Michael Gerson: The Gospel of Chaplain John (McCain)

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When John McCain was chosen as one of three chaplains during his Vietnam captivity, it seemed slightly ridiculous, especially to him. He had been a wild child at the Naval Academy and was prone to defying his captors by "uplifting his center finger" and uttering "the oath that is commonly associated with that gesture," as one observer has delicately related.

"I would like to tell you that I was selected to be room chaplain because I had an abundance of religiosity," McCain explained in an interview last year with Beliefnet. He was chosen instead because he had attended an Episcopal high school and knew the Christian liturgy by heart. "So I had an ability to lead a church service."

But it turned out to be a formative experience for McCain: "I'll never forget that first Christmas when I … read from the Nativity story … And I looked in that room around and there were guys who had already been there for seven years and tears were streaming down their face, not out of sorrow, but out of joy that for the first time in all that captivity, we could celebrate the birth of Christ together."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008

7 Comments
Posted August 30, 2008 at 4:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Dan Tuton+ wrote:

“He was chosen instead because he had attended an Episcopal high school and knew the Christian liturgy by heart.”

The Christian (Anglican) liturgy served another hostage well in Beirut—Terry Waite. For him it was a lifeline to sanity.

August 30, 5:25 pm | [comment link]
2. recchip wrote:

I must point out that Sen. McCain did not attend “an” Episcopal High School, he attended “THE” Episcopal High School.  AKA “The High School” (It is located next to “The Seminary”[VTS] and sends many students-or used to-on to “The University”[Univ. of Virginia].  During spring Break, man students went to “The Beach”[Va. Beach]).
We in Virginia are very proud of being the home of so many “The’s” among many “a’s and an’s.”  (Heck, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia even has the gall to call itself “the diocese” with a website (thediocese.net) to match!!

August 30, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
3. Chris Taylor wrote:

Yes Dan Tuton+, and today neither John McCain nor Terry Waite are Anglicans.  Food for thought.

August 30, 10:02 pm | [comment link]
4. Dan Tuton+ wrote:

Chris—say more; what are they now?

August 30, 10:59 pm | [comment link]
5. KevinBabb wrote:

I believe that John McCain worships at a Baptist Church.

I don’t think that Terry Waite has officially cut his ties with Anglicanism, but my understanding is that he currently worships at a Friends’ meetinghouse.

August 31, 2:11 am | [comment link]
6. Chris Hathaway wrote:

What got both McCain and Waite through their ordeals was the faith that Anglicanism used to proclaim. The message was perfect. The message bearers, the present Anglican incarnations in America and the UK, have proven to have feet of clay (with not a little dung mixed in).

August 31, 7:57 pm | [comment link]
7. evan miller wrote:

What got them through was the truth and beauty of the classic BCP.  Its language was crafted to stir the soul and lends itself to being memorized.  In turning our back on it, we are tossing aside something priceless and timeless.

September 2, 10:34 am | [comment link]
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