Francis Wilkinson writes in today’s NYT about the fact that John McCain has shown insufficient regard to the GOP base’s need for more than his name, rank and serial number in God’s Righteous Army:
In an essay on The Times Op-Ed page in March, the writer Neal Gabler suggested that the reason John McCain has enjoyed excellent relations with the press is that they are birds of a feather. According to Mr. Gabler, Mr. McCain is “an ironist wooing a group of individuals who regard ironic detachment more highly than sincerity or seriousness.”
The flip side of this shared reverence for irreverence, however, is the discomfort it induces in those for whom sincerity is serious. Though Mr. McCain belongs to a Southern Baptist congregation in Phoenix and made headlines last year calling America a “Christian nation,” he still oozes a fighter pilot’s four-letter regard for piety. Many Christian conservatives, who’ve been battling purveyors of ironic detachment ever since Clarence Darrow showed up at the Scopes trial, don’t get the joke — and don’t want to.
I’m not entirely sure what’s “ironic” about John McCain, to be honest. He’s a crusty, curmudgeonly white guy running to be the head of the party of crusty, curmudgeonly white guys. He’s entirely inconsistent on what he believes, why he believes it or when he believed it. But he makes ribs, apparently slathered in irony (which, for ribs, is sold in the form of vegan barbeque sauce).
Secularists no doubt welcome Mr. McCain’s solid grounding in the profane. But when I showed the passages above to a learned evangelical friend (unnamed here because his conservative university prefers he keep a low political profile), he was struck by the Reverend McCain’s strict division of labor between God and man.
“As an evangelical, spiritual alarms start going off when I feel myself segmenting any element of my life from my devotion to Christ,” he wrote in an e-mail. Unlike a very personal Jesus providing critical support along a “faith walk,” Mr. McCain’s deity sounds like an aloof neighbor who keeps his lawn tidy and his hedge high, an exemplar of the kind of moderate, mainline Protestantism that launched countless evangelicals on the seeker’s path in the first place.
This, of course, leads us to ask – if John McCain’s insufficiency of piety is based on his years of captivity and torture as this piece seems to say, and evangelicals vote against him based on said lack of piety…does this mean that Jesus hates the troops?
I know a lot of people of various ages and backgrounds who’ve been in foxholes and come back atheists, or at least agnostics. After a while, it does become hard to reconcile a constant stream of death and brutality with an active, involved God watching over each and every one of us. Of course, if I had my druthers, McCain’s faith walk would rank alongside McCain’s choice of toothpaste and shoelaces as relevant factors in his run for president.
Nobody ever gives me my druthers.