I headed up to New York City this weekend to visit with some friends from college, but before I arrived, I made sure to let them know that on Saturday night, from 6 to 8 p.m., I had to watch the interviews the Rev. Rick Warren was holding with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain at his evangelical mega-church.
To that, of course, my 27-year-old friends said, "What?! Why are they doing that at a church?" Followed by, "I will not be watching that. You're on your own."
I thought to myself: how many other 20-somethings across the country are echoing the same sentiments. We hear about this surge of young evangelicals being targeted by both the Obama and McCain campaigns, but honestly, does most of young America really care what Obama and McCain have to say about their religious beliefs?
As Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn said in his new Beliefnet "blogaglogue" with Religious Right attorney Jay Sekulow, "We aren't hiring a chief theologian for America."
Lynn wrote before the Saturday event: "Whether the questions are about abortion or poverty, how could [the candidates] not throw in a few church-based anecdotes or biblical allusions to this crowd? But why? Surely they know that presidents don't have religious functions (that's what a secular government is all about). So those comments would probably be read as subtle 'I'm really more religious than that other guy' winks and nods."
And certainly, Lynn's predictions were right on target. Even before Saturday's event, we were all more than convinced that Obama and McCain possess deep personal faith. But, Warren made sure to ask about it, and so we had to hear about it again.
The candidates answered questions on whether evil exists and what should be done about it. They answered questions that began with, "The Bible says..." And they were asked what their faith in Jesus Christ means on a daily basis.
Here we are a country with a secular government, electing our president, and candidates are talking about their personal belief in Jesus Christ. Is that what our country's democratic process has come to?
What I think the young people across this country care about, including my friends in New York who chose to tune out Saturday's broadcast, are not which of the candidates prays more, but rather real-life issues such as dealing with high rent and the price of groceries, ending the war and creating more job opportunities so with college degrees, they can do better than just barely scrape by.
So Obama and McCain, now that you've answered Pastor Warren's questions, can we finally stop talking about faith and address these real issues facing America's youth?