Another debate without much religion

The big issue in tonight’s debate was the economy yet again (with foreign policy as the side dish). The closest the candidates came to discussing issues of morality or faith was both candidates’ criticism of Wall Street for corporate excess and greed and McCain’s frequent calls for faith in the American people.

Obama did mention that the country has a “moral commitment” to providing healthcare to people without health insurance. McCain mentioned that America is the greatest force for good in the world. We send our military troops everywhere — as peacemakers.

The transcript includes none of the following words: God, faith, pray(er), church, Islam, or Christ(ianity).

Michael Paulson’s Articles of Faith blog over at The Boston Globe noted that there was “[a]n unexpected twist in an otherwise religion-free presidential debate tonight” when moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News alluded to Buddhism:

Brokaw, of NBC News, introduced the final question, from Peggy in Amherst, NH, by saying “it has a certain Zen-like quality.” He then proceeded to ask the question, “What don’t you know, and how will you learn it?” that both candidates blew past on their route to closing statements.

Paulson notes that the debate contained religion issues arising out of the Middle East involving Israel, terrorism and avoiding another Holocaust as a “moral” duty.

Mark Silk at the Spiritual Politics blog has a nice entertaining run-down, live-blog style, of this evening’s debate.

There was an excellent (but short) discussion between the candidates regarding the candidate’s policy regarding the use of military force where the United States’ national security is not a risk. The answers were cloaked heavily in terms of moral duty and the country’s national interest in intervening. Obama noted that, “there is a lot of cruelty around the world,” that we can’t be everywhere and the U.S. must rely on its allies. McCain said you have to be careful when you send American soldiers into harms way.

UPDATE: I neglected to notice last night Christianity Today‘s live blog of the debate:

There were seven references to God in the vice presidential debate. Tonight, zero. McCain said “my friends” or “my friend” 22 times, but there was little faith talk from either candidate tonight.

Maybe the closest was Obama’s line when referring to McCain’s approach to health care: “So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.” Sounds a tiny bit like Job’s “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.”

Could the Job reference be counted as religious code talk?

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  • Dan Berger

    Both the supposed “religious” comments are drawn entirely from secular popular culture. The “Zen-like” comment is just a throwaway line, and, while the phrasing was “Biblical,” giving with one hand and taking away with the other is common currency in politics (and life).

    Perhaps the Senator used the archaic phrasing because he was under the impression that the concept came from the Bible?

  • Thomas McKenzie

    And especially surprising given that this conversation was held at a Christian university in a heavily churched city.

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  • FrGregACCA


    The agenda was driven by two things, both beyond the candidates’ control: the first, of course, were the questions coming from the audience and those submitted by E-mail; the second force was Brokaw’s selection of the specific questions, chosen from the above pool, which were the ones actually asked of Obama and McCain.

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  • Ken

    As was pointed out by a well known radio personality: of the 2,000 questions received, Mr. Brokaw chose to omit or — hard to believe — didn’t receive any questions on Abortion, Immigration, or Marriage.

    Not to candidate McCain’s credit was his not listing the millions of unborn who are murdered in this country and give it equal footing with the hand wringing over Darfur, Bosnia, Sudan. He might have also reminded people that Iraq’s Sadam Hussein had routinely fed his countrymen into a wood chipper.

  • TA