McCain: "I know how to heal the wounds of war"

I just finished watching the debate and it left me feeling like our country and economy will be safer and better off with Obama at the helm. What caught me off guard about the debate came at the very end in a line McCain gave. While I’ve noted that a number of Christians have pointed out McCain’s constant drawing on a warrior/hero/Maverick narrative to catch the hearts of Americans (a move meant to appeal to the deep ethos of our country’s history), I found it preposterous that he would so unhesitatingly appeal to the messianic:

I guarantee you, as president of the United States, I know how to heal the wounds of war, I know how to deal with our adversaries, and I know how to deal with our friends.

Christians watching could not help but be reminded of the biblical text:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV-G/K)

Both candidates have at times wrongfully, in my position as a Christian, appealed to the rhetoric of nationalism at different points and this is an area I think all Christians need to challenge. To put it more strongly, I think Christians are the only ones who can challenge nationalism because we operate out of a fundamentally different loyalty than those who are not Christians. But McCain’s suggestion that he knows how to heal the wounds of war betrays a subtext, a symptom, of the kind of religious role politics plays in our country. This is none other than idolatry, and hopefully Christians will take their loyalty to the Kingdom of God seriously enough to challenge this kind of role-reversal of the messianic. Whoever becomes president is a person with gifts and faults, not the messiah who will do the work of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can heal the deep wounds of war, abortion, racism, hatred, and fear.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

16 thoughts on “McCain: "I know how to heal the wounds of war"”

  1. An astute observation about McCain’s rhetoric. I found Obama’s final statement about restoring America’s standing in the world much more appealing. McCain was a condescending thing, while Obama said, “John is absolutely right” a few too many times. But all in all, I think Obama showed himself he’s no foreign affairs pushover.

    I thought this was right on the money (RE: American exceptionalism/nationalism): http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/opinion/25Cohen.html?ref=opinion

    And this was interesting (RE: insta-reactions to the debate) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/09/25/DI2008092503022.html

  2. Jenelle thanks for the links. I agree, Obama could have been more forceful and less agreeable but I’m glad he didn’t resort to condescension the way McCain did. I agree with a number of analysts who said that it was pretty much a draw, and if it is a draw then Obama would win. Their point being that with 35 years of foreign policy experience McCain was expected to shine at this debate, this is the one area he is strongest in, but Obama not only held his own and showed he knows what he’s talking about but seemed much more the diplomat. Personally I think we need a president who has the virtues of a diplomat.

  3. Wess,

    Great post.

    It is scary how both parties often draw on nationalistic images, and as a Christian I can’t help but be reminded of Bonhoeffer’s struggle in WWII. German churches were placing the Nazi flag in services, and Mein Kampf seem to be the text of nationalism.

    I think that if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves repeating the mistakes of the past.

    rhett

  4. This paragraph from McCain is tame compared to what these hypnotists McCain & OBama have said.

    Obama repeatedly said, “you’re right”, or “i agree with you”, so we can expect that becuz he is less experienced in this area compared to McCain. However, we can also expect 2 c Obama repeating this in future McCain commercials.

    But, they’re politicians afterall, not to be taken seriously, xcept by the many voters.

  5. CWD, i know you’ve tried Pita Pita (good) but have you tasted EuroPane Cafe nearby on Colorado?

    It’s frequented more by the techies of CalTech than by the holy’s of Fuller. But good quality & French pastries.

  6. @from de cafe — Thanks for the comments. Yeah, I know politicians and I recognize there may be a level of disbelief one has to assume in order to play the imagination game required to hold our government together, after all the idea of a social contract itself is one requiring a serious amount of willingness to pretend it exists.

    But given that, from a Christian standpoint, we need to listen carefully, and quite possibly take what is said even more seriously than what the speakers even intend. Maybe McCain’s line isn’t to be taken seriously, but isn’t that even worse? Wouldn’t that make it either a lie, or a tactic to manipulate those wounded by war? If I choose, rather, to take it very seriously, a window appears into what may lay behind the words. And I’ve tried to point out what may be a theological “Freudian slip.”

    If we don’t feel like we can take the people who lead our country seriously, then I think we have bigger problems than our economy melting down and the endless-wars we find ourselves in.

    Also – thanks for the tip on EuroPane I’ll be checking it out ASAP! I love French pastries. Do you hang out there a lot?

    Wess

  7. I only support the election of a hypnotist to the presidency if we’re SURE he’s on our side — such powers could be very useful in negotiations with foreign heads of state. For instance, I think our dependence on foreign oil could be lessened greatly if the PM of Qatar could be “persuaded” to make his country the 51st state.

    Regarding the debate, though, I’m an Obama supporter and I thought he could have done better. I was impressed McCain showed up at all, so it didn’t take much for him to beat my expectations.

  8. Chase – I agree I think Obama could have done better in his responses to McCain, and I think he will as time goes on. I really wish he’d takes some tips from Maureen Dowd:

    Given the past week, the debate should have been a cinch for Obama. But, just as in the primaries, he willfully refuses to accept what debates are about. It’s not a lecture hall; it’s a joust. It’s not how cerebral you are. It’s how visceral you are. You need memorable, sharp, forceful and witty lines.

