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.