Yesterday, Rev. Arnold Conrad, past pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Davenport, Iowa, prayed the following at a McCain rally in Davenport:
I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god – whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah – that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons.
And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day.
The response of the McCain campaign was:
While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama’s judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief.
On its face, the prayer had nothing to do with Obama’s religion. Conrad was calling upon his God to step up and prove Himself bigger than the gods of all those paynim who, he imagines, are busy sending up their own solicitations on Obama’s behalf. It literally interprets the presidential campaign as a Holy War, god versus god.
But it’s fair to say that the McCain campaign got the point: namely, that the pastor was implying that, notwithstanding his claims to be a Christian, Obama is really one of those paynim; and that he is their standard bearer against the Christians in this campaign. The Evangelical Free Church of America is a small premillenialist denomination that makes no bones about dividing the world into sheep and goats. How many other Americans share the pastor’s views?
Well, you’ve got Rev. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, who recently told religion newswriters (i.e. he was not just speaking in church):
I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian. The value of electing a Christian goes beyond public policies….Christians are uniquely favored by God, [while] Mormons, Hindus and Muslims worship a false god. The eternal consequences outweigh political ones. It is worse to legitimize a faith that would lead people to a separation from God.
The Washington Times‘ Julia Duin, commenting on these remarks, chided the newswriters for being shocked: “Fellow ink-stained wretches, there’s a lot of folks in flyover land who feel the same way he does.” OK, and I’m guessing a lot of them wouldn’t object to Rev. Conrad’s formulation.
Because of his name, because of his antecedents, because of his color, and because of hate-mongering, Barack Obama has ratcheted up the faith-based anxieties of an undetermined, but not insignificant number of, let’s call them Judeo-Christian Americans. There’s a lot of ugly stuff out there, and it violates the spirit of the Constitution’s ban on religious tests for office. It would be nice if the McCain campaign took the next step and came out forthrightly and said so.