Obama vs. McCain 2008: Round 10: Faith and Family Values

This is the tenth of a weekly series of public forums on TMB. Watch for a new round every Monday. The schedule and comment policy are available here.

Certainly an important area for most Latter-day Saints is a presidential candidate’s values on faith and family, including issues from their personal life.

There is LOTS to talk about here. Some suggested topics:

  • Obama has made faith — both his personal faith and a commitment to faith in the public square — a much more visible part of his campaign than McCain has. Click here for information from Obama’s website, including multiple videos (I recommend in particular his “Call to Renewal” speech from 2006). I would love to provide corresponding information for McCain, but … there is none. I’d be curious to hear people’s thoughts on this disparity and what it means to you.
  • Another important difference is in regards to gay rights, though there are important similarities. Neither candidate is in favor of gay marriage and both are opposed to a federal amendment banning it. Obama, however, is in favor of civil unions (“equal treatment under the law”) and other gay rights positions. McCain has expressed a commitment to protect traditional marriage by not appointing judges that will “legislate from the bench.” What, if anything, do these differences mean to American family values? LDS family values?
  • Obama has laid out in considerable detail “family friendly” issues and initiatives, such as supporting working families, strengthening fathers, and assisting single mothers. The only clear family-related issues on McCain’s website are general ones pertaining to “human dignity and the sanctity of life.” Too much government involvement for Obama? Too little for McCain?
  • Regarding “sanctity of life” issues, Obama supports federal funding for additional embryonic stem-cell lines, while McCain does not. Most Evangelicals clearly care about these differences, but what about Latter-day Saints? (Abortion is being discussed in another forum.)
  • What about the future “First Family”? How important are the president’s personal family issues? Which candidate’s family life sets the better example for America? (Let’s focus on the candidates here; we will have a forum on their spouses in six weeks.)
  • And what do you think of campaign ads like this?

Just a reminder, also, of our forum on the candidates’ relationships with the LDS Church.

Looking forward to an engaging and respectful discussion.

Next week: Oil, Energy, and the Environment

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32 Responses

  1. Fly-by response:

    How can you talk about the faith of Senator Obama and not bring up his church of twenty years which comes across as anti-white and at times even anti-American. Or Reverend Wright, his chosen spiritual mentor? Few Mormons would have felt comfortable attending his church due to the hate and anger, yet Obama felt it was appropriate to bring his young daughters there week after week and only quit when it was a political necessity for him to do so. Does that church represent his true feelings about faith and what is appropriate for churches to teach? Or was he only there for political reasons? If the latter, does that make it any better?

    Regarding Same-Sex-Marriage, Senator Obama claims to be against it yet in truth he is on the opposite side of the issue as those that want to keep marriage between a man and a woman. In particular he opposes the California amendment to declare marriage to be between a man and a woman only (Senator McCain supports it) and he wants to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act”. In addition, he favors the type of judges that would find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage where one didn’t exist before.

    To put it another way, Obama is trying to be on both sides of the issue. He claims to be against SSM in principle to score points with the middle, but his actions march us towards it. Senator McCain did oppose the federal amendment, so he isn’t perfect on the issue, but he supports state amendments such as Arizona’s and California’s which are our best chance of preventing it.

    As you might guess I thought Senator McCain’s Ad “The One” was pretty good. I like that he’s hit Obama on his celebrity status with the ‘Celeb’ ad, and now the pseudo-Messiah behavior of his campaign with “The One” ad. Hopefully next they’ll hit on the trendiness of it all. It’s cool to like Senator Obama and say you’ll vote for him, if McCain is able to temper that then it will work to his advantage.

  2. Aluwid,

    How can you talk about the faith of Senator Obama and not bring up his church of twenty years which comes across as anti-white and at times even anti-American. Or Reverend Wright, his chosen spiritual mentor?

    Because I knew others would bring up this topic (I was right), which is already overworked to death. Not that I’m discouraging talk about it. I just feel that probably everyone and their dog already has an opinion on this, and it might be better to focus on other (less-known) topics. At the least, you don’t need me to bring it up.

    I will say that if you are basing your comments on it being “anti-white” and “anti-American” on the YouTube videos, then you are getting a very skewed sample, in my opinion. At any rate, we often “talk about the faith” of our own LDS predecessors, in spite of their membership and leadership in a church that could have been called “anti-black” and “anti-American.”

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  4. This comment is long, but very important:

    There is much about McCain’s family life to worry about. I’m surprised it has received so little attention — I rarely hear conservative Latter-day Saints mention it as any kind of concern (but who are quick to talk about Jeremiah Wright).

    So let’s just be very clear. John McCain had an affair (Cindy) while still married and living with his first wife, Carol. Here’s a very good L.A. Times article (which has been largely ignored) that outlines the incident, as well as discusses how his divorce from Carol ruptured his once close relationship with the Reagans (Carol was very close to the Reagans). Also, here is an excellent article in 2000 by the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof.

