Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saddleback Showdown: First Impressions

imageDid you have a chance to watch the Rick Warren hosted forum at Saddleback Church? Let me just say that kudos are due Rick Warren for leveraging his pulpit and popularity to bring about a civil forum for discussion about where faith, character, and politics intersect.

Here are my thoughts. I'll do it in the same order Warren did and start with Obama.

Right off the bat, Obama's answer to the Warren question sounded like a stump speech and Warren called Barack to order. Obama's answer to Warren was that he's been doing quite a bit of stumping lately so it flows kind of naturally. But, after that, Obama was compliant and conversational.

Obama was most flustered, I felt, by Warren's question, "When does an unborn child get basic human rights?" Obama's answer was not an answer to the question, - he said the answer to that question was above his pay grade - but an explanation to why he is pro-choice. He mentioned that Bush is pro-life, but during his time as president, the rate of abortions has not come down and that is something that everyone agrees should happen and should take steps to make reality.

That was the biggest question to be answered for me as a man who has always voted a pro-life ticket right down the line. I think the issues this generation face right now go beyond that single issue, but in the past, that has been the single issue that has kept me voting a straight Republican ticket since I was eighteen years old and voted for Reagan in his second term.

I love that Obama invoked Mathew 25 saying that we have to follow Jesus's teaching to take care of the least of these; that we have to be willing to serve a cause greater than ourselves. Later, McCain said something similar about serving causes greater than ourselves. In fact, when McCain said that the one mistake we made in the wake of 9-11 was that we called for people to go shopping and to travel instead of calling people to serve in the Peace Corps and Military and volunteer organizations. I wanted to stand up and cheer but I was holding the baby. I know that the church was shocked and fearful and missions has suffered ever since. O, that a leader at the national level would have stood up and said don't stop; do more.


McCain was warmly welcomed by the Orange County crowd. The moment on stage when Obama and McCain occupied the same space was civil with Obama going beyond the offered hand shake to pull McCain in close for a man-hug.

While I love the directness and confidence with which McCain fired off answers to Warren's questions, I was a little disappointed that Warren didn't reign McCain in the way he did with Obama. McCain often defaulted from conversation to a campaign style of answering questions. McCain answered quickly, but he stumped. He told stories instead of giving direct answers. His quick answers permitted Warren to ask more questions, but it also gave McCain more time for campaigning leaving wondering if McCain was capable of listening and responding vs. responding to what he think is going to be asked. I feel like we already have a president that does that and had made serious policy errors because of that.

McCain's tendency to campaign in this forum hurt him in my opinion. He told me a bunch of things I've already heard or read. Don't get me wrong, I think he's an honest guy passionate about his beliefs. But I was hoping he's answer Warren in the same thoughtful way Obama did.

Here's the verdict: Obama seemed more human than McCain. He listened and responded. McCain launched into talking points. I'm not saying that Obama was totally innocent of this, but I felt he respected the forum, Warren, and the audience more than McCain did.

These are my initial impressions. I know there were questions about energy, evil, the Supreme Court, etc, but I don't want to take up space here or your time hashing through each one. In the next few news cycles, we'll watch pundits dig trenches along party lines and fire shots at each other doing exactly what Pastor Rick asked then not to do: demonize the man you don't agree with. Both sides will be guilty of making the other man look like Satan, the Father of Lies.

But neither man is. Both men came across as sincere men. I honestly can't remember when I've had a tougher choice between two good candidates. Most times, I've felt that I've had to pick the lesser of two evils. But this time, from my point of view, it's not as cut-and-dried as previous elections.

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Chris Goeppner said...

aside from the fact that obama is a self proclaimed marxist, i would have the same difficulty in choosing my candidate.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me for asking this, but I believe the American public MIGHT
have been duped by Pastor Rick, who looks silly in that goatee of his,
and he could lose some weight too......but what I am talking about is
this: you didn't mention it and nobody else, but I have a very strong
suspicion that the questions that Pastor Rick asked the two candidates
were GIVEN to both Obama and McCain in advance of the
"show"........why do I suspect this? because at one point Obama said
"I cheated here and did some research before hand.....I actually
looked at this idea ahead of time...."

he said this in response at first to one of Rick's question around the
45 minute time....

and CNN made a major gaffe: on the news scrawl below the screen, the
news editor who is obviosuly illiterate wrote for all the world to see
on CNN: "What is the greatest moral failure in your LIVE?

shoulda been LIFE? it was never corrected during Obama's half......way
to go, CNN!

but the main questuon here, sir, is WHERE THE QUESTIONS GIVEN TO THE
TWO MEN BEFORE THE SO CALLED FORUM? I believe they were. I am going to
ask Rick right now and see what he says....

when Rick also said "we are the most blessed nation on earth"...again
he is so full of it. Other nations are also blessed, sir Rick,
American is not NUMBER ONE in BLESSEDness, this is a huge mistkae of
arrogant overweight ammericans like Pastor Rick, who is a brainwashed
mindcontrolled robot of an ancient religion that is completely based
on myth and legend, there is NO JESUS at all, and yet he gets away
with this crap.....sad in this day and age..but that's America for
you, LIVE!

