So far, bloggers near and far are scratching their heads over McCain’s facially ignorant claim that the Constitution established a “Christian nation.” I wouldn’t, though, agree with Tristero that McCain’s Constitutional exegesis reduces him “to the level of a Holocaust denier.” Holocaust deniers — about whom nothing salutary can usually be said — almost never seem to be as unprepared as McCain was for this interview. For someone who professes to hold deep religious convictions nourished by five years as a POW, McCain genuinely appears not to know what the hell he’s talking about.
For years, you’ve been identified as an Episcopalian. You recently began referring to yourself as a Baptist. Why?
[It was] one comment on the bus after hours. I meant to say that I practice in a—I am a Christian and I attend a Baptist church. I am very aware that immersion is part—as my wife Cindy has done—is necessary to be considered a Baptist. So I was raised Episcopalian, I have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years and I am a Christian.
What prevents you from taking that final step of undergoing the baptism?
I’ve had discussions with the pastor about it and we’re still in conversation about it. In the meantime, I am a practicing Christian.
So the baptism is something you still might do?
Oh, sure, yeah. But, some of the factors haven’t got so much to do with religion as they have to do with just—I’m in conversations with [my] pastor about it, as short a time ago as last week. But I would not anticipate going through that during this presidential campaign. I am afraid it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn’t do.
I dunno, John. You could always accept baptism and, like, not make a big deal about it.
Obviously, a candidate’s religious beliefs matter only to the degree that they might shape actual policy choices or messianic, expensive foreign adventures; it doesn’t matter a gingersnap to me that McCain conveys the impression of a man who rarely thinks about religion in any sophisticated way. It might be illuminating, for instance, for him to say that he’s thinking of leaving the Episcopal Church because of its liberal stance on capital punishment, affirmative action, and gay rights. Maybe the Baptists offer him a more satisfying home for the reactionary social views that today’s Republican voter base requires. But who knows? Maybe his religious beliefs are just as boring and ecumenical as most American “Christians.” Or maybe he just likes a good bath.
But like Scott pointed out, if McCain’s candidacy were still viable, this sort of incoherent bumbling might actually matter.