Blog Post

Evangelical Leaders Say McCain Won at Saddleback

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer Christian leaders from across the nation are calling John McCain (R-AZ) the clear winner after he and Barack Obama (D-IL) appeared together on Saturday night for the first time since the presidential campaign began at one of the largest evangelical churches in the United States. McCain and Obama each shared an hour with Dr. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and author of “A Purpose Driven Life.” Dr. Warren asked each candidate the same questions about their personal values, abortion, marriage, education, stem cell research, and their vision for the United States. Following the event, a teleconference, sponsored by News gathered evangelicals from around the country to discuss the presumptive candidates’ responses. A report by the Catholic News Agency highlights the discussion of these leaders about how the candidates responded to two of the most controversial social issues of our time – abortion and same sex marriage. In response to Dr. Warren’s question, “At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?” Obama said a determination about when life begins is “above my pay grade.” He went on to say: “I am pro-choice because, ultimately, I don't think women make these decisions casually. Rather, they wrestle with these things in profound ways.” He also pointed out that he is in favor of limits on late-term abortions as long as there is an exception for the health of the mother.  Sen. McCain responded very quickly to the question, saying he believes life begins “At the moment of conception. I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies.” During the teleconference, Janet Folger, president and founder of Faith2Action noted that “John McCain, without hesitation, bang, life begins at conception, he gets it. The judges that he would appoint, he made it very, very clear. I think he also resonated with beyond the base, to those who are pro-life even within the Democratic Party. I think it was exactly what needed to be done. He said it exactly the way it needed to be said.” The moderator of the teleconference, Martha Zoller said “Obama gave a very long answer to the question, and did so by ‘not saying anything. He’s also got the abortion numbers wrong within that, as well as using old numbers, you know, that Hillary Clinton had debunked a year ago’.” Another hot button issue with evangelicals is gay marriage. While both candidates said they believe marriage is between a man and a woman, there are marked differences between their positions. For instance, while Obama clarified that he is for civil unions for same sex couples, he did not mention that he opposes the California amendment to protect marriage and praised the California Supreme Court for their decision to allow gay marriage. “You cannot square the circle as he is trying to do,” said Tom Minnery, Vice-President of Focus on the Family. “Either you support marriage or you do not. He says one thing. By his actions, he indicates another thing. And that answer …shows up the hypocrisy in his position on that issue.” “I think it would be more refreshing for him if he would just be honest about it and say he favors gay marriage,” Minnery continued.  “He cannot do that, because the American people do not favor gay marriage. And so, he needs to keep twisting and turning, diving on that issue. And it is hypocritical.” McCain, on the other hand, said he opposes same-sex marriage and that he believes the justices erred in the recent California Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage. “I strongly support preserving the status of marriage between a man and a woman,” McCain said. “That doesn’t mean that people can’t enter into a legal agreements, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the rights of all citizens. I am not saying that. I am saying that we should preserve the unique status of marriage between one man and one woman.” He went to say that as a federalist, he believes states should have the right to determine their own laws regarding the issue, but if states are ultimately forced to accept same-sex marriages from other states, he would support a federal constitutional amendment. Janet Folger saw a clear distinction between the positions of the candidates. “[McCain] said that he support state’s definitions of marriage, the defense in his own State of Arizona, for example, where he has been stalwart leader for marriage as a union between one man and one woman. But he also made it very clear. Here’s the distinction. What John McCain said tonight is his position, that he says that the Supreme Court of California was wrong.” Folger continued, “What Barack Obama left out tonight is that he actually publicly praised the Supreme Court of California. He said he ‘supported’ the California decision. That’s something that redefined marriage, which undermines the institution that is the foundation of society. And Barack Obama is wrong on it, and that did not come out as clearly as it should have.” During the teleconference, when asked who won the debate, the group unanimously supported Senator McCain. Tom Minnery noted that McCain’s “answers were sharp.  I think he has thought a whole lot more about leadership. I was particularly impressed by his answer on people he admired. He went right to General Petraeus, who did one of the most remarkable military campaigns in recent memory. And I contrast that to Senator Obama, who when asked who influences him the most, he mentioned his wife, he mentioned his grandmother – those are safe nominations.” Bishop Harry Jackson, Sr., Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. and author of “The Black Contract with America on Moral Values,” also chose McCain as the winner, noting his energy and how much more applause he won from the people in the room. “But I say this with a caveat. I think he won – if he can continue with the kind of fervor and integration of issues and faith, I think that he may be on to a new high in his campaign. If he retreats to a place of not wanting to talk anymore about these kinds of things, I think it will not help him. So, tremendous win tonight. I think it's a new chapter. I hope it continues.”   © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.