Which Saddleback response was MORE Biblical?

In the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency on August 16th, I found one section interesting (I haven’t listened to/read the whole thing), and that was when Rick Warren asked about how to approach evil in the world.  I have Warren’s questions and the candidates’ answers in full.  So I’d like to pose the question without giving my own perspective for whoever might want to interact:  which candidate’s response was more deeply Biblical, in your view?

Rick Warren interviewing Barack Obama:

Warren:  Does evil exist and if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?

Obama:  Evil does exist.  I mean, 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 have viciously abused their children and I think it has to be confronted.  It has to be confronted squarely and one of the things that I strongly believe is that 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 us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, but you know a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.

Warren:  In the name of good?

Obama:  In the name of good.  And I think one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.


Rick Warren interviewing John McCain:

Warren:  How about the issue of evil? Does evil exist and if it does, do we ignore it, do we negotiate with it, do we contain it, or do we defeat it?

McCain:  Defeat it.  Couple 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 Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.  I will do that and I know how to do that.  I will get that done.  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 transcendent challenge of the 21st century; radical Islamic extremists.  Not long ago in Baghdad, al-Qaeda took two young men who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and by remote control detonated those suicide vests.  If that isn’t evil, you have to tell me what is; and we’re going to defeat this evil and the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battles of Baghdad, Mosul, and Iraq, and we are winning and we are succeeding, and our troops will come home with honor and victory and not in defeat and that’s what’s happening.  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 will do it.   I have no doubt.  None.


8 thoughts on “Which Saddleback response was MORE Biblical?

  1. Oh boy, I did watch the entire inteview and am now thinking of running for president myself. Both candidates have some good points in their answer to this question. I believe that Obama’s answer is more biblical. He understands that when something evil happens, you cannot just go on a wild goose chase to try and get the people responsible without regard to human lives that “cross your path”. McCain seems to have a mission to get bin Laden no matter what it takes. He seems to be speaking out of rage. I know that we cannot ignore evil, but let’s approach it the right way instead of just fighting evil with evil…. that just makes the devil happy.

  2. At least Obama mentions God in his response where J-Mac seems to take the responsibility to rid the world of evil upon his own shoulders. I would like to hear what McCain’s definition of “justice” is when he speaks of brining bin Laden to justice. I hear that as saying, “I won’t rest until bin Laden hangs.” Whose justice is that?

    I guess I would like to hear someone talk about eliminating, or being realistic and saying reducing the occurances of evil in our world by building relationship with other nations rather than chasing evil to the gates of hell. I’m not trying to endorse Obama, but I can’t say that I am impressed by these statements by McCain.

    One more random point, I find it interesting that Obama uses the example of Darfur to illustrate evil, where McCain comes back Bin Laden. Politics.

  3. Can we vote “neither”? I don’t like McCain’s response very much, on the one hand, but on the other hand, Obama barely makes a response to what we need to actually DO about it.McCain limits evil to terrorism (which was likely the point of Warren’s question, but still). Both responses, unfortunately, were EXACTLY what I would have expected–nothing new, and nothing really worthwhile.

  4. Obama’s response is more what I would expect out of a Christian – McCain’s response is what I would expect out of a president.

    There’s a time and a place to be careful about confronting evil, but you have to come to a point where you decide to be like Neville Chamberlain (who tried to appease Hitler) or Winston Churchill (who wanted to confront Hitler). When dealing with external forces who are committed to violence, you need a Churchill, not a Chamberlain.

  5. Thanks everyone for your response.


    I wouldn’t consider running for president until you had about 600 million dollars in the bank, which illustrates how ridiculous it is that either McCain or Obama would make a claim to be a “regular guy”” at this point. I like your answer, because you showed that the problem of evil and the solution to it isn’t as black-and-white and easy as some folks would suggest it…we should all be aware of evil we can carry out in the name of good.


    Good observation. I didn’t catch Obama’s explicit mention of God the first couple times I read it, and I like how he didn’t pass all the responsibility off on God for everything; he simply stated that the ultimate erasure of evil is God’s work.

    I also appreciate your bringing up the question “Whose justice?” I would raise that question with both Obama and McCain. Obama said “we can be soldiers in that process,” and you highlighted McCain’s gates of hell comment. As a test case, it would be good to ask, “Is the world a better place with Saddam Hussein executed? Was a sense of justice experienced that will make leaders of nations think twice before carrying out their plans?” To the first question, I say, “Maybe,” and to the second, “No. No way.” If we can’t answer those both over the long-term, we have to question the kind of justice this represents.

    You said, “I guess I would like to hear someone talk about eliminating, or being realistic and saying reducing the occurances of evil in our world by building relationship with other nations rather than chasing evil to the gates of hell.” Brian McLaren said a similar thing, wondering if we couldn’t do some serious thinking about how to use our money to make friends rather than enemies. It’s a testament to how hell-bent on violence our world is that to most folks, he sounds like a 60s hippy in the woods of Oregon.


