Obama, floating like a butterfly; McCain, stinging like a bee
By Alisa Craddock
The August 16 match-up at the Saddleback Church was one of the most helpful, most useful events this political season. Even though we didn't get to see McCain and Obama go head to head, we did get to see how each answers identical questions.
My overall impression of Barack Obama, though not entirely negative, was that he is a thoughtful, committed man, just committed to the wrong things for the wrong reasons—at least with regard to those things conservatives most care about. I found this southpaw a bit too Lefty philosophical. Whether he was tiptoeing about to carefully choose how he would say what he knew would not please the Evangelical audience he was wooing, or whether he is just a "perceiver" rather than a "judger", the fact is, he spoke articulately and eloquently, almost persuasively about his positions on issues of importance to many. [I should explain that, in a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a "perceiver" is one who generally will chew on a problem and gather lots of information before coming to a decision, where a "judger" is one who tends to focus on making decisions because they tend to like things decided. This personality aspect is about the way one responds to the world and events around him/her and is not an indication of "indecisiveness" or making "snap judgments". I myself am a perceiver. I tend to lean toward "judgers" as I look at candidates, though, and this is where experience becomes a crucial factor.]
Rev. Warren confronted both men very early on about the 40 million abortions that have occurred in this country and asked, "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view." McCain's response was brief and immediate: At the moment of conception. And he pointed to his 25-year pro-life record in the congress to back it up. Mr. Obama's response was that answering that question with "specificity", whether from a theological or scientific perspective, was "above my pay grade", presumably implying it was God's purview. But he also spoke of evil in terms that "we are not going to be able individually to erase evil from the world – that is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process." And, in a question regarding moral failings of America, he recalled a verse from Matthew (25:40 and 45), "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Can he not, then, recognize the "least of My brethren" in the little ones in the womb? Is maternal infanticide not itself evil, and are we not obligated to be soldiers in that "process" as well?
It was also rather cagey to speak of the "scientific" perspective, since science has already proven that a zygote has its complete, unique set of DNA, and since "all men are created equal, with the unalienable right to life, and almighty science has proven that life begins at conception (like we needed a geneticist to point out the obvious) then the conceived person has human rights, starting with the right to life.
However, I can accept that Mr. Obama views this issue as "above his pay grade", not within his purview. So Senator, why are you promising to sign the "Freedom of Choice Act" as your first official act as President? It's not your decision to make. It's not even Congress's decision to make.
I was happy to hear Mr. Obama say that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman, and that, as a Christian, he also believed that marriage created a sacred union as well. Good enough, but he went on to say he thought that gays should have civil unions, and he used the oft touted reason of one member of a gay couple being able to visit his/her partner in the hospital. Oh if only it were so benign. If you allow civil unions for one kind of non-traditional couple, you open it up for others, and then, of course, the next step would be legalizing marriage for non-traditional couples or groups. There are legal arrangements available to gay couples that don't require the state to acknowledge that they are a couple and confer the benefits of marriage or something comparable upon them. Employers are free to offer benefits to same sex couples if they feel it is in their interest to do so. Obama's use of the term "civil rights" as applied to gay couples is disturbing, but then we know already that Obama has said he'll use the Presidency as a "bully pulpit" to push through "gay rights" legislation, and don't kid yourself "gay rights" means "special rights", and those rights will inevitably clash with other rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution.
The two Senators also came down predictably on the issue of Faith Based Initiatives—that is, McCain would not interfere with the hiring practices of a faith based organization that received federal funding because to start federal meddling in them would nullify their effectiveness, which far outstrips the performance of federal programs. Obama was asked frankly if his Church was offering a public service and wanted to hire only people who believed what his Church believed, his reply was that "When it comes to the programs that are federally funded, we do have to be careful that we are not creating a situation where people are being discriminated against using federal money." Remember, though, this is for hiring of employees, not delivery of services, which would not show any partiality. The implication is that a Christian organization that wants to hire Christians and is not open to hiring, say…a homosexual (that's what this is really about) would be guilty of discrimination, even though the homosexual's lifestyle is inconsistent with the Christian values of the faith based organization and homosexuals are, in fact, hostile to traditional Christian beliefs, so problems would inevitably result.
