Presidential candidates on faith

Time let John McCain and Barack Obama to describe their faith. Each used the opportunity to offer a very different take of the issue of the importance of faith in their lives. Both essays are worth reading in full.

Here is a highlight from McCain’s essay:

My mother has recounted to me how when I was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, she sometimes overheard my father praying for me. He was in charge of U.S. forces in the Pacific at the time and suffered from the burden of commanding a war in a country where his son was imprisoned. As my mother recalled, she could hear my father in his study, on his knees, beseeching God to “show Johnny mercy.”

My father would have been surprised to know what unlikely forms God’s mercy could take. In prison, my captors would tie my arms behind my back and then loop the rope around my neck and ankles so that my head was pulled down between my knees. I was often left like that throughout the night. One night a guard came into my cell. He put his finger to his lips signaling for me to be quiet and then loosened my ropes to relieve my pain. The next morning, when his shift ended, the guard returned and retightened the ropes, never saying a word to me.

A month or so later, on Christmas Day, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw that same guard approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me, not looking or smiling at me. Then he used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas, even in the darkness of a Vietnamese prison camp.

This guard was my Good Samaritan. I will never forget that fellow Christian, and I will never forget that moment. I will always remember as well the Christmas services that my fellow prisoners and I held in a cell, when I gave thanks to God for the blessings he had granted me with the company of men I had come to admire and love.

Read it all here.

Here is a highlight from the Obama essay:

I began my Christian journey over 20 years ago, as a young man fresh out of college. And since that time I’ve been serious not only about deepening my relationship with Christ but also about the way that all Americans can live together in our diverse, pluralistic society.

I think there are some lessons that Americans from all political persuasions might learn in this regard, lessons that I take to heart each day. We have to start by remembering the role that values play in addressing some of our most urgent social problems. As I’ve said many times, the problems of poverty and war, the uninsured and the unemployed aren’t simply technical problems in search of a 10-point plan. They’re rooted in societal indifference and individual callousness — in the imperfections of man.

For example, I believe in tough law enforcement and commonsense gun laws to keep our children safe from an epidemic of violence. But I also believe that when a gangbanger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, that’s not just a government problem — it’s a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart. Solving problems like this will require changes in government policy, but it will also require a change in hearts and a change in minds. That’s a lesson that friends of mine like Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop T.D. Jakes know well.

I also think we must remember that there are a range of moral-values issues that must be addressed in our families, our communities and our government. My values speak to the 47 million Americans suffering without health care, the care of soldiers and civilians in Iraq and veterans back home, the expanse of God’s creation that is warming day by day, the single mothers struggling to provide for their families and the fathers who are too often absent from the scene. I don’t believe we should ignore the debate over traditional “values issues” at the expense of these other moral challenges. But we can’t just talk about “family values.” We actually have to stand up for policies that value families.

Read it all here.

The Beleifnet “God-o-Meter” has an interesting post on 10 Ways Obama’s TIME Faith Essay Targets Evangelicals

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