constructing the underdog, part viii: having faith
it's all about your world view
by jeffrey d. walker
This article is part of a series intended to foster open discussions on the issues as we get set to elect the next President of the United States. See more info about the concept here. You're invited to add your two cents by joining the discussion.
[[writer's note: this piece was turned in absolutely, positively, last-minute late [as my editor can tell you]. Sorry, but it was due to a recent religious experience]]
I wasn't planning on address faith in this series. As you may know, I am not religious. Frankly, if anything, I tend to be more of a detractor of religion. I did write this, after all, though that was almost seven years ago, and my motivation back then for writing was more self-seeking.
[[writer's note: we need not dwell on this]]
But this month's piece, originally intended to address other topics, was scrapped last minute, only mere hours before it was supposed to run and two days after it was really due, in favor of this piece on faith. Faith will give us the answers; faith will show us the way to our candidate.
No, I haven't been saved. I am still, at least by the Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 definition, a heathen, "a person who does not believe in an established religion; pagan." Though, I do think pagen sounds a bit harsh.
But after I heard about the presidential candidates being interviewed by a pastor on CNN this past weekend, no other subject matter could be considered.
For those who didn't hear about this,the pastor in question is Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest California. I'd never previously heard of the man, though he is a best-selling author. When I heard a pastor would be interviewing the candidates, I immediately assumed that I would hate most everything about it.
When I sat down to watch instead of finishing my article like I should have, I didn't feel that way at all.
Warren was not smarmy in that way that only someone trying to convert you possesses. He was genuine, a good interviewer for the most part, and surprisingly to me, likable. I also heard that Warren wished to promote "civil discourse" through this forum. Oddly enough, this is the same thing I have intended here in this series. And when I sat down to stream the interview, I was sucked in seconds into Warren's introduction when he stated that “We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is just a world view, and everybody has some kind of world view, and it's important to know what they are."
To that end, I watched as Warren asked each candidate a litany of questions, including: what is your definition of marriage; what is your greatest personal moral failure; what is America's greatest moral failure; give an instance where you've changed your stance on a policy in the last 10 years; at what point does a baby have human rights; and, "Define rich?"
If you haven't watched these debates and are this far into this article, then I think you should. The first part starts here and you can follow the links thereafter.
These clips will dissect several issues much more than I have been able to (which is why I'm watching these, as well as every political analysis' opinion of the same, instead of writing you a column). You might not be surprised that McCain is more forceful with his answers for the most part. And you might not be surprised that some of his answers frighten me a little. You might not be surprised that Obama's answers were sometimes long winded, but I believe that this was to expected in that (meeting at least one expectation I had of Mr. Warren), some of the questions were asked with an obvious right wing slant, which forced Obama to negotiate an answer carefully.
If you (for whatever reason) haven't decided who you're going to vote for, then I suggest that this format may be the best one to help you decide. Don't listen to which one the crowd cheers for more often or louder. Instead, watch the way they answer. Which one seems to have a rehearsed story just for the occasion? Which one sounds like they're considering the question and forming a real answer, and which one sounds like he's repeating something drafted by a script-writer? Which one do you believe can make the decisions you would make, and which sounds like the person you want running this show? And after you consider this question, I'd wonder if you'd leave in the comment section why you think that (first reason, two at the most?)
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
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8.18.08 @ 9:58a
Obama answered the way I'd have answered most of the time. Since I'm an atheist/secular humanist/whatever I'm not crazy about all the faith he has, but his positions on issues mostly match mine. McCain scares me. REALLY scares me. I want to see him try to defeat evil, though, that ought to be good for a few late night jokes. He wants to defeat everything he doesn't like, which is entirely too bellicose for my tastes.
What were you smoking/eating/snorting when you had your religious experience? Now that would be really interesting. I think you should tell us about THAT, unless, of course, you were being sarcastic......which is what I strongly suspect. Or was it satire? I'm always getting those two mixed up.
8.18.08 @ 12:34p
I think it's sarcasm, but I'm no English major. I was referring to the watching this debate held by Warren as my "religious experience", which is about as close to religion as I usually like to get.
Sandra, I agree with your assessment of the candidate's answers 100%. I think the questions were ones McCain could answer easily, and were conversely designed to pose trouble for Obama. Still, I thought Obama's answers were good given wheat was asked, and McCain's answers were, by-in-large, more frightening that I would have anticipated.
8.19.08 @ 6:49a
I agree. It was an interesting exercise, to say the least.
You know who else has an extreme right agenda? Reader's Digest. The latest issue features a "profile" of both candidates, and one is expecting it, in true journalistic style, to be a balanced assessment of both candidates.
While the editors have as much right to express a slanted perspective as, say, the New Yorker or the Atlantic, it's more the style in which both pieces were written that make it blatantly obvious which side the writer favors.
8.19.08 @ 11:31p
I haven't watched this yet, and would prefer not to. I'd much rather grab a transcript to read at my own pace, rather than wading through the tedium of waiting for people to complete a thought.
However, in just the brief portion of what you quoted, Jeff, I've got to take issue with something that Rick Warren said:
we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is just a world view, and everybody has some kind of world view...
Well, no. That's not faith at all. Faith is a God-view. Faith transcends the world; that's the whole point of religion, whether it's Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, whatever. Faith certainly can shape one's worldview; it has a profound influence on how people act. Even those who eschew "religion" can have faith, because it's something that depends on the heart and soul more than the intellect or some sort of theological rulebook.
If Warren honestly equates faith with worldview, then he's a sham -- another clergyman who preaches that the means are more important than the ends, and so negates the need for faith -- or even a deity. What's left is a relativistic moral code; call it "truthiness." And that's a dodge that politicians have embraced since politics was invented.