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McCain vs. Obama

Two church members, one an East Texas preacher and the other a Marquette University political scientist, tackle key issues in the 2008 presidential race.

As the 2008 presidential campaign dominates headlines, The Christian Chronicle asked two church members to discuss faith, politics and their choice for the nation’s top office.
Darryl Bowdre, senior minister of the Southcentral Church of Christ in Tyler, Texas, publishes the Ebony News Journal, an East Texas weekly with about 5,000 subscribers.  A chamber of commerce leader and former school board member, Bowdre is the son and grandson of gospel preachers and attended Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas. He is an independent and supports Barack Obama.
John McAdams, a member of the Northtown Church of Christ in Milwaukee, teaches political science at Marquette University.  A former high school social studies teacher, he holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In his free time, he operates an Internet radio station that plays a cappella Christian songs. He is a Republican and supports John McCain.
Each answered the same questions in separate interviews with the Chronicle.

Which candidate do you support for president, and why?
McADAMS: I’ll vote for John McCain, since I’m a conservative and he’s a conservative. He’s not necessarily the perfect conservative, but he’s much closer to my values and my policy positions than Obama. The “perfect conservative” is something that we very seldom get in American politics, just as we very seldom get the “perfect liberal.”

I’m supporting Obama. He has impressed me with his leadership, his vision and his vision for change.

What role, if any, does your faith play in your approach to politics and the 2008 presidential race?

BOWDRE: My faith has always been a thermostat of sorts that helps me to determine both my passion and my involvement in social and political issues. I see the example of Jesus as my primary example. How Jesus was never hesitant or afraid to speak out or get involved and even confront issues as well as the power players of his day, in helping them to determine the right directions or even criticizing or encouraging their stance on issues.
McADAMS: I simply can’t bring myself to believe that a woman has a right to kill her unborn child for no reason except that the child is very inconvenient. On the issue of “gay rights,” the key political — as opposed to personal — issue that I see is the attempt of secular liberals to use government power to demean, attack and marginalize people who hold a Christian view of homosexuality. Look at the persecution of the Boy Scouts. Look at indoctrination in the schools.
And I believe that Christian, democratic “liberal” — in the classical sense — civilization is worth defending against militant Islam.
Would you agree that conservative Christians have tended to vote in recent presidential elections mainly based on candidates’ positions on issues such as abortion and gay rights? Do you expect that to be the case in 2008, or are other issues or factors at play?

McADAMS: I think it’s easy to overstate the case and claim that abortion and “gay rights” have always been the reason for Republican voting among religious conservatives. On the other hand, pundits are always looking for some new thing to talk about in this election cycle. In fact, “social issues,” most certainly including abortion and gay marriage, will remain important among a lot of conservative Christians. But it’s broader than that: It’s the hostility toward Christianity the secular left shows, and Obama is most certainly the candidate of the secular left (whatever his personal religious beliefs may be).

BOWDRE: I certainly think that in the past that those have been two of the main issues that have really fueled the religious right. However, in 2008, I think that there are certainly issues such as the war and the economy. And I think those are two issues that the religious right has never taken up before that have been moved to the front burners. Because these issues affect everyone where we live.
Some church members say they are reassessing their political leanings in light of the war in Iraq and issues such as health care, poverty and immigration. Do you believe that Christians may be more likely to vote for a Democrat this election?

BOWDRE: I think some will perhaps. I see it even locally in East Texas, which is a Republican and a conservative stronghold. I believe that many are viewing the Democrats as being more astute and in tune to issues, especially health, poverty and immigration.

