first row. It was not until Pastor Warren came around the desk and met with Obama that the crowd rose to applaud. It was more a gesture of courtesy than an affirmation of Obama! You want to say he received a standing “O” go ahead, you have now entered the stable of most of the rest of the main stream media ie: NBC, CBS, ABC,MSNBC and CNN with it’s bias toward Obama. The evangelical audience ARE a discerning group and hopeful. I am sure they were hoping to see something more from the young senator who is touting change as the pillar of his campaign than the same old political pandering that he says he wants to change. Not even a good try senator! I didn’t like McCain prior to this program but it is apparent that Obama is a “lightweigt” compared to the senior senator from Arizona!



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Michael Heath

posted August 18, 2008 at 10:11 pm


While I agree with your central point, you mischaracterize the audience (easy to do, I assumed the same as you), to what extent I do not know. Tonight Pastor Rick Warren on either Hannity and Colmes or Larry King divulged that both candidates were given an equal number of tickets to the event. Pastor Warren did not communicate what percentage of the overall audience that was, but both candidates did have supporters in the audience.



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Steve

posted August 19, 2008 at 10:10 pm


I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking on your part or not, but it Obama didn’t even come close to “winning” that forum versus McCain. Remember Obama is the one who doesn’t want to “punish his daughter with a baby” and let her have an abortion. It’s above his pay grade to have an opinion on when life begins? C’mon, give me a break!
David, I think it’s just a matter of you seeing what you want to see.



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Rob

posted August 20, 2008 at 12:42 am


I believe Obama showed the reverence for life I look for in national leaders. It really is above any human being’s “pay grade” to determine when life begins. After all, the Bible speaks of “before I was in my mother’s womb, you knew me,” life beginning not at conception, but before it.
What government can do is to resolve the conflicting rights of unborn child, mother, and others. Some would say the resolution is always in favor of the unborn child, others would say it’s always the decision of the mother, and some of us actually believe the path of righteousness is nuanced.
I happen to oppose abortion in most instances, but I also think the state should never deny it to a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy. An adopted child who brought our family tremendous joy happens to have resulted from her mother’s rape, but I would never suppose the state ought to lock up a rape victim to make sure she carries the child to term. Obama is right, women are capable of making these decisions for themselves. Some humility on the part of those not carrying a child in their bodies seems to be in order.



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Laura in WA

posted August 20, 2008 at 2:45 am


I also thought Obama did well. He and McCain approached the forum entirely differently. Obama was having a conversation. McCain was delivering stump speeches. I guess each approach will appeal to some people, but I got the feeling that Obama’s approach was what Rick Warren originally had in mind (he cautioned them both about NOT delivering “stump speeches.”)
From a theological perspective, what stood out most for me was their differing responses on the question about evil. I thought Obama got it EXACTLY right, saying that yes, evil exists, yes we should combat it, but no, we humans won’t be able to completely eliminate it from the Earth (that’s God’s job), and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, that we must approach efforts to combat evil with humility or we risk perpetrating evil as we attempt to fight it.
McCain’s response, while it may have worked better as an “applause line”, lacked any depth. In fact, it made me fear that he’d continue and maybe even enhance Bush’s “rid the world of evil” approach to foreign policy, which is what gave us the Iraq war. (Saddam is evil, he must be taken out, and if to achieve that goal we have to fudge evidence about WMD’s or links to 9/11, so be it…see Obama’s point about how without humility, we can commit evil while trying to fight it.)



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charles cosimano

posted August 20, 2008 at 10:11 pm


If Obama has any bigger nights he will lose 49 states.



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Taamar

posted August 21, 2008 at 9:11 pm


Senator Obama came across as sincere and thoughtful in his responses. I feel like after Senator McCain confirmed his position on when life begins, he could have dropped his shorts afterwards and it would have been okay. He accomplished what he needed to and gave people who are 1 issue people what they needed. I feel like he gave a performance, albeit one of the best I’ve ever seen from him.To be honest it seemed very uncharacteristic compared to all the other scripted and non-scripted presentations I’ve seen and heard from him. I won’t make accusations but you can compare for yourself. The tough talk “following Bin Laden to the gates of hell”, what does that really mean? If he knows how and where to find him, why is he keeping it secret? It may sound good but is simply the kind of rheteric that President Bush recently said he would take back when challenging the bad guys to bring it on! It may work for some, but it seems unprofessional, unChristian, and just out of step with real world diplomacy, not to mention he can’t be backed up.



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canucklehead

posted August 22, 2008 at 12:32 am


McCain’s tough talk about Osama is all well and good. I recall a certain President immediately post 9-11 talking the same way. Seven years later, Osama still hasn’t been caught, Afghanistan is a total screw-up with the Taliban now targeting international aid workers and Iraq has become a quagmire which nobody knows for sure how it will end.
And some of you guys are going to vote for a guy who gives every indication of more of the last seven years!!!???
Simply unfathomable!



