As some of you know, I had a nice seat last April for “The Compassion Forum” at Messiah College. From my chair in the fourth row I got a birds-eye view of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton attempting to discuss the relationship between faith and public policy. I blogged a bit about the event over at Religion and American History and wrote a short essay covering it for the Messiah College alumni magazine, The Bridge.
Now the ubiquitous evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren has managed to do something that Messiah College and its partner Faith in Public Life were unable to accomplish. (Actually, Faith and Public Life is co-sponsoring his efforts). He got John McCain to sit down and talk about religion. McCain and Obama have agreed to show up August 16 at Warren’s “Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion.”
The format is the same as the Messiah Compassion Forum. Warren will interview the candidates separately. This is unfortunate, since it would have made for some great political theater to see these guys go toe to toe on this issue. McCain likes to pride himself on his relaxed “town hall” style, but I am guessing when it comes to faith and public life he would prefer to answer scripted questions.
I doubt Obama will have anything to say on this topic that we have not already heard at Messiah College and elsewhere. But I am very eager to hear McCain. What will he say? Will the John Hagee issue come up? Will we hear about a born-again experience? Is McCain a “maverick” when it comes to his views on faith and public life or will he court the Christian Right? How and why did he move from an Episcopalian to a Southern Baptist? I am guessing that he is going to have to do a lot of homework before he flies to Saddleback. Stay tuned.
BTW, Paul Harvey at Religion and American History has offered to send me to California to cover the event. All I need is some frequent flyer miles and a local Whole Foods grocery store!! (Check out the comments section on Matt Sutton’s RAH post on the Warren event).