McADAMS: This argument usually comes from liberals, and usually comes with the assumption that to be Christian you have to favor the standard liberal agenda on these issues. The ranks of theologically conservative Christians include a fair number of people who are liberal on some issues, but that isn’t new this year. Christians in the Churches of Christ will lean in a conservative direction, believing that respect for the environment doesn’t necessarily require banning offshore drilling, and that concern for the poor doesn’t necessarily mean you favor every social welfare program that somebody wants.
What would you identify as the top moral issues at play in this election, and how do you see your candidate as the better choice on those issues?
McADAMS: I see the top three issues as abortion, “gay rights” and the global war on terror. One can quibble with this or that position of McCain, but Obama has flip-flopped all over the place, suggesting he has no firm moral convictions. Or when he has seemed to have moral convictions, he has in my view had bad ones. Add to that the fact that an Obama in office would appoint bureaucrats and, more importantly, judges who are at odds with Christian values.
BOWDRE: To a certain degree, America’s standing in the rest of the world has become a moral issue. Whereas in the past, I think that America has been seen as a strong arm to underdeveloped countries, I think that the Democrats and especially Obama have a vision and a view of the world that’s certainly to me more moral and much more palatable to the rest of the world.
I think of the poverty, the starvation, the genocide that’s going on in many African countries. For the most part, America has turned a blind eye to or looked the other way. I think that’s an issue that Obama will certainly bring to the forefront.
Of course, I don’t agree with the national Democratic platform as it relates to same-sex marriage, and I believe that that’s going to be a determining factor in some people’s minds, and rightfully so.

Race and religion have become intertwined in the campaign at times. It seems that black and white Christians often share similar theology and values yet vote quite differently. Would you expect that to continue, and what does this say about the state of race in the church?
BOWDRE: Boy, that’s a good question. Well, I would agree that black and white Christians share theology and, for the most part, values. I think that where we vote differently has more to do with our social and economic status than our theology.
I believe that you’re still going to see more white Christians vote for McCain because they feel more comfortable with him. And likewise, you’re going to see black Christians vote for Obama because they can certainly relate to his life and to his background.
In spite of those differences, because of the grace of God, we are able to maintain our relationships and build on relationships with one another in Christ. Through the years, I think we have matured to the point where we believe and know that we do not have to agree on everything in order to be related.
McADAMS: It’s long been the case that whites in the Churches of Christ have leaned strongly Republican in presidential voting, and for even longer blacks have voted heavily Democratic. That won’t change, and an understandable racial pride will cause blacks to be virtually monolithic behind Obama in 2008.
If voting is a “matter of faith” — with only one Christian way to vote — this is a dire problem. But most people in the Churches of Christ are going to view it as a “matter of opinion,” and blacks and whites are going to be unified in Christ, while voting differently.
Sen. Obama has said he would expand President Bush’s “faith-based initiative” to open up more federal grants to nonprofits and religious institutions. Where does your candidate stand on this initiative, and what challenges and opportunities does it present?

McADAMS: What Obama says on one day is notoriously not a good guide to what he’ll say on another day. Secular liberals who are hostile to faith-based initiatives are a key part of the Obama coalition, and he won’t find it easy to go against them.
The bureaucrats and judges that Obama would appoint could be expected to be hostile to the whole notion of government accommodating religion. The rhetoric of politicians isn’t a good guide to what they will actually do, and this is especially true of Obama.

BOWDRE: I have been involved in some faith-based initiatives under the Bush administration. I believe that with Obama’s plan to expand that, it presents some wonderful opportunities for the church to be able to address community problems, to be able to educate not only our congregations but also the communities our congregations are in, and really be able to spread the love of Jesus. Politics does not change a person’s heart; only Jesus does.

What is a Christian response to terrorism threats and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which candidate seems better suited to handle these issues?
BOWDRE: In Luke 13, Jesus talked about terrorists who had come into the synagogue and murdered worshipers. I think that a Christian cannot look at terrorism as being the end of the world because some sort of terrorism has always existed.
Those lone acts of cowardice do not in my mind necessarily determine the state of the world. To be quite frank, I think that Obama’s said he’s willing to sit down with some that this country considers to be terrorist nations or terrorist forces and at least begin a dialogue. I like that approach because as long as we can try to communicate, then I believe that there’s less chance for bloodshed.

McADAMS: McCain has shown both moral clarity and good judgment on the issue. He was right about the “surge” (something Obama won’t admit). Obama has waffled on the war on terror (when he wasn’t downright opposed).
Particular policies (negotiate/bomb, more troops/fewer troops) are matters of prudent judgment, but exercising the right judgment requires both experience and moral clarity. McCain looks a lot like Ronald Reagan; Obama looks a lot like Jimmy Carter.
What type and level of political involvement would you advocate for churches and individual Christians?
McADAMS: In contrast to some early Restoration Movement leaders, I think that individual Christians have a right and indeed an obligation to be active in politics. I applaud the work of people like Dr. James Dobson.
Individual congregations ought to be very careful. We want to gather people in, not drive them away with a political litmus test. Maybe (rarely I think), a preacher has to say things that sound “political” or maybe “politically incorrect.” When he does this, he better be quite sure it’s the Bible being preached, and not merely some arguable interpretation of Scripture.

