But we can't just get in people's faces proclaiming the man's Episcopalianism. We need a way to say it absolutely clearly — kind of without even saying it at all....
That's a frame from John McCain's new ad. In other ways, the ad distinguishes John McCain's religion from Obama's. You never hear religion spoken of directly. The theme is "heroes" — and at first you think John McCain is going to be called a hero, but that's for you to think, not for them to say. We hear about a hero teacher who influenced John McCain:
For John McCain, one of his heroes was in the front of his high school classroom.Here's a fuller explanation of that honor code story, in McCain's own words:
William B. Ravenel was that hero.
He was the English teacher and football coach who inspired students to live the honor code.
"I shall not lie
I shall not cheat
I shall not steal
And I shall turn in the student who does."
The teacher who believed in exoneration and redemption.
When one of John McCain's classmates violated the rules and admitted to the infraction.
It was John McCain who declared that forgiveness was the best remedy.
Mr. Ravenel was the teacher who helped John McCain understand honor and redemption.
In the fall of my senior year, a member of the junior varsity football team had broken training and faced expulsion from the team. Mr. Ravenel called a team meeting during which players argued that the accused be dropped from the team and referred to the honor council. I didn't think that was fair. Since the student in question had, unlike the rest of us, chosen at the start of the year not to sign a pledge promising to abide by the training rules faithfully, I argued in favor of a less severe punishment.Whether you know the whole story or not, the ad sends the message that John McCain values forgiveness — Christian love and forgiveness. Think how deeply that contrasts to what we've been hearing lately from Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright.
Most of my teammates wanted to hang the guy. But I argued that since he had not been caught breaking training but instead had confessed the offense and expressed his remorse freely, his behavior was no less honorable than that of a student who signed the pledge and adhered to its provisions. My defense swayed the people in the room, about twenty or thirty guys. Mr. Ravenel closed the discussion by voicing support for my judgment.
After the meeting broke up, Mr. Ravenel approached me and shook my hand. With relief evident in his voice, he told me we had done the right thing, and thanked me for my efforts. He allowed that before the meeting he had been anxious about its outcome. He had hoped the matter would be resolved as it had been, but was uncertain it would. Still, he had not wanted to be the one who argued for exoneration; he wanted the decision to be ours and not his. He said he was proud of me. That was very important to me.
The new McCain ad does many things, but one thing it does is engage subtly and forcefully in the debate over religious values.
ADDED: This post is not intended to take a position on the question whether John McCain is a Baptist or an Episcopalian.
IN THE COMMENTS: Daryl raises 3 questions:
I also thought it was a none-too-subtle reminder that Sen. Obama has admitted to using cocaine and marijuana. Not that I care, but I guess a lot of voters do.In answer to your last question, I thought there might be some connection to McCain's maverick role in Washington. The "friends" politicians have are other politicians and various insiders. Don't we want a politician who didn't cater to and cover up for friends like these?
Bonus question: Don't Americans hate to elect preppies? George W. Bush lost his first election because his opponent portrayed him as an out-of-touch Yalie. Playing the "dumb cowboy" is the secret to his electoral success after that.
Double Bonus Question: The ad also emphasizes that McCain was supposed to narc on his fellow classmates. Is that really what his campaign wants us to think about? That "honor" really means betraying your friends, and every time McCain or his campaign uses that word, we think about a high school geek tattling to his teacher?