    To be fair, the affair and divorce came after McCain’s long separation from his wife when he was a POW in Vietnam, during which time Carol (a former swimsuit model) was in a severe car accident in which she broke both legs, her pelvis, and an arm. She had to be operated on five times and lost about 5 inches in height. However, both John and Carol have said that neither Vietnam or her accident are to blame — he is. Said John in his autobiography, “My marriage’s collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity. The blame was entirely mine.” Said Carol, “John was turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again.”

    Some important details from Kristof’s article:

    Mr. McCain has acknowledged running around with women and accepted responsibility for the breakup of the marriage, without going into details. But his supporters and his biographer, Robert Timberg, all suggest that the marriage had already effectively ended and that the couple had separated by the time he met Cindy, his present wife.

    That might be the most soothing way of explaining a politician’s divorce from a disabled wife and his remarriage to a wealthy heiress, but it does not jibe with accounts of family members and friends….

    ”They were definitely living together as man and wife when I was there,” recalled Mr. Smith, the former instructor pilot, who moved to Washington and lived with the McCains in their home from about February through May 1979. ”And there were no signs of strain.

    ”For somebody to say that they were separated or at each other’s throats is just nonsense,” Mr. Smith said.

    Yet at precisely the time that Mr. Smith was a guest in what appeared to be a happy household, in April 1979, Mr. McCain accompanied a group of senators on a trip to China. The Navy threw a big cocktail party for the group during a stopover in Honolulu.

    ”John and I were talking, and then somebody tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and exchanged a few words,” said Albert A. Lakeland, then a Senate staff member. ”When I turned around, John was gone. I looked around, and he was making a beeline for this very attractive blond woman.

    ”He spent the whole party talking to her, and he kept avoiding me when I approached,” Mr. Lakeland said. After the reception, Mr. McCain and the young woman, Cindy Hensley, went out to dinner, and the romance blossomed.

    Mr. McCain continued to pursue Miss Hensley, calling her to keep in touch. When she thanked him for sending flowers that had just arrived (signed ”John”) he said it was nothing. As she discovered years later, they were from another man named John.

    Over the next six months, Mr. McCain pursued Miss Hensley aggressively, flying around the country to see her, and he began to push to end his marriage. Friends say that Carol McCain was in shock.

    Late that year, the McCains finally separated, and Mrs. McCain accepted a divorce the next February. Mr. McCain promptly married Miss Hensley, his present wife.

    While you can certainly give McCain credit for always taking responsibility for the affair and divorce, it sounds like he has been trying to dodge around what appears to me to be the fact that he was committing adultery and betraying his wife.

    But it’s understandable he would lie about this, considering that he lied to Cindy about his age. From an article about Cindy in Harper’s Bazaar:

    [McCain] was . . . 42, 18 years her senior, a difference Cindy “never noticed” until a year later, when, applying for their marriage license, “we discovered we’d both lied. I’d made myself three years older, he four younger.”

    Birds of a feather flock together, I guess.

    Kristof also writes about how it appears that McCain was actively looking for a new wife when he met Cindy. A connection can be made that John did not see a great future in his life with Carol and he needed a new start. He had always wanted to be someone great, and it was looking as if the military would not afford him the possibilities he once wanted. Said Carol, earlier in their marriage, “He wants to do something important, so he’ll be in the history books.”

    Wrote Kristof, concerning a conversation he had with three other POWs in Vietnam:

    They spent a couple of weeks talking nonstop, and the conversation soon touched on their dreams: one wanted to have command of his own squadron, another wanted to be an academic, the third yearned to be a military attache in an embassy.

    ”We asked John what he wanted to be — chief of naval operations?” recalled Richard A. Stratton, one of those present. ”He said, no, the best job in the Navy is commander in chief of Pacific forces, because then you’re chief warrior. But he said that what he really wanted to be was president.”

    (Kristof also talked about how Napoleon was a childhood hero of John’s.)

    McCain’s ambition helps put together the story that his marriage to Cindy was very politically expedient (not to say that his initial attraction to her was calculated in this way). Cindy was the heiress to Hensley & Co., one of the largest Anheuser-Bush distributors in the U.S (speaking of family values). Her family’s connections essentially catapulted McCain into political fame in Arizona. And the rest is history.

  5. One more important detail concerning McCain’s family life.

    From a thoroughly documented Wikipedia article about Cindy:

    Once [McCain] was elected, the couple moved to Alexandria, Virginia. She spent two months in late 1983 writing handwritten notes on over 4,000 Christmas cards to be sent to constituents and others. Not accepted by the Washington congressional social scene, she grew homesick for Arizona. She suffered several miscarriages.

    She moved back to Arizona in early 1984, and gave birth to her child, Meghan, later that year. She subsequently had John Sidney IV (known as “Jack”) (born 1986) and James (known as “Jimmy”) (born 1988). Her parents lived across the street and helped her raise the children while her husband was frequently in Washington; she typically only saw him on weekends.

    So John and Cindy have essentially lived separate lives throughout their marriage. And he has been a mostly absentee father. As well as an absentee husband, not even there to comfort Cindy after her several miscarriages (a couple that were very far along). From the Harper’s Bazaar article, “John was with me the first time I lost a baby,” [Cindy] recalls, “but not for those after, which was hard.”