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Minister Joseph D. Railey

posted August 23, 2008 at 9:06 pm


Praise the Lord.
Greeting you in the name of Jesus christ the author and finisher of our faith.The express image of God is person and also the invisible image of God. I am a born again Christian, December 17 will mark my 29 years of the new birth. I have lived in America for almost twenty years, i immigrated from Liberia, west africa, October 22/89. I have learned a lot during my twenty years in the United States especially the presidential election beginning with Bill clinton. i am not a conservative or a liberal but a child of God living the God’s kingdom on earth although i am a minister in the united Methodist church based in Alexandria, Virginia, but I belonged to the universal catholic church of Christ, I am sorry if i doubled spoke, because catholic is defined as the universal church of Christ, but not in the same category as the so called Roman catholic institution.
Abortion is wrong in the sight of God and some men per-se, killing of the innocent in the mother’s wong is considered a murder, I will never encouraged my 22 and 14 1/2 years old to perform it. I deplored wade versus Roe, almost thirty years ago that has shamed America and the future dampen for America as a super power given by God. The founder father reverend Smith who left England with some three hundred settlers for the new world and settled in James town, Virginia, the same location the freed slaves who migrated to my country called Liberia, west Africa in 1822, which modeled after America, and American failed to reconized this independent country until after one hundred years, praise God for England and France who reconized Liberia.
You are right “life never begins at concession but from God” The angel Gabriel called Jesus that Holy thing and Jeremiah was told that before He formed him He knew him, pre-existing may be the bible only narrated Jesus the Christ as pre-existing, but only speaks believers of predestinating, and fore-ordained ok that is a different subject. i loved American conservatives they are very progressive and the demorcrats are no match for them, but there politics is sometimes troubling due to the fact that we’re surrounded with a cloud of witness, out lifestyles speaks for the true child of God that he was redeemed by Christ. I don’t like when Republicans make this evil of abortion a compaign issue i will correspond three points.
1. America is a freed country and anybody does whatsoever they want to do, Abortion and Gun rights and freedom of speech to name a few. Let examine the debate between John Arminian and John Calvin of “free will” you might used your free will to glorify God, but the sinner’s might use his free will to commit murder by aborting the innocent child in her womb. John Calvin poimt was concrete on predestination of certains believers and are elected by grace to go to heaven, Arminian said no if the person used his free will to obey God or not God still loves him but the end justified the means, it speaks of inclusion into the king of God and His Christ, who soever will let him come i will
not cast out. There were million of eggs during concession, but God in His infinite wisdom choose you and me.
2. “The weapon of prayer” The Republicans has been using this abortion and Homosexual as a wedge issue between they and Democrats to their advantage but i fear that one of these day it might backfire, are they interested eliminating abortion if they care about the unborn, the supreme is a gift given them when president George Bush appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the supreme court bench why not used them to bring this crime to an end or christians should stage a protest led by the Republicans to bring an end to this gruesome crime of killing babies.This is not a every four years protest as a prelude for electoral votes, the bible says be not deceive God is not mock, what so ever a man doeth that he should reap. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will answer the effective fervent prayer of the righteous if Republican call for a 40 days fast and prayer to bring abortion to an end nothing is powerful than prayer.
3. If the Republican care about abortion why are they not reaching out to the poor black and white young adults who cannot aford bringing up a baby, running political ads to wins votes is not enough, the book of James says that to him who knows how to do good and do it not it is a sin. Most Republican are wealthy people, it not perception but reality, if we gave tax cut to the wealthy, why can find solutions to save a life. We should not sounds like John Edwards that there are two Americas, but was involved in extra marital affairs and gave $100.000 to that woman and fathered her child. John Mcain told the audience what they want to hear, but i believed that he does care for the unborn who are slaughter every day in the medical centers of America, neither Barack Obama care for the unborn but for their political gains. Is it true that John Mcain and his wife owns eight houses? November 3rd we will get out of bed to welcome the new commander in lies of this great democracy that is eroding. My brother our kingdom is not of this world, the Republican or democratic parties are Jesus but opportunist for earthly glory, Maranatha Jesus is coming again. God bless you Amen.



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forward

posted August 24, 2008 at 5:49 pm


We really need to question the character of John McCain. Not only did he probably “borrow” the cross in the dirt story from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but as it turns out he was probably “listening in” to Obama’s questions and answers during Saddleback. Further, (and nobody in the media seems to be talking about this), he is an adulteror. He cheated on his first wife even while she was crippled and recovering from deforming back surgury.



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Thinker

posted August 26, 2008 at 12:06 pm


OK – one of my students had Barack Obama in her living room last night listening to his wife’s speech. She is still floating on air. She commented on how focused he was and how happy he was for her. What a neat evening!



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aquaman

posted August 26, 2008 at 4:49 pm


That’s awesome, Thinker!! How did that happen??



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James Banks

posted November 8, 2008 at 3:27 pm


I’d say that election night pretty much said how the two candidates stood with evangelical voters. While the evangelical block may have been a liability for McCain, there is no question as to whether or not he was truly their candidate: he took home 74% of their vote. Yes, this is a drop from George W. Bush in 2004 (78%), but it was decidedly better than Bush did against Al Gore, or how George Bush, Sr. and Bob Dole did against Bill Clinton. Furthermore, unlike in 2004, the wedge-issues such as gay marriage were not nearly as profound. Instead, there was an unpopular war in Iraq (though this has become less of an issue as the surge has been more or less successful) and the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. All this is to say that if there are many evangelicals who plan on jumping ship (as we have been told numerous times) this election is not good evidence of that.



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