Now that it is apparent John McCain "won" the Saddleback town hall, conservatives are likely to view the event as a good thing. In truth, though it was a net positive for McCain, the overall event was not good for conservatives.
I always hesitate to speak disparagingly of any a man of the cloth. My reasoning is that one can be forgiven for wrongly criticizing a politician, but it is another thing altogether to be guilty of wrongly criticizing someone ordained by the Almighty. But it is now clear that Rick Warren has moved from the latter category to the former; he is now essentially a politician -- or worse: a game show host.
As everyone knows, he is already an amazingly successful author, but the success of his forum the other night -- and the national coverage it garnered for him -- has propelled him to an even higher echelon. Regardless of how you feel about the involvement of religious leaders in politics (those on the right can argue for -- or against it -- in defense of religion), I can't help but have this gut instinct that Warren is a self-serving sort who has effectively manipulated the media.
But putting the self-promotion angle aside, there are substantive reasons to object to Warren. For one thing, he is among those "up-and-coming" Evangelical leaders who has encouraged his flock to focus on issues such as the environment (of course, this could also be considered a shrewd form of self promotion, as it is sure to lead to positive media coverage for Warren).
While being good stewards of mother Earth is always presented only as an addition to the list of concerns, I'm skeptical this is an effort to replace concern over issues such as the right to life. The ultimate goal of this, of course, is to artificially change the focus of Christian voters toward issues which favor Democrats.
And while McCain's performance the other night was superb, this was not fore-ordained. It might have gone the other way. Symbolically, hosting Barack Obama was a tacit admission by Warren that voting for Obama is, at least, a reasonable option for Evangelicals. This, of course, is problematic, due to his positions on a multitude of issues, not the least of which is the right to life.