  6. Sorry, I need to add just one more thing in relation to my previous two comments, which might be a good touchstone for a conversation.

    The following quote is from a community blog on Obama’s website. Keep in mind that the quote is not from me, although I do share most of the sentiments:

    Just imagine the firestorm we’d be enduring if Barack Obama were the subject of a story that had any of these elements: an extramarital affair, lying on the record about the timing of the affair and an estrangement from a political icon caused by the affair.

    Obama — or any Democrat — would be hounded by the media and the rightwing noise machine to a degree that would very likely make his chances of winning in November somewhere between slim and none.

    By contrast, it is as equally a dead certainty there will be nothing in the news about McCain’s adultery, sex lies and estrangement from the Reagans after today — not even when McCain campaigns in California for a constitutional amendment that supposedly protects marriage — not from adultery, the real threat to marriage — but from gay people seeking equal rights.

  7. I agree, there is a puzzling lack of emphasis on faith coming from the McCain camp. I know of one video on McCain’s website about his faith. It was made a year and a half ago when he was focused on the Republican base during the primaries. I can’t figure out how to even get to it from anywhere on his website; but there’s a link to it here http://pewforum.org/religion08/profile.php?CandidateID=3 (along with other info on McCain and religion, and a corresponding profile on Obama).

    A quote from that McCain video: “I believe that a higher being has a mission for me in my life, a reason for me to be here. Now, that doesn’t mean that he wants me to be elected or not, but it does mean that I have a purpose. And that purpose, I think, is to live a life based on Judeo-Christian principles and honor and integrity.”

    McCain thinks God’s mission for him in life is to “live a life based on Judeo-Christian principles”? Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard anything more contrived/pandering? This is why the McCain campaign isn’t making faith a centerpiece of their message — because he’s too inauthentic when he talks about it. I can’t help but compare statements like these to Obama’s Call to Renewal speech (referenced above), a very thoughtful, insightful discussion of the role of faith.

  8. Hmm, must be a slow week or this stuff isn’t all that interesting. I’m surprised no one has pushed back a little on the stuff I said about McCain. I guess I’ll just assume that I’m right … :)

    Allie,

    Thanks for the links. I didn’t know about either of these. The Pew Forum pages for McCain and Obama look like they are very comprehensive and interesting.

    Your comments about God’s purpose for McCain reminded me of a few paragraphs from Kristof’s article:

    Mr. McCain’s angst about his career, family members and friends say, arose partly because he felt that he had been spared death for something larger, but, at midlife, he could not see what it was. Mr. McCain had repeatedly survived catastrophic accidents, beginning in flight school when the plane he was flying crashed into the sea (he was knocked unconscious but came to as the plane landed on the bottom, and he squeezed out of the cockpit and swam to the surface).

    ”I think he sensed that life held something bigger for him, but he didn’t know what it was yet,” said Doug McCain, his eldest son. The younger Mr. McCain remembers once going with his parents to France and visiting Napoleon’s tomb — Napoleon had been a childhood hero of John McCain — and sensing that his father was searching for any lessons history might hold about how he himself might best serve his country.

    As John McCain puzzled over his career, he also found himself sorting out his marriage.

  9. > Hmm, must be a slow week or this stuff isn’t all that interesting.

    Dennis, I can only speak for myself, but I have so much contempt for McCain’s personal life that I thought it wise not to comment for fear I would unleash and it would get ugly. ;-)

    I’ve been following the thread though. Keep up the good work on this series.

  10. It sort of baffles me that the media pretty much ignores McCain’s past involving his affair with Cindy McCain. As far as that McCain Campaign commercial “The One” goes, I find it very offensive as a religious person. To get off the subject just a little, the man who once claimed he would run a campaign based on integrity has apparently disappeared with the arrival of his negative, non-substance based adds of the past couple weeks.

  11. I think they’re both nice guys.

  12. If I agreed with McCain’s policies and thought that he could do the job of president better than Obama, then his sexual escapades wouldn’t be an issue for me, the same way I can say that Bill Clinton was a lousy man morally, but still had the competence to be a good president. It’s funny how so many Mormons use Clinton as a bad example and defend it as their reason for not voting for a Democrat. They’ll say, “Oh, I didn’t vote for HIM, he had such lousy morals,” etc, etc. Yes, he did, and so if that’s really the deciding issue for you, then it’s pretty clear who your vote should go to in this election.

    Aluwid, Obama’s relationship with Rev. Wright could only be as much as an issue for me as Romney’s relationship with the LDS Church (if he had been Rep. nominee, or if he should be McCain’s running mate). In all fairness, some of our past Church leaders have said things, at least regarding race, that can be compared to Rev. Wright. That, along with our polygamist past, can easily be labelled as “anti-American.” Just to be fair, now.

  13. FD:

    Yes, people can certainly disagree about whether the morality of McCain or Clinton is important, but it is so interesting that people are selective based on whether they already like the guy. This is why I’m quite confident that if the adulterous shoe was on the other foot (Obama’s), you would hear (many) conservative Latter-day Saints using this reason as the ultimate trump card for why they are not voting for him.

