John the sort-of Baptist

johnmccain highres2Jonathan Martin, a great reporter for Politico, had a lengthy story looking critically at the lack of religious rhetoric coming from Sen. John McCain. It's a very interesting story and one that raises some questions, but first let's look at this paragraph:

Raised Episcopalian, McCain now attends a Baptist megachurch in Phoenix. But he has not been baptized and rarely talks of his faith in anything but the broadest terms or as it relates to how it enabled him to survive 5 1/2 years in captivity as a POW.

Um, I'm pretty sure that John McCain, raised Episcopalian, has been baptized. Unless we're going to say that the Baptist view against infant baptism is somehow objectively correct, this paragraph is phrased poorly.

But that's not where the Baptist bias ends. The whole piece approaches the issue of whether religious rhetoric is appropriate in political contests as if the question has been decided:

Yet in a time when privacy for any politician, let alone a presidential candidate, is virtually nonexistent and open expressions -- or at least explanations -- of religiosity are expected and sometimes demanded by others, McCain may ultimately have to offer more than just testimony about his belief in America's civic religion.

"I would be very surprised if he didn't," says John Green, a senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "Simply because a lot of voters will want to know about his faith."

"It's a faith-based country," observes Sen. Sam Brownback, a devout Catholic who has grown closer to McCain since backing his candidacy last year. "Presidential candidates should acknowledge that and say just what is their identity as it relates to that."

Martin talks to many other people who offer precisely the same analysis. It would be nice if just once these stories would include a Two Kingdoms perspective decrying the supposed need for candidates to emote about their religious views. Journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto just wrote a piece about the matter, using Martin Luther's view that "The emperor need not be a Christian so long as he possesses reason" as a springboard to discuss what he considers the proper role of religion in electoral contests. Those of us who advocate Two Kingdoms perspectives are out there. We're just not usually found in media reports.

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