    Even when McCain sneered, “I don’t need any on-the-job training, I’m ready to go at it right now,” Obama didn’t directly respond, but veered off into a story about his father being from Kenya and how he got his name. (Thanks, Barack, we got that from your book. It’s great for a memoir, but not a debate.)

    McCain kept painting Obama as naïve, and dangerous, insisting that he “doesn’t quite understand or doesn’t get it.”

    Obama should have responded “Senator, I understand perfectly, I’m just saying you’re wrong.”

    On the surge, he could have said that McCain was the arsonist who wanted to be praised for the great job he’s doing putting out the fire he started.

    When Obama took quiet umbrage at McCain’s attack about troop-funding, he could have pounded the lectern and said with real anger: “John, I am sick and tired of you suggesting that I would take funds away from our brave soldiers. I no more voted for that than you did when you voted against our funding proposals that would have imposed a timetable. And unlike you, I did not vote against funding increases for the troops that have come home with devastating physical and mental injuries.”

    And who cares what Henry Kissinger thinks? He was wrong 35 years ago, and it’s only gotten worse since then.

    http://snurl.com/3xn7v [www_nytimes_com]

  9. While I was a little disappointed by Obama, I see his campaign as a well-played poker game; he never overplays his hand. He’s being extremely careful — a lot of commentators have noted that Obama doesn’t want to fall into the stereotype of the “angry black man,” and I think that’s what he’s avoiding with his toned-down style. He doesn’t need to do much at all rhetorically to win the election — take a look at fivethirtyeight.com if you don’t believe me — so I think he’s concentrating on (a) winning swing voters and (b) not burning bridges with McCain voters and republicans so that he will have political capital when he gets to the White House.

  10. Some points to consider:
    1) Obama claimed in the debate that he saw this economic crisis (that in his own words is akin to the “Great Depression”) and wrote of his concerns in a letter sent to Secretary Paulson (up to two years ago). Now this statement begs the question, “If you knew that an economic crisis of such magnitude was coming, shouldn’t you take a more pro-active role in averting it than simply writing a letter”? Instead of doing the job he was elected to do as a United States Senator, he decided the best course of action was to do nothing except run for president and then claim foreknowledge of the crisis because of a “letter.” This does not sound like the kind of response that a “servant of change” should exhibit, to say nothing of it being obviously disingenuous and nothing more than playground “I told you so.”
    2) Obama claimed that he was the first to alert the current administration of Russian “peace keeping” forces in Georgia. Again, how can you label a country’s troops as “peace keepers” when they violate another nation’s sovereignty. The term he should have used was “occupiers”, not “peace keepers”. Additionally, is it not time that Obama comes out and clearly condemns this action instead of responding (like he initially did until world opinion swayed him) with “both sides need to show restraint”. Russia illegally invaded another sovereign nation. How is Georgia supposed to show restraint?
    3) During the halcyon days of summer, one of Obama’s chief calling cards was immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. Where has this conviction gone? In its place is a new conviction that we need to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. This he bases on an assumption that has never been proven through research that Al-Qaeda is increasing in strength and numbers in the region. Not only this, but now he is stating that we must be willing to launch strikes into Pakistan without their approval in our hunt for suspected terrorists. This not only exposes a lack of understanding of the political realities in Pakistan, but also an infantile belief that Al-Qaeda and its vast terror network rises and falls solely with the apprehension of Osama Bin-Laden. So instead of being the true “peace” candidate that so many on this site wish him to be, he is sacrificing that for political expediency and essentially conforming to a moderate Republican position. Does this sound like a man who understands world events and responds with conviction?

    These are just some obvious questions brought out in the debate, though there are many others, that should cause even the most dedicated of followers to question their devotion to the Obama campaign.

  11. @Kevin: I can’t speak for anybody else, but I personally don’t recall anybody calling Obama the peace candidate. It would be hard to overlook his regrettable position on Pakistan (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan). However, there are two viable candidates. One of them protested the Iraq war from the beginning and generally holds that international negotiations are better than silence. The other thinks we can “win” the war in Iraq. I could be a good Anabaptist and not vote, but I think I’d rather risk endorsing a weak candidate than implicitly endorse one who thinks strength means unilateral coercion instead of negotiation.

  12. i love what you’re saying. The problem I think we run into is that nationalism and being a Christian seem to go hand in hand for a lot (read: most) of Christians.

    How would you guide the average Christian down this road?

  13. I really like that you wrote,

    “I think Christians are the only ones who can challenge nationalism because we operate out of a fundamentally different loyalty than those who are not Christians. But McCain’s suggestion that he knows how to heal the wounds of war betrays a subtext, a symptom, of the kind of religious role politics plays in our country. This is none other than idolatry, and hopefully Christians will take their loyalty to the Kingdom of God seriously enough to challenge this kind of role-reversal of the messianic. Whoever becomes president is a person with gifts and faults, not the messiah who will do the work of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can heal the deep wounds of war, abortion, racism, hatred, and fear.”

    I’ve just posted a shorter post along similar lines and I may quote you in a second post I’ve got brewing later this week. I’ve been a bit outside the blogosphere lately but I’m glad to see that there are thoughtful Christians speaking truthfully and challenging notions of patriotism that are so foreign to the truth of the Good news of the Christ who came for the healing of the world.

Comments are closed.