  14. Here’s an interesting CNN article about the family life of the Obamas. The article is an interview with the editor of Essence Magazine, which interviewed the Obamas in their home recently.

    An interesting quote from the magazine: “The Obamas pride themselves on creating a family picture that is authentically black with shades of Norman Rockwell.”

  15. Thank you to all of you willing to look at the issues regarding candidates from an intelligent and unbiased point of view. I tend to be very liberal in my political beliefs and I find myself preferring the leadership of those more concerned about the American people rather than the American CEO’s and businesses.

    I am regularly questioned on my political beliefs and told that I am obviously not a very good mormon because I am not a staunch republican. If I were faced with a republican candidate who I believed would be good for my country and for my people, I would surely vote for him (or her).

    I respect those who look into the issues with an open mind and truly try to understand what is going on and develop an opinion based on facts, whether they are pro-democrat or pro-republican. Anyone (Dem or Rep) who chooses to vote because of one issue (let’s say Gay Rights for example) and ignores all the others, even if they are more important in the long run have no valid argument and I consider them ignorant. Unfortunately, this is the case for most LDS people where I live. They don’t care that they could all lose their jobs and their sons could be drafted as long as the gays don’t get to marry. This is an example, I am by no means pointing fingers.

    My whole point in this post is that I am impressed with the posts I have read so far. It gives me comfort that other LDS people are indeed looking at the facts and developing their own political opinion rather than being sucked into the idea that anyone who supports “a crazy liberal” is not a good christian, and ultimately, does not value the traditional family and the LDS gospel.

    Thanks to all of you, Democrats and Republicans.

  16. I would like to clarify: my example regarding Gay Rights and drafting was a general statement to illustrate my point. This does not mean it represents my own thoughts, or really those of anyone in particular.

    That in mind, I try to form my opinions and ultimately my vote based on the information that I gather regarding both candidates and both of their platforms. My hope is that everyone casting a vote does the same, but we all know that the general American public is not keen on basing their opinions on things other than what people tell them to, like the tabloids and obviously biased news (CNN, all the news sources in Utah, and even the liberal New York Times).

  17. On my blog, I have a poll where readers can vote whether they’re planning on voting Rep. or Dem. I assume that most of my readers are LDS. The Dems were leading for a while, but now Rep. has a slight edge. They can also vote for their reason for voting either way and the main reason is family/moral values. (For Democrats, it’s health care.)

    I’m sick of hearing the same old “Bill Clinton was a womanizer and therefore all Democrats have lousy moral values” excuse for Mormons voting Rep. As we’ve pointed out in this discussion, McCain’s morality has hardly much of an upper hand on Democrats. Unfortunately, for many Mormons, Monica’s cigar seems to take precedence over something like waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay. Just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Just in, John Edwards admits to having cheated on his wife. Guess that doesn’t help my case. :)

  18. FD:

    Yes, I’m sure that Edwards (here’s a link about his admitted affair) will be used by some Republicans as an excuse not to vote for Democrats. All the while ignoring McCain’s affair. It is possible, though, that this issue might throw McCain’s affair into the arena somewhat (perhaps by some Republican congressman knocking on Edwards for his affair, and then being reminded of McCain’s).

    And here’s an interesting development. We’ve heard all about the race card and the gender card this campaign season. What about the Antichrist card? A few Democrats are claiming that the latest McCain ad subtly plays it. I think this claim might be a little far-fetched; however, this Time article about the issue might raise your eyebrows.

  19. You know, that thought actually crossed my mind when I saw that ad. That clip with the words “The One” and white, fluffy clouds in the background. It all sort of looked like something right out of the 700 Club or Jack Van Impe. I saw it on CNN and honestly, when I saw it I thought it was some sort of spoof by some comedian. And I thought the Britney-Paris ad was bad!

  20. Dennis,

    “I will say that if you are basing your comments on it being “anti-white” and “anti-American” on the YouTube videos, then you are getting a very skewed sample, in my opinion.”

    Senator Obama himself has disowned and distanced himself from both his paster as well as from his church due to the political cost of remaining associated with them. I assume he didn’t make that choice lightly. If there was nothing wrong with them then he should have followed Romney’s example and stayed true to his faith whether it negatively impacted him or not: “Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.”

    Dennis & TFD,

    “At any rate, we often “talk about the faith” of our own LDS predecessors, in spite of their membership and leadership in a church that could have been called “anti-black” and “anti-American.””
    “In all fairness, some of our past Church leaders have said things, at least regarding race, that can be compared to Rev. Wright. That, along with our polygamist past, can easily be labelled as “anti-American.” Just to be fair, now.”

    Create a time machine, go back and grab your favorite LDS church leader, bring them to the present, and then we’ll talk about comparing their statements with contemporary statements. The LDS church fixed it’s racial policies over 30 years ago. The problem is that Obama’s church continues it’s dialogue of racial hatred *today*, and were he not a candidate for President Obama would still be sitting in the pews with his wife and children listening to it. The true comparison between our church and Obama’s church is that we have moved past racism but they have not. Why did that not matter to Obama until it was costing him politically?

