Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor who has assumed a god-like, mega-celebrity status, said that while he wouldn't tell people how to vote, they should consider a candidate's character when making their decision. Character is very important, he said.
Evidently, Warren believes atheists have no character because he did say he wouldn't vote for an atheist. Atheists refuse to acknowledge their need for a god outside of themselves and Warren believes the job of president is too big to go it alone. One needs a skygod to tell him/her what country to invade, and when, I suppose.
One could not tell if Warren was subliminally pushing McCain or not. But McCain likes to talk about the character thing, implying that he has it and Obama does not.
Let's consider McCain's character by reflecting upon a story he likes to tell. He told it again, in fact, at Warren's Saddleback forum.
(You know, of course, that McCain continually says he doesn't want to talk about his "heroism" and "bravery" in captivity. That's what he says, anyway, immediately before he goes into yet another self-serving rendition of his Vietnam experience, which is looking more and more like the stuff of legend.)
The latest version goes like this: "One night, after being mistreated as a POW, a guard loosened the ropes binding me, easing my pain. On Christmas, that same guard approached me, and without saying a word, he drew a cross in the sand. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas."
All the elements of legend are there: the stilted language, the drama, the assuming of motive on the part of the guard.
McCain, it turns out, is something of a fan of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The following comes from a story about Solzhenitsyn and his time in the Soviet Gulags:
"As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got up and returned to his work.
"As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.
"Solzhenitsyn slowly rose to his feet, picked up his shovel and went back to work. Outwardly, nothing had changed. Inside, he had received hope."
You can draw your own conclusions, but it would appear that McCain or one of his acolytes, has lifted the Solzhenitsyn story and adapted it for the North Vietnamese confinement of Mr. McCain.
After McCain returned to the states, he wrote a 12,000 word account of his prison experience, but that account does not contain this powerful and dramatic story of the guard drawing a cross in the dirt.
"Steven Waldman notes that McCain's recounting of this story has changed over the years and 'has gradually morphed from being about the humanity of the guard to being about the Christian faith of the guard and John McCain."
In McCain's retelling the story at Saddleback, he may have inadvertently stumbled. He talks of two different experiences with this same guard. In the first experience, he says the guard simply lossened the ties that bound him. The second experience came at Christmas (conveniently) and the same guard drew the cross. The problem is that McCain was transferred to a different prison in the early part of December. While the timeline is unclear, it seems highly unlikely that the same guard followed him to his new place of confinement.
Two other items:
1) McCain has claimed he became a fan of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" before he was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. The problem is that "Dancing Queen" did not come out until two years after McCain was released from captivity!
2) For nigh onto 40 years, McCain has offered up in print and verbally one of his favorite POW stories. Last month, he changed the story in a rather important manner. Here's what happened:
A reporter asked him what was the the first thing that comes to his mind when he thinks about Pittsburgh. McCain laughed, and said, "the Steelers. I was a mediocre high school athlete but I loved and adored the sports but the Steelers really made a huge impression on me particularly in my early years."
That's when McCain segued into his POW "war" story: "When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures, physical pressure on me, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates."
The reporter asked if he could do the same thing today and McCain said he could not.
The reason he could not is because according to the previous renditions of his bravery and mental sharpness which befuddled his Vietnamese captors, McCain did not name players from the Pittsburgh Steeler football team, he named players from the Greenbay Packers!
McCain's campaign has said the candidate made a mistake...it was the Packers.
Now, please explain that! How could he make such a "mistake"? As noted, for 40 years he's been telling this tall tale and suddenly "mistakes" the Steelers for the Packers. If that's true, and McCain becomes president, we've got one hell of a problem.
So much for the character issue!