Monday, August 18, 2008

Black, White, & Gray

Saturday night, I watched a bit of the Saddleback Civil forum where Barack Obama and John McCain separately answered questions posed by Pastor Rick Warren.

There were several interesting things in this. The first is the complete difference in the personalities between the two. Obama was thoughtful and nuanced in his responses, talking about his points but also acknowledging that people who claim the same God and the same Jesus can interpret things differently. McCain was straightforward and unwavering in his positions on life, on the war, and on government.

To me, this is what the crux of the entire election is going to come down to and is indicative of a shift in thinking by both Christians and nonChristians. How much nuance is allowed? People that want black and white in their thinking: right and wrong, good and evil, clearly defined; these people are going to tend toward McCain. And by the applause he received from the Saddleback audience (3 times for every 1 that Obama got, according to MSNBC), quite a few Christians will tend toward him. However, people that acknowledge that there can be gray areas in belief will tend toward Obama.

What do the American people want? In times of crisis (war, down economy, etc.), will we trend toward the straight talker or the nuancer?

Another thing that I found very interesting was the unwillingness of Obama to back down from his beliefs and convictions. Appearing in such a forum was putting him at a natural disadvantage. Obama knows that he's not going to get a lot of evangelical votes, but what this does is say, "Yes, we disagree, but if I become president, I'm not going to be a boogeyman against Christians. I'm willing to dialogue." And for the "younger evangelicals," this is a big deal. Younger Evangelicals seek conversation and discussion, especially from people with different viewpoints. And even if they don't agree on everything, they can find levels of agreement.

All in all, an interesting night that really highlighted the differences between the two candidates.

btw, there is now apparently some dispute on whether McCain knew about the questions ahead of time. He wasn't in a "cone of silence," but in his limo on the way to the church. The McCain staff says he didn't watch it.

Video interview with Rick Warren. The part about McCain and the limo starts at :55.


tdadpete said...

Hey Phil, I think you got it right regarding nuance vs. blacknwhite. I hope you're wrong about how many evangelical votes Obama gets. I think it depends on who you consider and evangelical. If you mean "religious right," then I agree with you. I just don't agree that that's identical to "evangelical."

Suzie said...

I don't think McCain heard the questions in advance because throughout he kept asking Warren, "Are we going to talk about ________ later?"...."Are you going to ask about _________ later?"

I think the most glaring difference to me other than the different political views is McCain's experience. Obviously because he is older, he had more history to draw from. He seemed to be able to talk more in absolutes because he had more experiences to draw from. I also thought he was more personable which surprised me. You make a good point between the nuance and the black/white answers. It will be an interesting campaign. i appreciate Saddleback holding the forum. I almost like its format better than the debates.

Chris said...

Oh come on, Phil. Obama was a complete disaster.

According to Obama, which I wish had been brought out, if a baby is born alive, that was intended to be aborted, Obama would not allow medical care to save the baby. Just throw it out with the garbage.

What you saw Sat. night is a man with a lifetime of core values vs. a man with no values.

I think the media has to invent a reason why Obama was such a disaster.

Jonathan said...


I have said repeatedly that I would have been completely in, fully in support of the federal bill that everybody supported - which was to say --that you should provide assistance to any infant that was born - even if it was as a consequence of an induced abortion. That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. What that bill also was doing was trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade. By the way, we also had a bill, a law already in place in Illinois that insured life saving treatment was given to infants.

So for people to suggest that I and the Illinois medical society, so Illinois doctors were somehow in favor of withholding life saving support from an infant born alive is ridiculous. It defies commonsense and it defies imagination and for people to keep on pushing this is offensive and it's an example of the kind of politics that we have to get beyond. It's one thing for people to disagree with me about the issue of choice, it's another thing for people to out and out misrepresent my positions repeatedly, even after they know that they're wrong. And that's what's been happening.

If/how the Illinois bill was significantly different from the federal one is not clear, but he's being pretty clear that he doesn't hold the viewpoint that you've described.

Brian said...

I despair whenever I see Christians judging the competency of a candidate by whether or not he/she meets superficial requirements which have nothing to do with ability to govern or lead. I'm not suggesting that someone with no moral character be elected over some fine upstanding person, but to make it the only criteria is dangerous. The blinkers of Christianity often stop people from seeing good in anyone who is outside their line of vision.

Brian said...

I should also add that I didn't write my comment after reading the other postings, so it was not specifically directed to anyone who had previously posted a comment.

Chris said...


You are a little late. The Obama camp has admitted that the abortion-infanticide bill that he blocked three times in the Illinois senate was identical to the federal version. See:

He has changed his position three times as to why he blocked it.

In addition Michelle Obama states that partial birth abortion, which involves jamming sissors in the back of the skull of a partially born infant and sucking its brains out, is "a legitimate medical procedure."

Justin said...

McCain is a politician. He says what will make people vote for him.

Obama is supposed to be a "new kind of politician". I guess he is, he's so new that its apparently inappropriate to criticize him in any way. I understand that the right wing smear machine is doing its best to take him down, but there are certain things, like this abortion vote, where criticism is deserved. But the Obama camp keeps playing the "its inappropriate in this new age to misrepresent his views like this" blah blah blah.

Anyone here think that Obama hasn't misrepresented John McCain's views at all? If you say no, I've got some Hope and Change I can sell you on the oceanfront in Kansas.

Tony Arnold said...

I determined recently that I will most likely not vote for Obama. Why?

For the simple reason that I have listened directly to, not read about, his ecomonic ideas and plans.

I happen to disagree with his economic philosphy in several key areas although he communicates his thoughts about as well as any candidate I have seen in my lifetime. His ability to communicate is so far beyond GWB it is sad.

It was the economic differenc of opinion that swayed me. An area where the President can have far more impact than he is likely to have in changing the abortion laws.

On moral issues, I listen very carefully and only to direct comments by the candidates in forums where their extended comments can be heard without interruption or edit. I am wary of what I read in print or hear in sound-bites.

I have witnessed too much deception and context manipulation to trust anything but direct conversations and the record of factual votes and actions.

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