In an opinion piece published June 9 by Robert Novak, Novak describes the difficulty McCain has had winning the votes of religious right icons such as James Dobson and John Hagee and Catholics. Hagee, of course, has alienated Catholics with his description of Catholicism as “Godless theology,” something that McCain couldn’t abide, and Hagee has told friends that McCain “threw me under the bus” with his disavowal of the preacher.
An interesting soup, to say the least. From a strategic standpoint, McCain would probably do better to simply leave the sphere of religion to the individual conscience and concentrate on the sphere of state. Right now, he is in the tenuous position of having to avoid taking sides on contentious issues of religion.
My guess is that he did not intend to be in this situation, probably viewing the leading clergy as individuals whose faith would transcend political scuffles, but the reality is that a wrong step in this direction can re-awaken centuries-old debate. In the past statesmen who have entered this fray have felt the fury of, among other things, forces as strong as the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. McCain and other candidates would do well to simply recognize the sincerity of religious faith and honor traditions while avoiding inadvertently tying themselves to these viewpoints. Yes, Hagee has strong views, but so does Pope Benedict.
A maxim of “honor the faith, but avoid the endorsement” would appear to be the best way to navigate these dangerous waters. It is still early enough in the campaign to recover from these foibles, and McCain certainly has opportunity to do so, particularly since Barack Obama has fallen into a similar situation when the political views of his pastor came to the forefront.
As these developments take place, ReligiousLiberty.TV will be analyzing these events and giving you an opportunity for your voice to be heard as we continue our celebration of religious freedom.
Read Novak’s column at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/08/AR2008060801689.html