BOWDRE: Anything we do in life is a risk and can be easily misunderstood or misconstrued. But I think by doing nothing and saying nothing and not being involved, I truly believe that displeases God.
But I think that the individual Christian has to assess for himself or herself what level or degree of involvement that they participate in.
I’m very comfortable taking a stand on controversial issues, but I can’t necessarily expect the next child of God to share the same degree of passion that I do.
What else would you say to our readers?
BOWDRE: I would just say that it’s important for us to pray and pray and pray and then vote prayerfully.
McADAMS: Think about a Supreme Court with two or three Barack Obama appointees on it.

  • Feedback
    I pray for the day when Saints of different ‘ethnicities’ can discuss Christianity without ‘black and white’ devil language. Saints are not saved by race, but by grace. God didn’t save us because of our skin, but because of our sins. We are only people of the Christian race and that’s all! amen!
    September, 22 2008

    I’d like to ask your forgiveness and the opportunity to retract something in my previous post. While I stand by the general idea of what I wrote, I misrepresented John McCain and that is not fair. My comments on his stance on abortion are incorrect. He was not pro-choice, but was not committed to overturning Roe V. Wade.
    My apologies for the incorrect information.
    September, 4 2008

    It is interesting how many are making their voting decision on the premise of “morals” and the only ones that are sited are abortion and gay marriage.
    Interesting thing about those two topics-
    1. As late as 1999 McCain was pro-choice and then conveniently changed his stance in time to run for president in 2000.
    2. McCain supports civil unions. He has said so countless times… other than when speaking to dominated conservative audiences.
    I really struggle with anyone voting for McCain on “moral” principles. He is a divorced and an adulterous womanizer, he has a temper that is far from being godly, he continually lies about his own record, makes fun of sensitive issues in a very disgraceful manner, rarely attends worship, and is controlled by countless lobbyist and donors dating back to his early years in government. Not to mention his championing of a war that has caused a countless loss of life and has accomplished nothing to forward our post 9/11 security needs.
    Please don’t vote for McCain on “moral principle”. It is hypocritical and the man does not deserve those votes. If someone wants to vote against Obama b/c of disagreement with policy, by all means do so. But, be more creative and find another alternative than McCain. Don’t just jump on the McCain bandwagon and reward him with an office that he is FAR from deserving.
    September, 3 2008

    After Obama’s speech at the DNC two black Christian friends stopped by my office with excitement asking if I had heard it. I am sorry to say I deliberately skipped it.
    On consideration, perhaps I have not been open as I should be to black America’s problems. Maybe Mr. Obama excites this group because he does in fact give them hope that some one will understand and fight for them.
    I abhor abortion, shutter at the gradual aceptance of the “gay” lifestyle, and am saddened by the seemingly acceptance of every person’s moral values as good as the other by the Democrats.
    But….perhaps I can vote for Obama knowing that I am not endorsing his false beliefs. Yes, I think I can vote for him because he is black knowing that my black brothers may see something I don’t.
    Don Selvidge, Minister DeWitt Church of Christ, Mattoon, Il. 61938 [email protected]
    September, 3 2008

    A lot of this sounds like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and the rest of the right-wing psuedo-thinking.
    Barrack Obama is a committed family man, married to his first wife. John McCain dated his current wife at the same time he was living with his first wife. His current wife has said she didn’t know McCain was married during the first several weeks of their “courtship.”
    I keep hearing conservatives talk about the secular left, but what about the secular right, the one inhabiited by Limbaugh – divorced three times – and Reagan – who talked about God a lot but couldn’t quite find the time to attend church.
    I’ve been thinking about Obama placing three justices in the Supreme Court. Ah, what a nice picture and what a nice future reality. Thanks for bringing it up, Mr. McAdams.
    September, 2 2008

    Now that John McCain has chosen a woman with five children to be his running mate, how will this affect Christians that vote Republican. If we say we vote Republican because they closely represent our values, what do we do now that the value of Titus 2:3-5 is being mocked through this woman? His running mate surely does not reflect the values of a Christian home and the role of a wife and mother.
    September, 1 2008