But regarding Obama's perspective on "discriminating using federal dollars", I corresponded briefly with a physics professor at a major university who told me that back in the 1980's he was one of a group of physicists and theologians who were invited to Castle Gandalfo to meet with Pope John Paul II to discuss science and religion, as the Pontiff was preparing to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Newton's mathematical principles. This professor was astonished to discover that among the theologians was a Lutheran. How did he come to be teaching theology at a Catholic University? Well, in order for the Loyola to qualify for federal dollars for its scientific research programs, it had been required to "diversify" its theology, so a Catholic university had to hire a Luthern theologian, in other words, to adulterate its Catholic identity. So you see, Mr. Obama's perspective that Federal dollars will be used to discriminate is true…sort of. It's just that it is the faith based organization who will be discriminated against.
On the subject of embryonic stem cell research, his position was that he would endorse the use of frozen embryos that were going to be discarded anyway. Of course, pro-lifers don't believe they should be discarded, but to my mind, using them for research because they are going to be discarded (destroyed) anyway is morally equivalent to conducting dangerous experiments on death row inmates because they're going to die anyway. McCain also skirted the issue, never specifically saying he favored research using embryonic stem cells (which he has in the past, but which would be inconsistent with his stated belief that human rights are conferred at the moment of conception). But he favored using cell lines derived from skin cells, and that, hopefully, as alternative and equally promising methods of deriving stem cells were developed, the debate would be moot.
On the issue of Supreme Court Justices, Obama lined up squarely on the side of the Left wing "bench legislators". When asked to name the Supreme Court Justice he would not have chosen, he named Clarence Thomas. He almost slipped and said Thomas wasn't "experienced" enough, but caught himself (that would not look good, considering his own lack of experience, though Thomas has performed quite well in the job). He said that he didn't think Thomas was an ex…a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at that time for that elevation. He rejected Scalia without dressing it up—they just have a completely different interpretation of the Constitution. Not surprisingly, McCain chose the conservatives as the kind he would have nominated, and especially lauded the President for his choices of Roberts and Alito. This is perhaps the most important issue conservatives are looking at, because Supreme Court justices have the power to save or destroy our country, and we want justices who are faithful to their oath to preserve the Constitution of the United States as envisioned by our Founders.
On the issue of taxes, while McCain reiterated his opposition to increasing taxes on people in a struggling economy, and also railed about irresponsible spending which is a particular thorn in people's side as their economic woes increase and there's no bread in the larder (or won't be in another ten years). Obama insists that if we want good schools, good roads, college for the kids, if we don't want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation, then we've got to pay for these things. But let's face it: you don't get in debt unless you are spending more than you have. Congress violated its trust by its out-of-control spending. They have mortgaged our future, and now they want us to bail them out with burdensome taxes. And both parties are guilty. This isn't just a liberal issue. But it's an important issue. Congress should not ask the American people to make sacrifices when they themselves are "pigging out" at our expense.
Finally, I will close by quoting Mr. Obama himself. Again on the subject of evil. He said that it is important to have humility in how we approach confronting evil, because a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the idea that we were trying to confront evil…[that is] in the name of good. I think this is one thing all Christians, and indeed all Americans can agree on. But has Obama plumbed the depths of true evil? Can he see the big picture?
"Just because we think our intentions are good," he said, "doesn't mean we're going to be doing good."
(I couldn't have said it better myself…)
Alisa Craddock is a columnist and activist in the culture war, a convert to Catholicism, and describes herself as a Christian Libertarian. She may be contacted at alisa.craddock at hushmail.com.