Faith Down: Impressions « Red Tory v.3.0 on the Saddleback forum

18 Aug

English-born Canadian blogger Red Tory gets this event about right, I think.

For people already decided about one candidate or another, the Saddleback forum probably won’t do anything to change their minds. If anything, it might just have served to confirm or reinforce their convictions about each man…

I didn’t stick around for the pundits’ wrap-up because we went out for dinner straight afterwards, but following up later, the consensus seems to be that McCain was the clear “winner” of the event. Whether it’s right to think about winners and losers in a forum like this is debatable. In any case, each candidate had specific objectives and, for the most part, they seemed to achieve them. McCain will have buttressed support with evangelical Christians that had been lagging behind expectations and Obama may have dispelled the notion that he’s the anti-Christ incarnate — or worse, a Muslim.

He homes in on something very significant in another post: Faith Down: Most Defining Moment.

In what might possibly be regarded in many ways as the most clearly “defining moment” from yesterday’s forum at the Saddleback mega-church, Pastor Rick Warren asked each candidate: “Does evil exist, and if so, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?”

The difference of the two responses couldn’t have been more vivid and perhaps says a great deal about each of the candidates and their worldview…


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’s God’s task. But we can be soldiers I 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… 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, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.


Defeat it.

There in a nutshell, for better or worse, is the difference between “liberals” and so-called “conservatives” in my opinion…

Well spotted! The comment thread after that post is quite wonderful too.

We had a similar event, you may recall, in the lead-up to the Oz election last year. See The Gospels of John and Kevin.

Jim Wallace was right about one thing last night, however. We need always to keep in mind that Australia is not the United States, and the religious discourse here is (even on the right) not the same here as it is there. Thank God! There are some issues — health care, poverty, environment, work place relations — where even conservative churches in Australia would look hopelessly “liberal” to many of their American counterparts. Again, Thank God! Gay relationships, on the other hand, is another matter altogether, even if that is not an issue where I go to church.

— August 10, 2007

I am not sure that event really made an enormous difference here, much as Red Tory notes of the recent US example there.

Are such things anti-democratic, as some opposed to religion for one reason or another sometimes seem to fear? Not necessarily. After all, democracy as such favours neither the determined secularist nor the determined religious activist, especially in a place like Australia where voting is not optional — or going to the polling booth isn’t optional, to be more accurate. All contribute to the opinions out there, and people make up their minds according to their own lights, whether those come from a church or somewhere else, or even, as in my case, from some mix of influences.

Christianity, historically, has had a range of views and positions on its relation to power. Its founder was quite enigmatic on the subject in fact.

They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to him, “The Roman emperor’s people demand taxes from us.”

He said to them, “Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, give God what belongs to God, and give me what is mine.”

The Gospel of Thomas.*

I deliberately quoted a non-canonical gospel there. This saying is, in fact, also found in the canonical gospels, and is one of the sayings generally thought to reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. Some of you may be aware that the radical-ish Jesus Seminar concluded that 80% or so of the recorded sayings of Jesus are of doubtful authenticity… Their methods may have been rather too stringent, in my view, but the fact remains that much that Christians cling to may seem exceedingly odd to Jesus himself. I wonder what he would make of the Saddleback forum.


* Early Christian Writings is the most complete collection of documents from the first two centuries with translations and commentary. Includes the New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, and Church Fathers. The “Early Christian Writings: New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers” site is copyright © 2001-2006 Peter Kirby.



11 responses to “Faith Down: Impressions « Red Tory v.3.0 on the Saddleback forum

  1. redtory

    August 18, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for the link.

    Even though I’m an atheist and generally feel there’s far too much religion in American politics for my taste, I found the forum to be one of the more interesting events of the presidential campaign to date — certainly a lot more so than so-called “debates” usually prove to be.

  2. Neil

    August 18, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Thanks, Red Tory. I think it is eminently possible for people of, shall we say, good sense to converge on these matters, whether they are atheists or not. Such fora as the ones we have mentioned can indeed be interesting.

  3. ghostdansing

    August 18, 2008 at 11:47 am

    “There in a nutshell, for better or worse, is the difference between “liberals” and so-called “conservatives” in my opinion…”

    hmmmm one is cogent, complex and reflective….. one simple, absolutist and unreasonably self assured?

    i get that

  4. DavidG.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    I don’t have faith that the human race will survive the intellect-destroying, superstition-inducing ideology of institutional religion.

    “Get thee from me, Satan!”

  5. Neil

    August 18, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    I don’t have faith that the human race will survive the intellect-destroying, superstition-inducing ideology of institutional religion.

    Fair enough, as a point of view, David, but debatable of course.

    In practice, though, what might one do to rid the world of something the majority of its people seem to subscribe to? Would this involve some kind of enforcement, some regimen of disincentives and punishments? Perhaps no member of any faith should be allowed to hold public office, or vote, or go to university, or be admitted to a hospital, or have children…

    Or should one encourage those who are open to reason, even if still within the fold of one religion or another?

  6. DavidG.

    August 19, 2008 at 8:01 am

    “…what might one do to rid the world of something the majority of its people seem to subscribe to?”

    For starters we could stop indoctrinating innocent, impressionable young children with fear-inducing theological fantasies, Neil, make it illegal. That would quickly put a very big hole in the number of subscribers!


  7. Neil

    August 19, 2008 at 8:49 am

    For starters we could stop indoctrinating innocent, impressionable young children with fear-inducing theological fantasies, Neil, make it illegal.

    To take the second point first: if something is illegal, then there must be some form of enforcement and penalty. Exactly how would that work? Is China showing the way with its persecution of Falun Gong? What kind of society do you envisage, David, where your proposition is in fact enacted?

    On the first point I would agree. I do not support any religion based on fear. However, bringing up children to know from the earliest age that their life is ultimately quite meaningless in an empty universe is hardly likely to reduce existential anxiety and dread, is it?

  8. DavidG.

    August 19, 2008 at 9:17 am

    They are bringing in laws here shortly which make it illegal to smoke in a vehicle when young children are present (and about time). That hasn’t required authoritarian force similar to that in China as far as the Falun Gong is concerned. Why quote extremes, Neil?

    On point two: so the answer to accepting that life, aside from propagation, is ultimately quite meaningless is to fill peoples’ minds with absurd fantasies, is it, Neil? Accepting what life is and working together to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone while it lasts seems to me to be a more sensible and more honest option. It also gets rid of the bitter divisiveness which many religions generate (Northern Ireland for example)!


  9. Neil

    August 19, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I think proscribing faith is hardly comparable to restricting smoking. The second is hardly a core part of someone’s beliefs and values.

    Northern Ireland I can relate to, given my background; excess certainty was part of the problem there — my next post is relevant to that. It can also be argued that there were religious voices on the side of tolerance even there, and fortunately those voices, and allied voices of whatever background, seem to have won out in the end. One of Tony Blair’s better achievements too, as it happens.

    I agree entirely that working together to make life as pleasant as possible is a good aim. Making religion illegal does not seem to me a necessary part of achieving that aim.

  10. Neil

    August 20, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Does comment spam target particular posts? I can’t help noticing this one has been the exclusive spam magnet on this blog for several days now — Akismet has caught them all. I suspect that making this comment will probably attract more…

    Or am I being paranoid?

  11. Neil

    August 21, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    More on my paranoia. This is the ONLY post on this blog to receive spam comment in the past 48 hours! That seems more than coincidental. So I am closing this post.

    Use “Contact” — see pages in the side bar — if you are desperate. 😉

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