Mike West said...

Wow anonymous - sounds like you have a real problem with overweight people. There is no Jesus? Everyone who has done any research at all agrees based on historical evidence (Including books other then the Bible) that there certainly was a man named Jesus who walked on this earth. I challenge you to begin doing your own serious research on who Jesus is and or was before you deny His existence by calling Him a myth and legend. It appears from your comment that you are a thinker and that's a good thing. A good place to start is a book called "More Than A Carpenter" by author Josh McDowell. It will challenge you and your opinions. Please don't look at the failures of others as a way of making your own decision about Jesus. Examine the evidence of His existence I wish you all the best and I have a feeling that if you will take the time to do the research, you will come to the same conclusion as me. Jesus is who He said was.

Mike West said...

Regarding the forum. If I were scoring it as an Olympic event; I would give McCain a 7.5 on a scale of 10 and I would give Obama a 4. Obama seemed insecure and inexperienced. McCain was much more engaging and spoke of foreign affairs very confidently. I think a lot of Obama supporters who watched last night will be thinking twice. The McCain campaign will gain some momentum this week because of McCain's strong performance. I hope Obama will step up and accept McCain's challenge to do a series of town forums. Obama seems unsure without his tele-prompter.

Bryonm said...


In order for Obama to be a Marxist, he has to be an atheist. I heard him say he was a self-proclaimed Christian...


It's unfortunate that people will rate this like an Olympic event or a performance. I would score it the opposite; Obama actually paused and gave some thought to his answers. I felt McCain just stumped. I agree that town hall meetings would be good. But I like pause and thoughtful answers vs. quick rhetorical answers that blow past the questions actually asked. Not to say that McCain was guilty of that in every case. But I was disappointed that McCain took over the format that was designed to be a dialogue, not a campaign speech. If that is how McCain is going to lead, acting without listening and digesting, then I'm ready for Obama.

Mike West said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike West said...

mwest said...
Sounds like your mind is made up. At least we agree that God is in control no matter who is in the white house. I just can't see me voting for a senator with two years of experience and has the designation as the most liberal senator in 2007. While perhaps the label as a Marxist is a bit over the top; I am convinced he is a socialist and socialism has never worked. Now is not the time to have a "wishy -washy, why can't we all just get along leader" in the white house. Some of McCain's responses were quick because he's confident and decisive and there's nothing wrong with that. If you believe that we should be paying more in taxes (Again - check his voting record) if you believe we should bale out of iraq, if you believe that abortion should be legal, if you we believe we should not start drilling off shore for more oil ASAP, than BO is your guy and you're right to vote for him. It sounds like you liked "the way" BO answered rather than the substance of what he had to say. That's what I hear from everyone I know considering BO. They like the way he looks and sounds. That's a great criteria for a popularity contest; not for voting for President.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful review. I agree with you Bryon, and actually wrote about it earlier in another forum: While none of their answers really surprised me, the manner in which they answered revealed a lot to me about their personalities. One was dogmatic, frequently cut off the questioner, and answered each question in 10 seconds or less. The other seemed reflective, contemplative, and truly seems to grapple with some of the difficult issues--as do many of us.
While I'm not for abortion, I am for reducing the number of abortions--something I have not seen any of the Republicans make a part of their agenda.
I was also disappointed that McCain didn't speak more of his current relationship with Christ. He always seems to default to his time as a POW. While I'm sure that those were powerful days in his life, what has happened since then in regards to his walk with the Lord?

Bryonm said...


Not only do I like "the way" Obama answered. I like what he had to say. It wasn't rhetoric.

I fear McCain is going down the same road Gulianni went down. Any time you asked him a hard question, he invoked 9-11. McCain, when you ask about his faith, he answers with the same prison guard and cross story that is in print in a number of places including a book about Obama's faith (which I'll be reviewing here for Thomas-Nelson publishers in the next day or so). I don't call that substance. I call it what McCain calls it: an anecdote. Over-used anecdotes lack substance.

Hey, not all of Obama's answers were full of he substance I'd like. The questions were random and Warren was trying to move through them.

Obama's strength does come in crafting a well-thought out oral presentation. McCain does better on the fly. Those are just different strengths, not better character qualities or qualifications for president. They're just styles of communication (don't you remember the DISC testing :) ? ).