    Dennis,

    McCain’s affair happened before I even hit the age of accountability. At some point, barring current misbehavior, I think you have to give people the benefit of the doubt about their past misbehavior and assume they have changed. Especially when they take ownership like McCain does: “My marriage’s collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity. The blame was entirely mine.” Decades of good behavior have to count for something otherwise repentance is worthless.

    Trying to equate McCain with Edwards doesn’t make much sense. First, the timing is off by decades. The fact that a guy used to be a scumball doesn’t justify lumping him with the current scumball. Second, McCain wasn’t in public office and wasn’t running for public office like Edwards was. This doesn’t make a difference morally but it does affect the relevance of the story. Edwards was incredibly arrogant and selfish to run for President knowing full well that he had this time bomb waiting to go off and possibly destroy Democratic chances of election. Third, while running for office Edwards has been lying about this affair for two years. Fourth, there is some money involved which could translate into Edwards caring for his mistress with campaign funds. Fifth, it’s possible that he is lying about the time of the affair and the paternity of her baby. And finally, the whole MSM wall of silence was very aggravating. We’ve known about this for months ( a year?) but they’ve been hiding the story. The fact that the media is finally talking about this is a big part of the story itself.

    FWIW, as a probable McCain voter, I won’t be voting for him because of his faith or family life. These come across to me as neutral characteristics, not a reason to make me want to vote for him but not a reason to make me want to vote against him either. Obama on the other hand…

    BTW, another relevant topic when discussing Obama’s faith is his infamous remark at a private meeting in San Francisco when he said:

    “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    That is not a positive way to talk about religion. That he speaks this way in private is very revealing in my opinion.

  21. Aluwid,

    Senator Obama himself has disowned and distanced himself from both his paster as well as from his church due to the political cost of remaining associated with them. I assume he didn’t make that choice lightly. If there was nothing wrong with them then he should have followed Romney’s example and stayed true to his faith whether it negatively impacted him or not.

    I wasn’t saying that there was “nothing wrong” with Obama’s pastor or church — I was simply saying that I don’t think it’s fair to label the church as anti-white and anti-American based on a few out-of-context statements. Obama made it very clear why he was distancing himself from his church, and it had to do primarily with the continued political harassment of it by the media (not because it is anti-white or anti-American).

    Regarding comparisons of LDS church leaders and Reverend Wright, I fully agree that comparisons are problematic. Time is one issue, as you bring up. But so is race and culture. Our church is not a historically black church that has grown up in the aftermath of slavery and discrimination. Big difference there as well. I was simply making the point that in the same way that you would defend your own church against simple-minded allegations of racism or non-patriotism, I imagine the members of Obama’s former church could rightfully do the same.

    I completely agree that Edwards’ affair cannot be compared with McCain’s. And I think I agree with all the things you are saying about the incident. I could care less about defending Edwards. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that McCain said this when asked about the affair: “I don’t have any comment on that.” If he were to press it further, it would undoubtedly bring into the arena his own affair. So he’s very wise to keep mute. And I think that other Republicans would be wise to do the same, for McCain’s sake.

    You bring up good points about McCain’s affair, in terms of being long ago (before his political career) and his taking responsibility (this hasn’t stopped Fox News from making issues out of Obama’s teenage drug use, but I digress). However, I see McCain’s affair as just one slice of a larger pie that is unsettling to my stomach of family values. First, there is good reason to think that he has continually lied about the circumstances regarding his marriage at the time of the affair. It appears to be very clear that his marriage was not clearly on the rocks at the time, nor were they separated. Yet McCain has never repudiated his account of this (in other words, it is very likely that a big lie has remained with him throughout his political life). Combine this lie with the lies about his age and sending the flowers, and I seriously wonder if McCain is not a fully recovered pathological liar. Second, you have to admit that John and Cindy McCain are not exactly the poster couple for GOP family values. Throughout his political career the two have lived very separate lives — his wife raising the children in with the help of her parents in Arizona while he is spending all his time in Washington. Does this not really make you wonder about his family life? Perhaps serious marital problems? Now, this might not be the most important thing for many people, but you can bet that if the Obamas had a family life like this, you would be hearing about it.

    Ah, the “bitter” comment that will never die. I think that you, like many others, are misinterpreting what Obama is saying. I agree that he did not express himself well. But I actually agree with his sentiments, interpreting a bitter clinging to religion as a kind of warped exclusionary lifestyle. Think of the gun-toting man who lives in a trailer with Nascar signs all over it and uses his religion as a club for his racism and radical distrust of the government. This is what I saw Obama as talking about. I saw this all the time when I lived in rural Pennsylvania–Obama is actually dead on with his assessment. But he expressed himself very poorly. At the very least, it is not correct to see this statement as some kind of denunciation of religion. That is simply ridiculous, especially considering his own very visible religious faith and commitments which he sees as central to his life’s mission and identity.

  22. Aluwid,

    Let me say that it’s nice to have someone who is defending McCain. Frankly, I’ve been very surprised that more people haven’t been.