    Sure, we can vote neither! And I was frustrated by Warren’s question, to be honest. It was like, if evil exists, which of these four options, AND ONLY THESE FOUR, can we carry out? Most have slotted Obama into the “negotiating” category, and have done poor, lazy thinking on his position. I agree that Obama didn’t say much about what to do about evil…though I do think he went beyond a stump speech and stepped into the mess of really talking about evil in its roots.


    I asked which response was more “Biblical.” If we really wanted to talk about what led to Germany’s violent rise, we have to go beyond Chamberlain AND Churchill to talk about the crushing reparations Germany was forced to pay that, compounded with the worldwide depression, created an environment where the people were desperate for any leader to help them survive. That’s a dangerous environment, one the victors in WW1 were directly responsible for. Hitler happened to be an enterprising leader in the right place at the right time.

    Thanks everyone…feel free to interact some more.


  6. Derek, I like the way you said that. Obama was probably the closer, and it sounded more “Christian,” while McCain definitely sounded more like a president. I hope the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    Nate, I felt like it was some type of false dichotomy, but I wasn’t sure what to call it with four options. He really pushed them into certain categories. Of course, never having been a Rick Warren fan, I’ll gladly push the blame for the shoddy answers onto him.

    But where does a Christian president draw the line? He/She can’t require the whole country to be a pacifist can they? But war seems to be at odds as well? Can a true Christian even be President, then? Man, I sure wouldn’t want the job.

  7. Alan,

    Great question. One I believe is unanswerable in the fullest sense at this point, but worth talking about.

    I wouldn’t expect an American president to require the whole country to be pacifist, because they don’t have a vision for what that looks like/discipleship that would lead them to give up their lives/courage to face evil with nothing but the love of God and the promise of the resurrection of the faithful.

    Personally, I think those of us who are disciples of Jesus should ask some serious questions about the role of President and the duties it requires of a person. I think your question, “Can a true Christian even be President, then?” is a deeply important one. Can a follower of Jesus instructed to “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you,” faithfullly occupy the position of “Commander in Chief” of the Armed Forces of the most powerful empire in the world?

    And it’s not just pacifism that matters to me. We’ve lowered the standards so much in this country for what is Christian that it’s easy for nearly anyone to make the claim to be “Christian” and persons will believe them. As Shane Claiborne says, “Everyone’s a Christian, but no one knows what a Christian is anymore.” There’s no content there. It’s the old tactic that secularists and pagans have done since Christians (tired of intense and sporadic persecutions) unwisely knuckled under to Constantine supposedly converting and Theodosius declaring Christianity the only legal religion in 380 AD; overnight an empire of pagans became “Christian,” but only in name.

    The church needs to recover the ability and the desire to ask penetrating questions about the content of Christianity in our world and to do the uncomfortable task of calling supposed Christian brothers and sisters to account when they claim to be followers, but their fruits are the fruits of immorality. Politicians NEED us (because they’re essentially cowards today who don’t know how to lead with wisdom and vision) to tell them who they really are so we can get things turned around.

    This is the tough situation. We live in a world deeply fragmented by rebellion, hatred, and selfishness. A world with people who claim to be Christians but five minutes reveals it’s all a moralistic veneer. Real discipleship seems absurd to persons so deeply embedded in the world. But we as Christians are called to live into the vision of a world where lion lays down with lamb, where swords are beaten into plowshares, and God’s Word and wisdom is so compelling that persons come from all over the world to seek how we might live. While this is “Christian,” it is also quite simply what every person has been created for.

    That’s why I asked the original question: Which response is more “Biblical”? Because answering whether something is deeply Biblical draws us into the Scriptures and along the way, we might find ourselves growing in knowing what it means to witness to the truth. “Christianity” is a term almost devoid of meaning today. I don’t say we throw it away, but I’d love to hear some politicians say, “I’m a disciple of Jesus” rather than a “Christian.” Gives them more accountability. I have to say, I was disgusted by the end of every speech in the DNC in the last couple days where they tacked on “God bless you all, and God bless America!” because they know it’s political suicide not to say such things.

    Politicians are cowards, and Christians in America are largely lazy and too absolute in our thinking to call them to wisdom. Sorry about writing a lot here, but your good questions opened up a can of worms I’ve stifled for awhile now.


  8. No, it’s a good point. It is a tough question. That’s why I asked it instead of answering it! Politicians are about useless (and I’ll take cowards as well). They have little to say that they aren’t told to say, and they are told to say only because the people telling them to say it think that’s what people want to hear. So it’s really a worthless circle.

    A true Christian president must surely start by loving their American political enemies, before we can even think about loving our foreign, violent political enemies. And there’s not much of that going on, for sure.

    But anyway, I agree with you about the term “Christian.” I like the quote. It reminds me of what Donald Miller (ironically speaking of the DNC) said in Blue Like Jazz, that he wouldn’t defend the term “Christian” because it means ten different things to ten different people. Are we ready to abandon the term though? Do we need to? Can we reclaim it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s