Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama, McCain and Evil.

One of the most telling differences between McCain and Obama in the Saddleback church interview cam out when the two candidates were asked about evil.
Both candidates agreed that evil exists but as to its nature and what to do with it, they gave very distinct answers:

WARREN: Okay we've got time for one last [question] -- I've got a bunch more [but] let me ask you ask you one in evil. Does evil exist and if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it or do we defeat it?
OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who have viciously abused their children and I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, you know, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task. But we can be soldiers in that process and we can confront it when we see it. Now the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil. But, you know, a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.
WARREN: In the name of "good?"
OBAMA: In the name of good. And I think one thing that's very important is having some humility in recognizing that, you know, just because we think our intentions are good, it doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good.

WARREN: How about the issue of evil? I asked this of your rival in the previous thing. Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?
McCAIN: Defeat it. Couple of points, one, if I'm President of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that and I know how to do that. I will get that done. No one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives. Of course evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcendant challenge of the 21st century, radical Islamic extremists. Not long ago in Baghdad, Al Queda took two young women who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and by remote control detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is and we're going to defeat this evil and the central battle ground according to David Petraeus and Osama Bin Laden is the battles -- is Baghdad, Mosul and Iraq and we are winning and we are succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and victory and not defeat and that's what's happening. We have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us Al Queda contunues to try to establish cells here in America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge and we must totally defeat it and we're in a long struggle, but when I'm around the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt.
For his answer, McCain got more applause from the evangelical audience at Saddleback church. Yet there seems to be a lot of arrogance in McCain's claim that America should and can defeat evil.
From a Christian perspective, his view is not only arrogant, it is even close to blasphemy as it puts America in God's role. Obama, on the other hand, stresses the fact that even Americans are only God's tool ("soldiers")in the confrontation with evil. And by the way, noweher in the bible is America mentioned as a nation that will defeat evil. In fact, no nation, other than Israel (and that would be Ancient Israel) is God's chosen nation to accomplish His deed, and it is He who can (and will) defeat evil.
Now as to the nature of evil, it is also a strange view to limit evil to radical Islamic extremists. I suppose that made the audience feel comfortable (if not self-righteous) since McCain implied that evil is only foreign and "other". Phew!
Obama's view seemed a lot more in line with what the bible says: evil is everywhere, even in our own lives. This is, after all, the very idea of the "original sin".
From a non-Christian perspective, it is even worse - it is non-sensical and dangerous. It is sedning the wrong signal to the rest of the world by associating foreign policy with religion and faith - a highly explosive mix. The fact that McCain has been making many references to "Judeo-Christian" values to justify his world view only adds to the confusion. It is one thing to make war for freedom, it is another to make it for "Judeo-Christian" values.


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