McCain, Obama Bare Souls at Saddleback

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Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama shaking hands, in public, as the presumptive presidential nominees of their respective parties.

The two appeared together at Saddleback Church in the Santa Ana Foothills to bare their soul -- at least a little bit.

Click play to hear Pat Robertson's comments following CBN News Correspondent David Brody's report. 

CBN News spoke with Philip Klein of the American Spectator on the forum at Saddleback Church and its significance.   Watch the interview here.

When Pastor Rick Warren asked McCain, "What's been your greatest moral failure?" McCain responded, "My greatest moral failing, and I have been a very imperfect person is the failure of my first marriage. It's my greatest moral failure."

Obama was asked the same identical question and said "There were times where I experimented with drugs. I drank, you know, in my teenage years and what I traced this to is a certain selfish necessary on my part."

The two Presidential candidates quizzed by Warren each had an hour to answer the same questions. And in this church setting you knew the question about Christianity was coming.

"What does it mean to you to trust in Christ and what does it mean on a daily basis? I mean, what does that really look like?" Warren asked of Obama.

"As a starting point, it means I believe in that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him," Obama said.

It's a subject Obama brings up often on the campaign trail but McCain doesn't talk publicly about his faith much at all.

But he did Saturday night when Warren asked, "You publicly say you are a follower of Christ. What does that mean to you and how does faith work out in your life on a daily basis? What does it mean to you?" McCain responded "It means I'm saved and forgiven."

Saddleback Church is one of the top five largest churches in America with 23,000 members. It's mega-pastor Rick Warren is author of the popular book The Purpose Driven Life. His world outreach for the church's mission has thrust him into the political spotlight.

Warren has been criticized by some conservatives for not focusing more on abortion and gay marriage. But he didn't shy away from asking those questions. For Obama, sitting in front of a few thousand relatively conservative Evangelicals didn't make for the most comfortable setting.

"Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade," Obama said when Warren asked him the question at what point does a baby get human rights in your view?"

McCain has a somewhat different problem when it comes to the life issue. He simply doesn't make it part of his daily talking points. Evangelical leaders have made clear that he needs to speak more firmly on the issue. He tried to do that this weekend.

Warren also asked McCain "at what point is a baby entitled to human rights?" McCain's response "At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year pro life record in the congress, in the senate. and as president of the United Sates, I will be a pro life president and this presidency will have pro life policies. That's my commitment, that's my commitment to you."

McCain also tried to assure conservatives that his picks on judges would be solid when Warren asked "which existing Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated?"

"With all due respect," McCain said. "Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter and Justice Stevens."

The contrast on this question was clear.

"I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas," Obama said. "I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the constitution."

This forum gave voters a good idea at the candidates' differences. Still, Obama is breaking new ground for Democrats in his attempt to woo the Christian voting block. It is an active outreach designed to appeal across the faith spectrum. Will it work? Former Congressman J.C. Watts sees both sides.

"I think we have to use discernment in seeing through what could possibly be the politics of it but I don't fault any party for reaching out to any demographics with their ideals and their ideas and with their plans," Watts said.

Warren told CBN News that no matter what the candidates say, it's important for Christians to remember that politics is not the answer to people's problems.

"I am not a politician. If I thought politics was the answer to changing the world I would be a politician, but I'm not," Warren said. "I'm a pastor because only Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit can change lives."

So for Warren, there's one thing abundantly clear.

"Neither of these men are saviors of the world," Warren said. "They're both flawed individuals and they're going to both need God."

Both Obama and McCain would probably say "amen to that."

*Original broadcast August 18, 2008.

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David Brody

David Brody

CBN News Sr. National Correspondent

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