About abortion: it's not that I want it legal. IT IS legal. I've voted pro-life for twenty years and it's STILL legal. In addition to our votes, though, you and me can DO something more than once a year in the polls. We can be activists for changing hearts and do something about reducing abortions. Every Christian has that within his/her power. I know you've done that. So let's keep it up no matter who gets the job...

Bryonm said...

I wonder what you're thoughts on this post are...

Anonymous said...

I'll start by saying that I didn't see the Warren interviews, but I hope to see the replay or find it on YouTube.

Bryon, like you, I have voted pretty much along party lines over the last 20+ years, and abortion has been a big factor for me in many of those elections. As a child adopted at birth, there is probably no bigger pro-lifer out there than me. That said, I've wondered recently if we're really approaching this the right way. Rather than appoint judges and make laws that outlaw abortion, I think we need to work on a nation's heart to persuade it to value life. Legislating abortion won't do that.

Honestly, at this stage, I don't know who I'm voting for. I'll see if the Warren interviews can persuade me one way or the other.

BTW, @anonymous: I'm a little on the overweight side, and I look kind of silly in my goatee, too.

Mike West said...

Just curious, How do explain BO's 20 year relationship with Reverend Wright?
BTW - I know abortion's legal. Voting for Obama will help keep it that way. I would like to see it reversed. I too have seen and heard McCain's prison camp story before. It a very powerful story that makes a point and I don't think people should trivialize it. It obviously had a huge impact on him. Didn't Jesus make His point with stories? I do remember the DISC testing and your reluctance to take it. I guess maybe you learned something from it anyway? Another BTW - I am not a 1 issue voter.

Mike West said...

Oh yeah. My thoughts on the link you mention above.
I recently visited the "Bodies Exhibition" in Cincinnati.
Part of the exhibition laid out the development of a human fetus. I was amazed at the development of the baby at 6 weeks. It reinforced even more my belief that allowing abortion is murder; period. It's not a "moral issue" for me. It's a "fact issue." Everyone likes to call it a "moral issue" because "morals" have been dumb-downed to the point of being defined as whatever you think is right or wrong - the absence of absolute truth. I'm sorry, but abortion is a black & white issue; not a popular stance in this "whatever you think is right "society we live in. Saying abortions haven't been reduced misses the point completely! They haven't been reduced because abortion continues to grow as a form of birth control. I'm very surprised at your consideration of Obama as a serious candidate. He may win, but if he does, I will proudly proclaim that I did not vote for him. I'm almost afraid to ask your definition of marriage. :)

Bryonm said...


As far as his relationship with Wright, well, pastors don't always have the most logical or politically correct positions. In fact, for the past twenty years, I've been part of, am still am, a tradition that teaches that one day millions of us are going to just disappear. That neither logical nor biblical, but I stay in that tradition any way because not everything we teach in our certain traditions is smart. But I have alot of good friends, mentors, and heroes in that tradition (you included, my friend - I mean that - I've learned alot from you). Our country does not have a great track record with minorities in our short history. So, yeah, Wright exaggerates. What preacher doesn't? Do you hold everybody responsible for that? Do you hold every Calvary Chapel pastor responsible for the fact that the rapture didn't happen in 1981 as Chuck Smith predicted - even published... ?

But I put a fact out there: you and I can do something within our little realms of influence about abortion. No president by himself can make abortion go away.

I agree that it's murder. But the best we can hope for is that we see abortion decline. The democrat party is the only party that has made it official in it's platform about it. I feel that ALL that Republicans have said is that they are hard core pro-life. But they haven't DONE anything. That tells me that they just say what we evangelicals want to hear to get our votes. That kind of pisses me off... makes me feel a little used. Think about it.

MYy definition of marriage is the same as yours; the same as McCain's, and the same as Obama's.

But the bottom line, my brother, is I know you think these things through. I'm not belittling you for liking McCain. I like McCain. I don't DIS-like either candidate. I don't think one is pure as the wind driven snow and the other Satan. I'm hopeful with both guys. I'm hopeful.

Peace, man.

Mike West said...

Thanks. Peace out.
Obama sucks. How's that for a mature attitude?

Jeff T. said...

Something nobody mentioned is that Obama was 100% engaged with Rick warren - McCain wasn't. The EVIDENCE of this is the way McCain kept looking and addressing the audience as "my friends", whereas Obama stayed in conversation with Rick Warren. That's the "Stumping" Bryon's getting at (I think).

I thought Obama stuck his foot in his mouth but nobody noticed. After referencing Matthew and "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me", he point-blank stated he was pro-life! The contradiction is pretty ridiculous.

Unlike most Republican Christians, I think Obama is evil. I believe he's genuinely concerned about America and cares about his country. I also believe that the methods he has in mind are horribly misguided.

