Apart from the fact that there is something odd about a political meeting in an evangelical megachurch, the whole idea of having two presidential candidates go through religious interrogation by an evangelical minister is highly questionable. It is as close to a religious test as it can get, a test which the Constitution clearly prohibits.
[Article VI: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."]
Of course, one will easily argue that this was not a "legal test" after all and that Obama and McCain are free agents who can choose to be interviewed by whomever they see fit, but it seems to me to be in contradiction with the spirit of the Constitution, if not the letter and, as Susan Jacoby notes in her Newsweek/Washington-Post article
, it may set a worrisome precedent for future campaigns.
Of course, Pastor Rick Warren knew this and he defused criticisms from the start of the interview by saying "we believe in the separation of church and state, we don't believe in the separation of faith and politics. Faith, is just a worldview, and everybody has some kind of worldview. It's important to know what they are."
Warren seemed genuine enough and in many ways, he promotes a very interesting new brand of "evangelical christianity" but while his views may indeed reflect those of many (younger?) evangelical christians, it seems to me that the candidates should have not agreed to submit themselves to something so close to a religious test, with an audience clearly biased on so many issues. The result was that they both tried to give answers they knew were "expected" of them and the whole thing sounded hollow.
Yet surprisingly, there were some noticeable very telling differences that transpired.
(to be continued)
By the way, in case you have never heard of Rick Warren, know that he was named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" in the October 31, 2005 issue of U.S. News and World Report
, he was elected by TIME magazine
as one of 15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most in 2004 and one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" (2005) and Newsweek
magazine called him one of "15 People Who Make America Great", an award given to people who, through bravery or generosity, genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others.