Obama and McCain each just spent an hour answering questions from Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church in Forest Hills, CA.

I have a few apparently biased observations:

OBAMA

Obama put considerable emphasis on the actual moral priorities of Jesus, mentioning the Matthew 25 teaching more than once – Jesus’ statement that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” He emphasized that Jesus definitely was concerned about “the least of these.”

In fact, when asked what has been America’s greatest moral failing he said it was the violation of that directive from Jesus in a number of different ways down through the years. It was obvious listening to the Fox News types afterward that the ONE thing they don’t want to hear is any analysis of moral guilt that might actually implicate them in the least.

I thought of this verse from I John as I listened to Obama. It sums up a lot of his moral concern, seems to me.

For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
– I John 4:20

He sees a lot of those people, and he cares.

And he showed true depth of understanding of a very broad range of issues – how government works, Iran, international affairs in general, education, the tax system, pretty much anything that was even tangentially relevant.

He showed no cynicism, but rather great hope and great heart to go with an obviously strong intellect.

McCain

McCain apparently cares too. He described what was happening all across America tonight. A couple sitting at the kitchen table worrying about their future. The man has lost his job; they are facing significant medical expenses, they are likely losing their home.

But if he becomes President

I can inspire them.

Oh.

That is literally what he said.

I can inspire them.

Wow. Help is on the way.

A year from now we will be “inspired” while we sleep in the park.

But what will he actually DO for them?

He will hope they can get rich.

I don’t want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich.

Seriously, as I listened, that’s all the help I heard for the crises threatening to eat up the ordinary American family.

Oh, and by the way, he said you get into the middle class when you have five million dollars income annually. I thought I was at least approaching the underside of the middle class. Not.

Is he mocking us? Is he being cynical? Is his contempt so great for ordinary people who haven’t married into wealth like he has?

His one cure is tax cuts.

I don’t want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich.

Our predecessors in this land knew that doesn’t work. The money accumulates at the top. That makes the people at the top more powerful. Then they use their power to make even more money accumulate in their hands. (Does this sound familiar?) And pretty soon you have lost even the remnants of democracy, and of equality, and of freedom. There is a VERY good reason for the estate tax and for a progressive tax system (higher taxes on larger incomes).

That reason is the preservation of freedom and democracy. If we want to protect American freedom for future generations, we need to re-think our tax structure.

McCain doesn’t get it. Or maybe he does get it and hopes WE won’t get it.

As to whether security or freedom should trump in domestic policy concerns, McCain said that of course both are necessary. Then he spent the rest of his answer explaining why and how we need to lose freedom to protect ourselves from further terrorist attacks.

To sum things up. What a wonderful country this is! Iraq! We are really a wonderful people! Terrorists! I an a wonderful hero because of a prisoner of war camp. Vietnam! Let people keep piling up more and more money while thier neighbors lose their houses! Osama! We just need to be hopeful and committed to what our country is doing! Terrorists!

Do I sound cynical about John McCain?

Well, he came across as cynical about me, about the people I care about, about my Christianity, about my country, and about the principles of democracy in general.

There was a huge difference to my ears in the basic moral orientation of these two men, and in their real grasp of the serious matters the next President will have to deal with.