I think the best and worst thing about McCain is that he will do whatever he thinks is right, no matter what anybody else says. Um... aren't we just coming out of 8 years of that kind of leadership? How'd that work out for us in the end?

I think this is the political forum of the future. It made classic debates feel so pointless - all they do is highlight the best debater! I felt like I got to see and find out more about both candidates than I would form watching 2 debates.

Rick Warren is the man. Finally - there's a Christian leader who's TV not because he's whacko, stealing, or sleeping around! Does anybody walk the faith/politics line better than Rick Warren?

Jeff T. said...

That 3rd paragraph was supposed to say "I DON'T think Obama's evil". Nevermind...

Bryonm said...


This blogger agrees with you about Obama's Pro-choice/least of these contradiction...

Mike West said...

I don't think most Republicans think he's evil - just as you said Jeff - his methods are horribly misguided.

Bryonm said...

Mike: you say that as if republicans are so "guided" :)

The charming and beautiful Susan is asking about your knee...

Mike West said...

This second knee replacement is doing pretty darn good. I can now say it's been worth all the pain. God is good. Give the B&C Susan a big hug for us. Would love to see you guys. How about a trip to KY?

Anonymous said...

I am concerned, are there alot of you out there even considering obama? are we as christians to pick the one that stands the closest to the word of God? for example pro choice,are we one nation under God or are we like the world? we are not to be of the world we are to say no to pro choice and marriage is between a man and a woman. they can do what they want no one is stopping them but we do not have to vote for it. yes the unsaved will want those things they are self-guided but we are not to be. we are to be obedient to the word. all i can think of is lot going outside of sodom before he realized he was in sodom and acting like those there. are we not to be leaders and set an example that is pleasing to God. I am not saying i love McCain but he is the closest to the word. they both have some God talk but it is not the talk it is the walk and i do not see obama walking in his talk other than wanting to help the poor. this seems to inable laziness we were meant to work and each be responsible for our own load and help our family not the government. brian if you could respond to me as counsel from a man of God. i do aggree with the statement about we need to start doing stuff ourself to help stop the # of abortions one being let the girls and guys know the effects after abortion is awful no one ever talks about that they just feed on there fears. as for bush did not stop the # of abortions since his presidency one man can not but if God's people dont take a stand and vote this way it will continue that is for certain. i am not sure if my name is going to come up it is Robin Stuart

Bryonm said...


Thanks for your comments.

Robin, you have to vote according to your convictions. But to say that one candidate is closer to God's Word than the other can be deceptive. And one candidate can use it to get your vote.

Let me emphatically say this: I'm not endorsing either candidate. This forum began based on my opinion about the Saddleback Showdown. In my opinion, Barack let his yes be yes and his no be no. McCain just campaigned. Barack gave us a look at who he is and what he believes while McCain gave talking points not even answering the questions. I believe that Obama had an honest conversation even allowing for viewers to witness vulnerability. McCain refused to demonstrate any vulnerability and did not honor the forum. McCain was only concerned with "winning" the night. (Not that I don't think that Obama wants to be viewed as a winner, but it was less of a priority - I'm just sorry his honesty and humanity is being used against him.)

Abortion: I don't think voting for a pro-life candidate is going to criminalize abortion. Making criminals of mothers during the most confusing times of their lives is not what I think God requires of us. Giving help, support and offering alternatives to abortion looks more like the activity of Jesus's followers.

I agree that abortion in heinous. I hate it. I've demonstrated that in my social behavior and even in my family situation.

I don't think that Republicans are hearing our pro-life voices as we cast our ballots; Republican candidates are using the abortion issue to get themselves elected. The only time they bring the issue up, the only time it is EVEN AN ISSUE is at election time. If that is the only time WE think about it, then we aren't living what we believe. It's an issue every single day, not just at election time. It's an issue that won't be solved in courts or voting booths. It's an issue that will be solved as believers actively love and influence human hearts. Are you willing to love and influence human hearts, or are you only willing to vote for a man that says he's pro-life on one hand, but won't tell Americans who Jesus Christ is? That's what McCain did Saturday night. But Obama said who Jesus Christ is and is to him and visibly struggled with a heart wrenching topic: abortion.

Both candidates said the same thing about marriage so it's a non-issue as far as I'm concerned; they both defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

I loved Rick Warren's admonition: don't demonize the other side. That's what many of us our guilty of. We take the side of The Accuser and constantly hurl accusations against the one who isn't our guy while totally ignoring the short-comings of the other... That is an unbalanced scale something God hates according to scripture. We need, as Christians, to honor God's Word, not presidential candidates who have said much about a future that thy have not yet had the opportunity to act in yet.