The L.A. Times has a revealing story about John McCain’s faith. A sample:
McCain is most comfortable talking about his religious awakening during his 5 1/2 years in captivity, where his connection to God grew stronger and he served as “room chaplain” for a small group of prisoners.
In his early life he was influenced by his “deeply religious” father, who relied on his faith in a long struggle with alcoholism. Prayer and church became an “ingrained part” of McCain’s life at his high school, where he attended chapel every morning and on Sunday evenings, even after church, he says.
McCain says in those days, he was a self-absorbed rule-breaker who became a hard-partying naval aviator. It was not until after his plane was shot down over Hanoi in October 1967, he wrote in his memoir, “Faith of My Fathers,” that he learned to “grasp” faith tightly. In solitary confinement, he prayed “more often and more fervently than I ever had as a free man.”
“I was very slow in maturing,” he said aboard his campaign plane. “I knew right from wrong; I knew the Bible; I knew the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed and the tenets of my faith. And although I neglected them, the time came that I could fall back on them as a net, as a way of salvation, literally.”
Often his faith helped him “get through another minute,” he said. At the same time, McCain said, he learned to be “careful not to ask God to do things that were temporal rather than spiritual.”
In McCain’s first talk as chaplain, he cautioned fellow prisoners not to pray for their release — reminding them of a parable in which Jesus was asked whether it was right to pay taxes. “He held up the coin and said, ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,’ ” McCain said, recalling his lecture. “The point of my talk was we were doing Caesar’s work when we went into combat, so we really shouldn’t ask God” for release.
That lesson guided McCain not to pray for his own personal success. “I pray to do the right thing so I won’t look back in regret or embarrassment or even shame that I betrayed my principles and my faith,” he said.
McCain began attending a Baptist church after marrying Cindy McCain in 1980 and moving to Arizona. At North Phoenix Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, McCain was attracted to the pastor’s message “that we’re all sinners, but we can benefit from God’s grace if we recognize those sins and move forward,” he said.
Although some religious leaders contend that McCain has not said enough about how his faith influences his positions, his stance on abortion is clear. McCain is a staunch opponent. He said that his view that life begins at conception is based “to some degree” in his religious faith.
Some quirks (not praying for his own success or even release from the POW camp), some insights (“we were doing Caesar’s work”), some solid theology (sin & grace; dependence on the Creeds). At least he stands squarely against the gospel of success that plagues, the confusion of kingdoms, and the content-free theology that plagues contemporary Christianity. Maybe he associates all of that with contemporary evangelicalism, which is why he keeps his distance. Or do you think this is not an adequate confession of faith?
HT: Mark Stricherz at Get Religion.