When I heard the new J.D. Hayworth campaign radio ad for the first time, I felt like I had worms in my underwear. Whereas Hayworth's opponent, John McCain, usually stonewalls when asked about his faith, Hayworth instead shines forth with bravado in an ad that declares him “a good Christian,” whatever that may be. How did we land at a place in American public life where one's faith is either something to be avoided altogether or something to be wielded like a sword and shield? Neither approach is one of which we should be proud.
On his rare attempts to articulate his faith, McCain sputters a few words about how faith sustained him for years in a POW camp, certainly an admirable thing, but that response leaves one to wonder about any role of faith in his life over the last month. Or at anytime in the past four decades. Faith as a relic.
Hayworth, on the other hand, comes forth with a full frontal faith assault in an ad clearly designed to check all the formulaic boxes we voters have been trained to expect through the ubiquitous “voter guides” of groups like the Christian Coalition or the American Family Association. Faith as an exercise in placing planks in a political platform.
Both McCain and Hayworth reduce faith and debase it. McCain reduces it to a relic socked away in the recesses of a memory. A lifeless, fossilized relic not to be examined or even given much credence. Hayworth reduces faith to a predictable, mathematical equation. Stake out five clear positions and call yourself “a good Christian.” In these reductions, we discover problems not just with John McCain and J.D. Hayworth, but also with America's inability to discern the proper role faith should play in one's life and in our public life together.
If faith has played no role in his life since Vietnam, John McCain has a faith problem. Not as a politician but as a person. If his faith is not shaping his decisions, his leadership, and his world-view today, it is appropriate to ask what is.
After declaring himself a “good Christian,” J.D. Hayworth checks all the “faith boxes” a conservative candidate would need in order to garner votes. For example, the ad begins by sharing J.D.'s initial faith decision. Evangelical street cred. Check.
We learn J.D. met his wife at church. Good combo – female spouse met in a faith setting. And she is named Mary – perhaps an extra touch for Catholics like me! Institution of marriage. Check.
The couple has suffered reproductive complications, so they have come to value the sanctity of human life. Check.