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Obama v. "Oh, Bomb 'Em"

By       Message Robert McElvaine       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   6 comments

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Republicans and self-styled "Christians" are agog over what Andrea Mitchell of NBC characterized as the "crisp, immediate, forceful response" John McCain gave to Rick Warren's question about evil during the forum at the Saddleback Church. They dismiss Barack Obama's "more nuanced approach."

"Sen. McCain was crisp, decisive, knew what he was about, knew his values," Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R, Minn.), who is a favorite of the "Christian Right," proclaimed on Face the Nation on Sunday. "Sen. Obama, I thought, was hesitant, halting, and quite wandering in his answers."

Pastor Rick asked the following question of both candidates: "Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?"

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Here is a portion of Obama's reasoned, considered, "nuanced" answer:

"Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. . . . It has to be confronted squarely . . . . I think [it] is very important for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil. . . . in the name of good. . . . [J]ust because we think that our intentions are good, doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good."

Here, in stark contrast, is McCain's answer:

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"Defeat it."

One can't get much more "crisp" and "decisive" than that! And it sure sounds like the proper Christian answer to what to do about evil, doesn't it?

Sen. McCain's values, which he knows so well, are based on that revered commandment from Jesus, "Shoot first and ask questions later."

Let's see, that's from . . . uh . . . the fifth chapter of Matthew, isn't it?

Oops. That's where Jesus offers an answer to Pastor Warren's question on what to do about evil that is nearly opposite to Sen. McCain's:

"But I say to you, 'Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.'" (Matt. 5:39)

Several biblical Proverbs also reject Mr. McCain's "crisp, immediate, forceful response." A few examples:

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"He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty." (Prov. 16:32)

"A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient." (Prov. 14:17)

"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly." (Prov. 14:29)

"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention." (Prov. 15:18)

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Robert S. McElvaine is a professor of history at Millsaps College and the author of ten books. He is a frequent contributor to the op ed pages of the major national newspapers and blogs for the Huffington Post. His latest book is "Grand Theft (more...)

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