LAKE FOREST, Calif. - Senators Barack Obama and John McCain sat in the hot seat Saturday night as they each answered some tough questions from Pastor Rick Warren.
More than 2,000 people filled the sanctuary of the Lake Forest, Calif. mega church and listened intently as the two men answered questions for an hour each.
Be sure to watch The 700 Club Monday, August 18. David Brody will have an in-depth look at the Compassion Forum. Check your local listings for times.
It was clear as the night went on -- the two men have very different opinions on some very key issues near and dear to the hearts of Evangelical voters.
Abortion and Gay Marriage
The men were asked the same questions at the event, but gave very different answers especially when it came to abortion.
Click play to watch Sen. John McCain give some "straight talk" on abortion, marriage, and why he wants to be president.
When asked the question "have you ever voted to limit or reduce abortions?"
Obama said, "I am in favor, for example of limits on late term abortions if there is an exception for the mother's health."
He continued "from the perspective of those who are pro-life, I think they would consider that inadequate. And I respect their views… What I can do is say there are ways we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, so that we actually are reducing the sense that women are seeking out abortions."
McCain's answer was very different. When asked the same question about abortion, McCain said, without hesitation, "I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as President of the United States, 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."
The two men were also asked about the point at which human life begins.
Obama said that the question was difficult to answer with "specificity" regardless as to whether you were a theologian or scientist.
McCain said, however, that life begins at conception.
Questions about gay marriage were also posed to both men who said that marriage was defined as between one man and one woman.
However, they both disagreed on civil unions and whether civil rights should be awarded to same-sex couples. Warren asked both men about Proposition Eight, which was recently passed in California.
"I believe they were wrong, and I strongly support preserving unique states of marriage between man and woman. And I'm a federalist. I believe that states should make those decisions," said McCain.
"If a federal court decided that my state of Arizona had to observe what the state of Massachusetts decided, then I would favor a Constitutional amendment. Until then, I believe the state should make the decisions within their own states."
Obama took a different stance. Obama said he would not support a Constitutional amendment "because historically we have not defined marriage in our Constitution. It's been a matter of state law that has been our tradition… the reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment…is because of the concern about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.
The two men appeared on stage for only a moment, while media outlets took pictures, and people in the audience cheered.
During the Compassion forum, CBN News was the only crew allowed to interview Obama and Obama spoke of the exchange.
"John and I serve in the Senate together, so we see each other all the time," Obama said. "It was great to see him. As he said, he'll see me in a couple weeks. We're going to be debating each other throughout the fall."
Walking with Jesus
The two men peppered their comments with funny and sometime serious anecdotes about their past experiences.
One example was when McCain recounted a religious experience as a POW. It happened one Christmas day when the POWs were allowed to go outside of the solitary confinement cells for a few moments.
The gun guard who was watching McCain drew a cross in the dirt.
"He stood there and a minute later, he rubbed it out and walked away," said McCain. "For a minute there, there were just two Christians worshipping together. I'll never forget that moment."
As Obama talked about his relationship with God and Jesus Christ he said, it's in part about "acting justly and loving mercy and walking humbly with our God."
He said he knows that he is going to "fall a little bit short each day," but his beliefs allow him to work to get better.
"It gives me the confidence to try things, including things like running for president where you are going to screw up once in a while."
On Supreme Court Judges
The two men were asked about Supreme Court judges, but in a very unusual way.
"Which existing Supreme Court Justices would you not have nominated?" asked Warren.
"I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation…" Obama said.
He also said that he would not have picked Justices Antonin Scalia or John Roberts.
For McCain it was Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.
"Justices Alito and Roberts are two of my most recent favorites, by the way. They really are. They are very fine, and I'm proud of President Bush for nominating them.
Religion and the Campaign
Both McCain and Obama have spoken about their religious beliefs as Christians, and they are both courting Evangelical voters.
For Obama, the Compassion Forum at Saddleback Church was an opportunity to further promote his message with the hope that some voters will give him a second look.
As for McCain, the event was an opportunity to speak freely and frankly with Evangelical voters who have been waiting patiently for McCain to open up on the subject of religion.
Will it work? We will find out in November.