The Christian Nationalism of John McCain
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 11:07:20 AM EST
I am reprising this post because the issue of John McCain's professed Christian nationalism is a real question that goes to the question of his core beliefs as well as his ongoing relationship with the religious right.

In an interview with BeliefNet, last year, John McCain came out as a Christian nationalist. This is a disturbing development from a man who has been profoundly critical of the religious right in the past, but has courted movement leaders, and received the endorsement of some (and was forced to renounce some too) while seeking the GOP nomination for president over the past year.

In this interview, he comes out more strongly as a Christian nationalist and critic of separation of church and state than any nominee for either party in modern American history.

There was a flurry of correspondence with the Anti-Defamation League in the wake of his statments. (reprinted below) But the upshot was this statement from the ADL:

In response, ADL welcomed Sen. McCain's clarification, but added, "Nevertheless, we are deeply disappointed that you did not expressly retract your statement that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.

Last October, journalist Dan Gilgoff interviewed John McCain on BeliefNet. The interview was  titled:  John McCain: Constitution Established a "Christian Nation."

Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

McCain: I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, "I only welcome Christians." We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director wrote to McCain about this  on October 1, 2007. McCain replied, and the ADL rejoined.

We write in response to your recent interview posted on Beliefnet.com. We and others are confused and dismayed by the comments you made in the course of this interview. On the one hand, you correctly noted that our Founding Fathers unequivocally believed in the separation of church and state. Yet you then came to the conclusion that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

While this view may reflect what recent polls show is the opinion shared by a majority of Americans today, it is false. Absolutely nothing in the Constitution establishes that the U.S. is a Christian nation, nor is it accurate to say that this nation was founded on Christian principles.

The sources that influence the framers ranged from Greek and Roman law, to John Locke, to Scottish Common Sense philosophers to Calvinism. The Founding Fathers actually rejected attempts to include Biblical passages and religious principles in the Constitution. In fact, every attempt to include official recognition of Christianity in the United States Constitution was defeated. The secular character of the new nation was affirmed in the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) which was negotiated under George Washington and signed by John Adams: "The Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

We were pleased that you clarified your earlier remarks about Muslims' suitability to serve as president, and made it clear that you would be willing to vote for a Muslim candidate. As you well know, our Constitution explicitly states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

While the Anti-Defamation League is non-partisan and does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office, we believe deeply that voters should be making their decisions on the basis of a candidate's qualifications and positions on substantive issues. We do not ask candidates to hide their religious heritage or the impact religion has had on them. But appeals to voters based on religion are inevitably divisive and contrary to the democratic ideals upon which our nation was truly founded.

We urge you to reconsider and withdraw your statements describing the United States as a "Christian nation" and a "nation founded on Christian principles." Not only were your assertions inaccurate, they were also ill-advised for any candidate seeking to lead a nation as religiously diverse and pluralistic as ours.

McCain replied:

You have misconstrued my interview with Beliefnet, in which I made repeated references to the "Judeo-Christian" values that informed our founding fathers' respect for human rights. I did not assert that members of one faith have a greater claim to American citizenship than another. In fact, I stressed the opposite, noting that "the lady who holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say 'I only welcome Christians.'" Read in context, the interview makes clear that I believe people of all faiths are welcome here and entitled to all the protections of our Constitution, including the unfettered right to practice their religion freely. In the interview, I observed that the values protected by the Constitution - such as respect for human life and dignity - are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all I intended to say to the question: is America a Christian nation?

While I acknowledged that I might be more comfortable voting for someone who shared that tradition, I also made clear that a candidate's faith should not be a barrier to running for or serving in high office. And in a clarification I gave Beliefnet shortly after the interview I said I could support a Muslim candidate for President, if I believed he or she were the best qualified to serve in that capacity.

I hope you will now see that your concern was misplaced. I have always made it a practice to put the country's best interests before my own, and have always avoided seeking political gain by aggravating racial or religious divisions among us, and I regret the insinuation that I would. Indeed, I do not think you can find anything in my life and political record to suggest the contrary. I was asserting nothing more controversial than that I recognize the human rights cherished in America, which the Constitution was conceived to protect, and which Americans have sacrificed their lives to defend, are values cherished in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Foxman rejoined:

Thank you for your quick response to my letter expressing concern over your interview with Beliefnet in which you referred to the United States as a "Christian nation."

We welcome your clarification that you were "asserting nothing more controversial than that you recognize the human rights cherished in America.....are values cherished in the Judeo-Christian tradition."
Nevertheless, we are disappointed that you did not expressly retract your statement that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation." Unfortunately, that phrase is often exploited by those who do not fully appreciate the importance of our Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom and equality which you embrace.

We hope that you will express your commitment to our pluralistic values in more inclusive language in the future.

Here is the ADL press release on the flap.

The blog Jed Report made a You Tube video from an interview conducted by Dan Gilgoff at Beliefnet last year. It is a compelling two and a half minute bit of vid, but Jed Report does not identify the source. The link to the original is in this post.

A hat tip and a sweeping bow to Daily Kos diarist DrSteveB for originally flagging this in response to the Obama/Farrakhan episode.

For a primer on Christian nationalism, see: History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters.



Display:
is a made-up term to try to graft a veneer of Judaism onto the Christian Right, and to gloss over the essential differences between the two religions.  John McCain should stop his clowning.

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:16:56 AM EST
the "straight-talking," "Maverick" continues to pander.  Lovely!

