McCain talks God; few notice (updated)

Sistine chapelMark Silk's Spiritual Politics blog notes that 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain's speech Thursday night used the word "God" as much as Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden in his acceptance speech. Mark notes that the two "candidates [Obama and Palin] most identified with religion mentioned God least." On the flip side of that comment, the two candidates least identified with religion mentioned God the most.

The statistics come from a tremendously interesting graphic from The New York Times that shows that the word "God" was used more than any other word at the Republican convention. About 10 other words were used more often at the Democratic convention.

We haven't said anything about McCain's acceptance speech so here is our chance: why haven't the media picked up on the fact that McCain talked about "God" eight times in his speech? The only other word he used more often was "jobs" at nine. (The word "taxes" also had eight mentions by McCain):

We believe everyone has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential from the boy whose descendents arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers. We're all God's children and we're all Americans.

From a political perspective, McCain's emphasis on God should not be too surprising. But it deserves at least a some coverage by the media in their (generally positive) coverage.

Here is some of the coverage from the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail:

John McCain offered a warm, moderate and very human face in his speech to the Republican convention on Thursday night. The question is whether his personal appeal will be enough to convince Americans that they should willfully suspend their disbelief when he asks them to accept him and his running mate, Sarah Palin, as agents of change.

Mr. McCain cannot match his opponent, Senator Barack Obama, for eloquent oratory. But he does have the ability to make a 20,000-seat convention centre feel as intimate as a living room, as he showed in a 49-minute speech that felt relaxed and conversational. He is a foil for Mr. Obama, and a good match.

He was appropriately above the fray -- "presidential" -- not a hard thing to be after Ms. Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson had taken turns mocking Mr. Obama. He spoke respectfully of Mr. Obama; he said that the "Latina daughter of migrant workers," and "the boy whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower" are "all God's children and we're all Americans"; he said he hates war.

Here The Detroit Free Press fails to mention the issue at all. An analysis of the speech by the Houston Chronicle fails to mention religion entirely. Let me know if you find any media coverage of the role of God in the speech and whether you think it was significant enough to be mentioned.

UPDATE: Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe was all over this story the night of the speech. On his tremendously useful blog Articles of Faith Paulson notes that McCain had the "most religious references of the four acceptance speeches."

He also caught the irony of that fact:

John McCain is the least openly observant of the four men and women on the major party tickets -- Barack Obama was an active member of a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago (until he quit after his pastor's controversial remarks started damaging him politically), Joseph Biden is a churchgoing Catholic in Delaware, and Sarah Palin is an evangelical Protestant who worships at several Alaska congregations. McCain, who was raised Episcopalian, now sometimes worships at a Southern Baptist congregation in Phoenix; he has talked about the importance of faith in his life, but has not talked much publicly about his churchgoing practices. (Manya Brachear, a religion writer at the Chicago Tribune, takes a look at McCain's relationship with Baptist faith here; and at On Faith, David Waters examines the same issue here.)

Apologies to all for not catching this post when I first wrote it. While some of the comments on this post have said that McCain's God talk was mere political rhetoric and doesn't deserve mention by the press, Paulson's perceptive attention to the speech picked up what many missed.

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