With anticipation my bride of 58 years and I got settled into our easy chairs, had the popcorn and muffins in abundance ready to watch the much publicized spiritual “super bowl” at the California Saddleback Forum.
The forum was held in the mega-sized Saddleback Church (formerly Southern Baptist) and was under the direction of the pastor, Rick Warren. Warren is the author of the largest selling hardback book (except the Bible) in American history.
The purpose was to give Obama and McCain an opportunity to dialogue on matters of faith and insight with Pastor Rick. Obama went first after a coin toss. One of the first things Warren said was that John McCain didn’t hear any of the questions in advance. Saying McCain was in a “cone of silence.” That comes from the “Get Smart” television comedy in which the “cone of silence” seldom worked.
Apparently it didn’t work Saturday night either, as McCain was on his way to the church the first half hour of questioning - then in a room without TV or radio until he was called on. His wife Cindy made it on time for the forum with a good seat near the front.
Rick Warren was a George W. Bush cheerleader in 2004. This year he is claiming neutrality in the presidential election campaign. If Rick can build such a huge church and make $25 million on a book, surely he could have the two contestants on board before starting the show.
I know this event was more important than a football game, but the coin-flip procedure traditionally takes place on the 50-yard line for all to see and with both team captains standing there with the refs. That part of the forum should have been first with both candidates humbly facing Rick the ref.
In all the lead-up to the Forum, Rick Warren indicated the questions would not be social wedge issues like abortion, gay marriage, but on weightier issues. War is a moral issue far more important. I do not doubt McCain’s prison camp story of a meeting a guard who drew a cross in the sand. The same story was told by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1973, too. Barack Obama, facing the moderator, listened intently and answered thoughtfully. Quite a contrast to the bombastic stump language as McCain faced the crowd with his answers (often given before Rick finished the question).
Richard Pierard, retired professor of history at Indiana State University, writes about the question of the candidate’s major moral failure: “The question about moral failures in their lives was particularly revealing. McCain just tossed off the example of his failed first marriage as an uncommented-upon one liner. He didn’t deal with his conduct that led to its failure, how his first wife suffered or any discussion about how he established the relationship with his second wife - obviously (that is, it ought to be in the eyes of the ‘pro-family’ evangelicals) a moral failure that is as great in magnitude.”
The two-hour show was something short of the Spiritual Super Bowl excitement Rick Warren suggested. (And to those readers who suggest I leave the country, send those suggestions to the editor.)
One last serious word from historian Richard Pierard: “As our economy and international reputation crumble around us, we are facing the greatest crisis since 1860. Do we as a people follow the do-nothing path of slogans and buzzwords, or do we make the hard decisions that will redirect us from the path of destruction we are now following? The choice lies in the hands of every voter.”
Britt Towery is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author of “Carey Daniel’s China Jewell, Story of the Gal from Buffalo Gap.” His columns are published in the Bulletin on Fridays. He welcomes reader feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other columns are available on his Web site, www.britt-towery.blogspot.com.