    Though traditionally democratic and in the church of Christ, I am leaning more towards independent these days. I am baffled that the Republican-led media thinks they are the only ones who are “evangelical” as if all Democrats are not. I do not support abortion in any way but I am not a Republican. If most Church of Christ members who vote Republican want to see a change in those who do support abortion from a biblical and moral standpoint, let me suggest this to you: Get rid of the “Exodus-minded” abortion in the workforce that has existed for many years. Many African American males still do not work in mainstream corporate America in higher paying jobs like our black females. I once worked in a corporation (150 in my department) where there were 30 blacks and only two of them were men (who need to provide for their families,biblical). When you straighten these issues out and come to grips with your prejudices and fears of us then many of us who vote Democrat will probably switch over. Romans chapters one and two will help you to understand this (the congregation was mixed racially). I noticed Bro. Bowdre never attacked Mr. McCain in this article but Bro. McAdams does so until the very last comment. Where is the love?
    August, 26 2008

    I don’t see how Christians can vote for Obama since he upholds abortion and would appoint liberal supreme court judges.
    August, 25 2008

    If Obama wins he still will not be the first black president, he is 1/2 white. Obam could be the 1st mulatto president.
    Hillary still has a shot. If after her name is placed into nomination some of the super delegates abstain or vote present and stop Obama from winning the nomination on the first ballot, the delegates are free to vote their billfolds and purses. At that point Obama will know what it is like to be Hillaried..
    Forget the president, there is not a dimes difference between the two. BUT remember Nancy is 3rd in line to be president. If the voters realize that they just might change their vote for Representative.
    August, 25 2008

    First of all, I am a member of the party I trust the l*e*a*s*t to produce candidates and issues with any moral precepts to them without my vote in the primary election. (I am faithful to God alone–not my political party, by the way.)
    In the end, which of these two men interviewed would be more likely to pray for our president if the candidate he opposes wins the election?
    I think where my prayers go (to God!) has more effect than where my vote goes. That being said, I think we have long passed the age where the battle of Good vs Evil of Christianity can be equated in any way whatsoever with the Better vs Worse of politics. The most “conservative” party includes softened stands on some issues that the most “liberal” party would not have tolerated at a point within my parents’ lifetime certainly, if not within my own lifetime…but God’s viewpoint has never changed!
    For Christians, I think the most important point is, a Christian who fails to make an unconditional choice to pray for the leaders of our country shows a lack of faith in the One he is praying to, not just in the leaders. That is one of the consequences of having such a powerful and loving God.
    August, 25 2008

    Interesting to read comments by two to your questions. My firm position is in picking someone with the history and understanding to lead. I think the job is this time particularly is for the biggest man, and I deem that to be John McCain. My view is that Obama is too young in the understandings needed for the problems we face. I see McCain as willing to straighten out some of the problems associated with the past eight years. Those eight years have been hard years, which makes me not wanting to point too many fingers. McCain can handle where we are better than Obama. This is a matter of who can protect and defend the constitution better. Again, I say it is McCain.
    August, 25 2008

    Like most conservatives, I dislike McCain but have even less tolerance for Obama. At the end of the day my happiness is not determined by who is president.
    What matters most in this election is the Supreme Court: Liberals know they cannot win decisively in balanced (or grid-locked) legislatures, so their strategy has been to stack the courts with liberal judges. All across our nation we are seeing judges overturning laws overwhelmingly passed by citizens. Even the recent 5-4 SCOTUS decision that, yes, the second amendment of the US Constitution does guaranteed the right to bear reasonable arms is outrageous: A single vote margin! While my happiness is not affected by who is or isn’t president, my rights and freedoms are affected by who the president appoints to serve as judges and justices.
    For that reason alone I will vote for McCain and oppose Obama, who thrice voted in Illinois to allow infants who survived abortion to be left to die without medical treatment, who is friends with Rev. Wright and terrorist William Ayers, and who constantly criticizes the American way of free enterprise and self determination. His judgement is bad for America.
    August, 22 2008

    I am disappointed that two leaders of the church are so out of touch with the issues of the day. Their reasons for supporting their candidates are classic “party line” reasons. They have not shown they have given much thought about the issues that affect our society and they certainly have not investigated well the issues their favorite candidates stand on.
    August, 21 2008

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