  23. “I wasn’t saying that there was “nothing wrong” with Obama’s pastor or church — I was simply saying that I don’t think it’s fair to label the church as anti-white and anti-American based on a few out-of-context statements.”

    How many “out-of-context” statements does it take before you start to see a pattern? How many times seeing the congregation cheering and supporting the statements does it take before the truth sits in?

    In “Dreams of our Father” Obama describes an early sermon he heard from Reverend Wright (the first one?). Within the tirade there is this gem: “white folks’ greed runs a world in need.” Complaining against whites, angers against whites, is a core part of this church and it has been for years. The fact that Obama tries to sell himsell as being post-racial is comical. It would be great if he was, but he chose to inject himself in the same old divisiveness and to have his children brought up in it.

    “Obama made it very clear why he was distancing himself from his church, and it had to do primarily with the continued political harassment of it by the media (not because it is anti-white or anti-American).”

    Why was the media so fascinated with the teachings going on at his church and the congregations reaction to them? It’s because they were not respectable, especially not respectable enough for someone who wanted to be President to be attending. Obama ditched his pastor and his church out of political necessity. If the problem truly was political harassment by the media then he could have taken the alternate course and dropped out of the race. But when it comes to loyalty to his faith of twenty years and personal spiritual mentor versus Obama’s political ambitions is ambitions win hands down.

    “Our church is not a historically black church that has grown up in the aftermath of slavery and discrimination. Big difference there as well.”

    If we truly want to live in a post-racism society then we have to stop making excuses for it. No one gets a free pass in hating another just because of their skin color. No exceptions.

    “you have to admit that John and Cindy McCain are not exactly the poster couple for GOP family values.”

    Like I said, I view family as a neutral for McCain. I would have preferred Romney on this topic for obvious reasons. But this is the type of thing that gets fleshed out in primary contests. When it comes to the general election the political differences between the two candidates are too great to get hung up on an imperfect family life in my opinion. Romney’s family life was always a secondary consideration over why I preferred him to McCain anyway, not a primary one.

    There is one aspect of McCain’s family that is superior to Romney’s though: military tradition. It’s not Romney’s fault that his son’s didn’t choose to serve in the military, but that still hurt him in the Republican primary. Having children in the military makes it clear that McCain has a personal stake in what happens to our armed forces. And in my personal opinion, those that have chosen to put their lives on the line for our country deserve recognition for a higher level of patriotism then those of us (including me) that chose to not do so.

    “Ah, the “bitter” comment that will never die.”

    What can I say, I’m just a bitter man that clings to religion instead of putting my trust in the government like Obama would prefer I did. :-)

    “That is simply ridiculous, especially considering his own very visible religious faith and commitments which he sees as central to his life’s mission and identity.”

    What religious faith and commitments? He ditched his church remember? Because of the political heat it was generating.

  24. Aluwid,

    How many “out-of-context” statements does it take before you start to see a pattern? How many times seeing the congregation cheering and supporting the statements does it take before the truth sits in?

    If they truly are out of context, well, it would take more statements than you’ll be able to offer. But regarding this and the congregation cheering and supporting statements, I’ll simply ask you to answer your own question. How many statements have you read? How many times have you seen the congregation doing what you’re doing? And how “in context” have been these statements and scenes?

    But when it comes to loyalty to his faith of twenty years and personal spiritual mentor versus Obama’s political ambitions is ambitions win hands down.

    You’re confusing “faith” with “church.” Big difference, at least outside of LDS circles. Regarding Wright, Obama officially rejected Wright after continued ruptures in their relationship (AFTER people started to make a big deal out of a few out-of-context clips on YouTube).

    If we truly want to live in a post-racism society then we have to stop making excuses for it. No one gets a free pass in hating another just because of their skin color. No exceptions.

    No free passes, no exceptions, I agree. Nor should one use this as a free pass for equating white racism and black racism as though they are the same thing. There are enormous differences in cultural context here that cannot be ignored. This kind of understanding doesn’t mean that one has to be a cultural relativist.

    When it comes to the general election the political differences between the two candidates are too great to get hung up on an imperfect family life in my opinion.

    I can appreciate this view, but I think that people should nonetheless be very concerned about McCain’s “imperfect family life,” just as they should any other “issue” of a candidate they don’t agree with. Don’t we always say that example is the best way to lead? What does it teach the upcoming generation when we have a president without a strong family life?

    And in my personal opinion, those that have chosen to put their lives on the line for our country deserve recognition for a higher level of patriotism then those of us (including me) that chose to not do so.

    In many cases, you may be right. But there is more than one way to serve your country.

    What can I say, I’m just a bitter man that clings to religion instead of putting my trust in the government like Obama would prefer I did.

    You’re continuing to caricature Obama’s comments here. Can we agree that there are “bitter” people who “cling to religion” and who are not involved in political matters like they should be? (Keep in mind the church’s constant teachings about the need for Latter-day Saints to be politically engaged.) I see what Obama is saying as more of a retreat from the public square and community involvement than not wanting to “trust in the government.”

    What religious faith and commitments?

    I’ve already addressed this above, but I will say here that if you really can’t answer this question, then I invite you to check out the links I’ve provided concerning Obama and faith (in this post).

