John McCain has a “liberal Protestant” perspective on the compartmentalism of Church and state. This is from Francis Wilkinson, writing in the New York Times:
White evangelical and born-again Christians provided their kindred spirit, George W. Bush, with a whopping 78 percent of their votes in 2004. But Mr. McCain just doesn’t speak their language, a point that hit home when I recently reviewed transcripts and notes of interviews I did with Mr. McCain in 1996 at his home in Sedona over July 4th weekend. …
I was intrigued by a passage in which he described leading religious services in Hanoi for fellow prisoners of war. … Here’s Mr. McCain’s description of a sermon he delivered:
One day I talked about the parable of when they asked Christ whether they should pay taxes and he held up a coin and said, “Render unto Caesar, etc.” My point was and still is that when we were flying in combat, we weren’t doing God’s work. We were doing Caesar’s work. So for us to go to prison and then ask God to get us out was not fair to God, to our religion, to our beliefs and to ourselves. It wasn’t a miracle that sent a SAM [surface-to-air missile] to hit my airplane. It was a guy, a technician at a SAM site.
I think it was important, a little bit for the stability factor, that it wasn’t God who was going to perform a miracle, end the war and bring us home. It was men. It was Caesar. I think the majority of those guys felt the way I did but we just had some, just as people turn to faith healing and that kind of stuff, we had some of that. A lot of times I would pray for strength and I think sometimes I got it. Pray for patience to get through the next minute when things were bad. I just don’t think it’s fair to expect too much out of what is basically not the Lord’s business.
This is one respect in which I would prefer a President McCain to a President Bush. Despite the fact that I’m a Christian, I think great harm results when politicians start thinking of themselves in Blues Brothers, “We’re-on-a-mission-from-God” terms.
Obama sometimes talks in messianic terms, but I’m confident that it’s merely a rhetorical device. I don’t think Obama gets carried away by his own rhetoric. He knows full well the limits of what can be accomplished by a political actor — even in an office as powerful as the presidency.
On the other hand, McCain seems to share George Bush’s division of the world into godly nations and evil nations. Accordingly, McCain shares George Bush’s aggressive approach to foreign policy.
The quote from Solzhenitsyn in my sidebar is more authentically conservative:
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
Solzhenitsyn also more accurately captures the message of scripture.