"I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation [n ] or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office." —John F. Kennedy, 1960 Any Democrat who imagines that Barack Obama's got the presidential election locked up needs to watch the so-called Saddleback forum featuring him and John McCain online at cnn. com. Broadcast live on Aug. 16, it was hosted by Rick Warren, the California televangelist and author of "The Purpose Driven Life," a spiritual self-help manual for people who think God drives an SUV and a Christian's highest calling is monitoring others' sexual behavior. The calculatedly casual Warren—he preaches to congregations of upwards of 17, 000 wearing blue jeans and an untucked, open-collared shirt—definitely marks an evolutionary step up from the Virginia divines Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. During the two hours, there were no melodramatic Armageddon predictions, no accusations that Democrats are in league with Satan, nothing about flinging virgins into volcanoes to appease a wrathful God.
OK, maybe even Falwell never said that. Warren's more like a TV game-show host, a description he embraces, than a fire-and-brimstone shouter. He urges his followers not to hate people they disagree with.
Even so, it's possible to feel disquiet about presidential candidates submitting themselves to spiritual inquisition by any preacher. Will they next undergo questioning by a Catholic cardinal ? A rabbi ? Orthodox or Reformed ? A Muslim imam ? By Christopher Hitchens, bestselling scourge of God ? I know a female Methodist preacher I'd enjoy watching give McCain the third degree.