  25. Dennis,

    I would extend you separation of “faith” and “church” to the LDS community as well. A good number of LDS converts come from other Christian denominations. We generally do not speak of these as “abandoning” or “discarding” their previous faith. We instead say something like they have “added to” the faith they already had developed at their previous church. Similarly, there are those who have stopped attending or have altogether left the LDS church who would take exception to someone claiming that they have “discarded” their faith.

  26. “If they truly are out of context, well, it would take more statements than you’ll be able to offer. But regarding this and the congregation cheering and supporting statements, I’ll simply ask you to answer your own question. How many statements have you read? How many times have you seen the congregation doing what you’re doing? And how “in context” have been these statements and scenes?”

    You keep saying “out of context.” But do you really believe that? Let’s remember that Senator Obama left his church in the middle of the media firestorm over the messages that were being preached. The pro-Obama spin is that he left the church for their sake (Kind of like dumping your girlfriend and telling her “it’s not you, it’s me.”), but the result is that the public gets the impression that the charges against the church are correct, because otherwise why would Obama be leaving it? So basically, if you believe that these comments are out of context, then you believe that Obama doesn’t have the moral character to stand up against unfair and out-of-context attacks against his long-time church.

    As public interest in the peculiar preaching at his church continued, and the controversy continued to hurt both this campaign as well as the feelings of his church members Obama had three choices: 1. Leave the church, 2. End his campaign, 3. Fight back against the accusations against his church.

    Obama chose #1. To me that reflects two things: First he knew that the message his church was teaching was completely outside the mainstream and as such he had no chance of convincing the public to accept it. Second, he valued his political career more than the good name of his church. He could have quit running for President with the protest that his church wasn’t being treated fairly, or he could have fought against his church’s detractors. But both of those actions would not have resulted in him becoming President so he choose the most opportunistic path.

    As a point of comparison, imagine a Mormon candidate in Obama’s shoes, where the church was coming under attack for it’s preaching and messages. I would certainly hope that they would choose to fight against the unfair attacks, or to end their campaign, rather than choosing to leave the church “for it’s sake”.

    “Nor should one use this as a free pass for equating white racism and black racism as though they are the same thing.”

    And how are they not? Hating someone because of the color of their skin is wrong. If you start justifying why hating this skin color isn’t quite as bad as hating this other skin color then you’re part of the problem not the solution because now you’re talking about reasons why racism sometimes isn’t so bad after all. This isn’t a conversation we should be having in the 21st century.

    “You’re continuing to caricature Obama’s comments here. Can we agree that there are “bitter” people who “cling to religion” and who are not involved in political matters like they should be?”

    Obama made the comment while describing his difficulty in winning over working-class voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. You’re trying to minimize the scope of the people that were encompassed by his comment. Religion was listed along with a group of other negative things that people “cling” to. The fact that this statement was made privately to a group that is unlikely to view religion as positive underscores his intention to treat it as a negative trait.

  27. Aluwid,

    I’ve been out of town, and have not seen your comment until just now.

    You keep saying “out of context.” But do you really believe that?

    I’ll answer this question after you answer mine (which you have not yet answered). Here they are again:

    How many statements have you read? How many times have you seen the congregation doing what you’re doing? And how “in context” have been these statements and scenes?

    I’ll define “in context” for you (the way I am intending it). “In context” means they are presented in a way that is fair to the overall context in which the quotes are given. This almost always means watching or reading a long segment of a speech. Even then, the “in context” nature is limited — clearly there is a different context for those who were in attendance and have a history with the church and pastor.

    Hating someone because of the color of their skin is wrong. If you start justifying why hating this skin color isn’t quite as bad as hating this other skin color then you’re part of the problem not the solution because now you’re talking about reasons why racism sometimes isn’t so bad after all. This isn’t a conversation we should be having in the 21st century.

    I’ve said nothing about one not being as bad as the other. In fact, it is this kind of comparative statement that I am arguing against. I am saying, however, that there are differing contexts for different kinds of racism. I am asking simply that we understand these contexts; this hardly entails justifying racism or calling one kind of racism not as bad as another. The fact that so many white people are quick to (rightfully) condemn black racism without trying to understand it does little to help the problem (and I would argue that very few whites, myself included, understand black racism very well). We certainly could say the same thing for the other way around. Just to clarify, we can certainly say that both kinds of racism are wrong, but this does not mean that they are “the same thing.” I would argue that they are qualitatively distinct racisms that can only be understood within the cultural context from which they spring.

    As a point of comparison, imagine a Mormon candidate in Obama’s shoes, where the church was coming under attack for it’s preaching and messages. I would certainly hope that they would choose to fight against the unfair attacks, or to end their campaign, rather than choosing to leave the church “for it’s sake”.

    This is indeed a point of comparison, but not a fair one, and I suspect you know that. Non-Mormon Christians do not see “the Church” the same way that Mormons do. There really is no adequate comparison with Mormonism here.

