Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCain only sees evil in extremism

I wanted to touch on something the candidates discussed at the Saddleback Church forum last Saturday - besides the claims that McCain apparently cheated and was not in "the cone of silence" or the suspicion that McCain plagiarized his "cross in the dirt" story from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I wanted to talk about their answers to Rev. Rick Warren's question on evil.

Here's the transcript from that section of the forum with the candidates answer. Obama first, then McCain.
WARREN: OK, we’ve got one last time — I’ve got a bunch more, but let me ask you one about evil. Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?

OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God’s task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.


OBAMA: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.
WARREN: How about the issue of evil. I asked this of your rival, in the previous debate. Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it, negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I’m president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American — innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century — radical Islamic extremism. [...]

And we have — and we face this threat throughout the world. It’s not just in Iraq. It’s not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we’re in a long struggle. But when I’m around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.
I think those answers highlight a major difference between McCain and Obama. In McCain's black and white world, evil revolves around what he calls the "challenge of the 21st century — radical Islamic extremism." In Obama's more nuanced world, he sees evil all around us - in Darfur, our cities, in our abused children.

I believe Obama gave the more mature answer. Sure, al Qaeda's form of terrorism is evil and makes a big splash in the news, but that doesn't make it worse than other forms of evil like poverty, abuse, and the destruction of our environment. McCain never mentioned those. What does he suggest we do about the evil of poverty? Should we ignore it, contain it or defeat it? How about children without health care because their parents make too much money? How do we defeat the greed that puts money over the health of innocent children?

McCain may have scored points with the Saddleback audience, but he left me convinced he's the wrong person to lead our country and the millions of people affected by evil in small and large ways everyday.

Proverbs 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)


K. said...

Obama gives a measured, thoughtful answer and McCain makes a stump speech. Does he really believe that all of the world's evil is concentrated in one man?

Obama's point about humility is an important one, because without it you get certitude and fanaticism. Without that, you get the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts and burnings, the Iraq War, and 9-11 for that matter. Let's not forget that each and every one of those hijackers believed that they were striking a blow against evil.

Lew Scannon said...

The best answer would be that evil sits in the thrones of power in this country. When we can have a vice-president who authorizes intelligence agencies to forge documents to use as a case for war, you don't get much more evil than that.

Kathy said...

K, your point about the hijackers believing they were striking a blow against evil is a good one. We don't see ourselves the way the rest of the world does, in part because we lack humility.

Lew, you do have the best answer, and many people within the Bush administration have blood on their hands, not just Cheney.