I wonder if the MSM will call him on it, or if they will continue to avert their gaze in reverence...

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 11:45:58 AM EST
Parent

of these matters. But sometimes good reporters get a chance to ask good questions.

Interestingly, McCain has been taking some heat that although he claims to be a Baptist (after being a lifelong Episcopalian) he has never actually been baptised. Calling pols on their hypocrisy is easier than getting into their actual ideology.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 11:52:11 AM EST
Parent

made by McCain where he says that he decided to attend a Baptist church becuase they are"strong on redemption and so am I."  It's hard to know why people make the religious decisions they do, becuase you can't properly access their intentions and movitivations, without opening up their brain and taking a look inside.  According to McCain, he's attended that particular Baptist church for over 15 years, so he may not be pandering.  In any event, McCain doesn't strike me as a particularly deep thinker, so maybe he joined it because he likes the people there.

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 12:45:27 PM EST
Parent
but seems to me that if you are going to claim to be a Baptist, it helps to actually be one.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 12:48:32 PM EST
Parent
fair enough

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 01:04:07 PM EST
Parent






EXCERPTED from Today's Haaretz: http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/959110.html John McCain won the endorsement of pro-Israel evangelical leader John Hagee on Wednesday, which could boost his standing among religious conservatives who have been reluctant to embrace the likely nominee..... Hagee, who heads a 19,000-member church in San Antonio, Texas, is best known for his outspoken support of Israel and writings on the Middle East, where he envisions a blood-soaked clash between East and West leading to the return of Jesus Christ...... "I'm very honored by Pastor John Hagee's endorsement today," McCain said at a news conference. "He has been the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement in many areas, but especially, most especially, his close ties and advocacy for the freedom and independence of the state of Israel." ........"Victory is within our grasp because John McCain knows it's never wrong to do the right thing," Hagee said...... McCain's support for the Iraq war and fierce criticism of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won praise from Hagee, who has brought thousands of evangelical Christians to Washington to lobby on Israel's behalf. Hagee has written that events in the Middle East point to an imminent apocalypse Christians should welcome. In his book "Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World," Hagee predicts Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God. Israel will then be the site of a battle between China and the West, which will be led by the anti-Christ in his role as head of the European Union. Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the final battle, he writes.... The book also claims Adolph Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church joined in a conspiracy to destroy the Jews. .......McCain said on his campaign plane that he was not familiar with Hagee's writings. "I think he's a fine leader and I appreciate his commitment to Israel," McCain said.... e http://www.wearewideawake.org/

by eileen fleming on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 11:00:10 AM EST

It is difficult to say what McCain actually believes, but he will say and do anything to get votes at this moment, and likely will do so if elected.

by NancyP on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 02:39:15 PM EST
McCain has abandoned principles for votes.

by khughes1963 on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 05:39:52 PM EST
Parent



WWW Talk To Action


Why Is Bishop Robert Finn Still In Power?
As I reported in September 2014, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has been under Vatican investigation to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
Thus It Was Prophesied in 2012: Ted Cruz Will Be VP, Or a Supreme Court Justice
This is a transcript, of pastor Larry Huch and Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, from an appearance Rafael Cruz made at......
By Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Crusin with Cruz
Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, announcing his bid for President in the worship center at Jerry Falwell's University last night.  Mother......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Ted Cruz: Born From The Heart of the Dominionist Christian Right
[welcome, Thom Hartmann Show fans, here is a short introduction to my past coverage on Ted Cruz and the dominionist Christian right] Did you......
By Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Coming Soon to Utah: An International Festival of Bigotry
An international network of some of the world's most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Bumpy Lane: Religious Right Operative Seeks To Build (Another) Church-Based Political Machine
Here's what the country doesn't need right now: another zealot aiming to mobilize right-wing pastors to become a force in electoral politics.Yet that's what......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Team Jeb Bush's Liaison to Religious Right Is Hardcore Culture Warrior
In 2008, Senator John McCain's campaign recognized that he needed to shore up his credentials with the Religious Right, which was skeptical about his......
By Bill Berkowitz (2 comments)
American ISIS: Christian Reconstructionists And `Biblical Law' In America
Every now and then, while scanning the day's news, I come across a headline that's hard to believe.Like this one: "California lawyer proposes ballot......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Will our Prisons Overflow with Christians this Summer?
Many leaders of the Christian Right, from megachurch pastors like Rick Warren to the top prelates in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Say You Want A Christian Nation?: Let's Try This One
Last week an article began circulating on social media claiming that 57 percent of Republicans in a recent poll said they believe Christianity should......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Are The Fundamentalists Winning?
We missed Evolution Weekend, which was held February 13-15 this year.   This worthwhile effort, which began the same year as Talk to Action,......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Mario Cuomo's Memorable Lesson on Challenging the Political Authority of the Church
It is never too late to remember. Here is a reposting of a column I did following the death of former New York Gov.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Legacy of Francis Bellamy
"We assemble here that we, too, may exalt the free school that embodies the American principles of universal enlightenment and equality; the most characteristic......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
The Inquisitional Urge Gets the Better of Bill Donohue (Again)
Bill Donohue is at it again. The Catholic League president went apoplectic over President Obama’s seemingly innocuous comments at the February 5th National Prayer......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
John Dorhauer Recommended to Lead United Church of Christ
I am very pleased to report that John Dorhauer, who joined us early on at Talk to Action has been recommended by a national......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)

Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (9 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (3 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (1 comment)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (3 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (2 comments)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (1 comment)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.