    Obama made the comment while describing his difficulty in winning over working-class voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. You’re trying to minimize the scope of the people that were encompassed by his comment. Religion was listed along with a group of other negative things that people “cling” to. The fact that this statement was made privately to a group that is unlikely to view religion as positive underscores his intention to treat it as a negative trait.

    I think it’s hard to say, if you look at Obama’s words, who exactly he was referring to. Clearly, he was not referring to ALL working class Americans in the Midwest. My interpretation is that he was referring to some — namely, those who were doing what he said. How many are doing so, I’m not certain — but I know, having lived in rural Pennsylvania, that he was accurately describing a very real and visible problem. Which brings me back to my question that you didn’t answer:

    Can we agree that there are “bitter” people who “cling to religion” and who are not involved in political matters like they should be?”

    Regarding your claim that the group Obama spoke to is likely to view religion negatively — I’ll let you prove this unsupported assertion. And was this comment really “private”? While I’m not certain, I doubt the video cameras were hidden.

  28. Dennis,

    I’m not going to watch hours of sermons from Reverend Wright just so I can come back and tell you that I’ve seen the full context and still feel the same way. As an anonymous Internet poster my opinion is worth little anyway.

    Instead let’s look at the actions of someone that is very much in the know of whether or not these statements are out of context. Senator Obama.

    At this point, Reverend Wright has been discredited, and Senator Obama has rejected him. He has also left his church and is not defending it anymore.

    To me, this suggests two things:

    1. The quotes are in-context and the church was inappropriate for a Presidential candidate to be attending.

    2. The quotes are out of context, Reverend Wright and his church are being treated unfairly, and Senator Obama turned his back on them because they were hurting his political future.

    Either way it reflects poorly on Senator Obama’s judgement or character.

    “This is indeed a point of comparison, but not a fair one, and I suspect you know that. Non-Mormon Christians do not see “the Church” the same way that Mormons do. There really is no adequate comparison with Mormonism here.”

    Replace it with anything else then. How about a Rotary club? If you’re a member and it is being attacked unfairly, do you just quit – leaving the impression that the attacks were accurate. Or do you fight back against the attacks and support your friends? Obama threw them under the bus and drove on.

    “I think it’s hard to say, if you look at Obama’s words, who exactly he was referring to. Clearly, he was not referring to ALL working class Americans in the Midwest.”

    He was referring to enough of them to influence his performance in the elections.

    “Regarding your claim that the group Obama spoke to is likely to view religion negatively — I’ll let you prove this unsupported assertion. And was this comment really “private”? While I’m not certain, I doubt the video cameras were hidden.”

    It was a private fundraiser in San Francisco. Do you need me to pull out poll results to prove that religion isn’t considered very highly by San Francisco liberals? I’m not aware of any video camera’s present, there is only audio of Obama saying this, if there was video I suspect it would have been more damaging.

  29. Aluwid,

    I think you’re overlooking an important third possibility, regarding Obama’s leaving his church. The reality is that Obama became continually fed up with Wright’s antics (not in the past, but in the present). I think the two had a genuine rift in their current (not previous) relationship and that this contributed to Obama’s leaving his church. Another contributing factor was that the church was becoming a media circus. None of this says anything about whether Obama’s previous time in the church was inappropriate. Nor does it say that Obama left because of the previous statements by Wright that he condemned. Things really can change, you know.

    He was referring to enough of them to influence his performance in the elections.

    This has to do with perception only. He clearly spoke very poorly about this — I fully admit that. And it hurt him. But I think that people simply pounced on the comment without trying to understand the truth behind what Obama was saying.

    Regarding the privacy of the comment — I thought I remembered seeing it on video, but it’s not important. I could be mistaken. At any rate, Obama’s feelings on this matter are not secret. He has written in his book regarding things of this nature, and also discussed it with Charlie Rose in 2004. When you see the full context that he is coming from, it is clear that he was not trying to dog on religion or gun ownership. He was clearly referring to a certain type of person who has retreated from the public square and who bitterly clings to religion in a distorted way. He may have been inferring that a certain kind of religion is negative (honestly, would anyway say that all religious practice is good?), but not religion per se!

  30. Dennis,

    From one of the first sermons Obama heard from Wright: “…white folks’ greed runs a world in need…”

    September 2001: “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color”

    September 2001: “America’s chickens coming home to roost.”

    October 2005: “”The winds of Katrina blew the cover off America. The hurricane exposed the hypocrisy,protecting white folks’ property took priority over saving black folks’ lives. This storm called Katrina says far more about a racist government than it does about the wrath of God.””

    December 2007: ““Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich, white people.”

    January 2008: “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run.”

    “We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God”

    Exactly what did Reverend Wright say this summer, coincidentally right in the middle of a bruising primary battle against Hillary Clinton, that is worse than he has been saying for years? This is the same guy, it’s the same message, the difference is now Senator Obama is running for President and his old friend and mentor has become an embarrassment.

  31. I have to actually agree with Aluwid on this one, from what I know of the situation.

  32. […] topics, such as character, Iraq, the economy, abortion, relationship with LDS Church, health care, faith and family values, terrorism and diplomacy, education, and political corruption. Click here to see the full list of […]

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