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McCain Has to Get Right With the Conservative God

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET
  • Chris McGowan California native living in Brazil, journalist with diverse interests, author of 2 books on Brazilian music, novelist, poet, hiker, stargazer, and father of twins

Although John McCain seems assured at this point of garnering the Republican nomination, barring divine intervention on behalf of Mike Huckabee, he still needs to shore up support among conservatives. If Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, she will be a formidable foe; if Barack Obama receives the nod, he'll be riding a growing wave of independent and young-voter enthusiasm, and benefiting from the majority's dissatisfaction with the Iraq War. McCain will need to enlist the Christian Right in his cause, and they have been unenthusiastic about his candidacy.

Therefore, McCain will have to get right with God, and by that I don't mean the more tolerant, less politically involved deity of Catholics and mainline Protestants.

I am referring to the God of Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye and the late Jerry Falwell (we'll leave out Ted Haggard and Paul Crouch). A hands-on, pro-active, end-timing, anti-gay-marriage deity who created the world 6,000 years ago and has granted a sacred manifest destiny to America.

McCain has to get right -- way right. To begin with, he needs to stop flip-flopping on creationism. In 2005, he gave an interview saying that intelligent design (creationism in pseudo-scientific clothing) should be taught in schools ("all points of view should be represented"). A year later in Aspen, he said, "I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view," yet also stated "I happen to believe in evolution...I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not."

So, what's it going to be, McCain? What should be taught in our public schools? Consider this: according to a 2007 Newsweek poll, half the country rejects evolution and 73% of Evangelical Protestants say they believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years (they can cut McCain some slack on whether he picks 10K or 6K as our starting point). Certainly, he could pick up more conservative support were he to reject geological time, the fossil record, and the ideas of that Darwin fellow.

McCain also needs to get his values in order, if he wants the evangelical force to be with him. In 2006, McCain said in an ABC interview that he favored allowing gay men and lesbians to "enter into contracts'' but stopped short of endorsing civil unions. He also supported legal benefits for same-sex partners. Clearly, the "Straight Talk Express" may have to live up to its double entendre, if McCain doesn't want to be seen as a "gay rights" supporter.

McCain wants to attract conservative Christians without alienating independents. Is he too liberal or secular for evangelicals? Will he talk straight or is he the same as most politicians, ready to spin a position depending on the audience?

My prediction: here comes the pandering, and it ain't gonna be pretty.