Kathleen Parker wrote a column criticizing the Rick Warren debate as a religious test for the candidates. She makes a number of good points that will, no doubt, fall upon the deaf ears of those who insist on religious tests for candidates.
It is true that no one was forced to participate in the Saddleback forum and that both McCain and Obama are free agents. Warren certainly has a right to invite whomever he wishes to his church and to ask them whatever they're willing to answer...
The past few decades of public confession and Oprah-style therapy have prepared us perfectly for a televangelist probing politicians about their moral failings. The Warren Q&A wasn't an inquisition exactly, but viewers would be justified in squirming.
What is the right answer, after all? What happens to the one who gets evil wrong? What's a proper relationship with Jesus? What's next? Interrogations by rabbis, priests and imams? What candidate dare decline on the basis of mere principle?
Both Obama and McCain gave "good" answers, but that's not the point. They shouldn't have been asked. Is the American electorate now better prepared to cast votes knowing that Obama believes that "Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him," or that McCain feels that he is "saved and forgiven"?
What does that mean, anyway? What does it prove? Nothing except that these men are willing to say whatever they must—and what most Americans personally feel is no one's business—to win the highest office...
For the moment, let's set aside our curiosity about what Jesus might do in a given circumstance and wonder what our founding fathers would have done at Saddleback Church. What would have happened to Thomas Jefferson if he had responded as he wrote in 1781:
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."