Monday, August 18, 2008

McCain's cross story appears to be a lie

Back in November of 2004, I started this blog because "the Republicans did not give a crap about the causes of Christ." And now, 8 years later, it isn't getting any better.

At the Saddleback Forum, John McCain told a story about a generous guard that loosened his ropes and wrote a cross in the sand. I sorta gave McCain a pass with his "cross in the sand" story because I've heard it from the comfort of my seats in church once or twice in my fifteen years as a believer and just assumed it was him my pastor was talking about. But conservative blogger, Andrew Sullivan hasn't. And for good reason - McCain's cross in the sand story appears to be a lie.

The story is nearly exactly like that recounted by Solzhenitsen, as told in Luke Veronis,
"The Sign of the Cross": Leaving his shovel on the ground, he slowly walked to a crude bench and sat down. He knew that at any moment a guard would order him to stand up, and when he failed to respond, the guard would beat him to death, probably with his own shovel. He had seen it happen to other prisoners.
As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work. As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed.

And actually the original story may originate with Chuck Colson.

Maybe the same thing happened to two men. That would truly be amazing. But that's not what happened. Let's go to the timeline.

In 1973, McCain's first story about his time in the Hanoi Hilton, a 12,000-word story, there is not single mention of this story.

In 1974, McCain was invited to speak at a prayer breakfast hosted by then-Governor Ronald Reagan.
"McCain has never been a particularly reverent guy; but that morning he found himself telling the silent crowd about a discovery he made when he was thrown into solitary confinement in a 6-ft. by 9-ft. hole in the ground. On the wall was etched a testimony, scratched into the stone by a previous occupant: 'I believe in God, the Father Almighty,' read the jagged writing. The words sustained him, McCain told the crowd, through his 2 1/2-year solitude. When he finished, the audience, including the Governor, was sobbing. 'I realized,' he says now, 'it wasn't really me that moved them. It was the Story that did it.'"
That is a touching story and it seems a very appropriate place for McCain to tell his "cross in the sand" story, but he didn't.

In 1995, McCain was the focus of a chapter in The Nightingale's Song that focused on McCain's Christmas seasons in captivity. As No More Mister Nice Blog points out, there is no mention of the "cross in the sand" story and this would have been the perfect place to mention it.

In 1999, with McCain's push for the 2000 nomination, he released a book, co-authored with Mark Salter, entitled "Faith Of My Fathers." It is here that the "cross in the sand" story is first told as McCain's own.

Yet in February, 2000, McCain, in his famous "agents of intoleranace" speech, told the story in the 3rd person.

In 2005, with the release of "Character is Destiny", McCain's story changes again. It focuses nearly entirely on the "cross in the sand" and leaves out his captor's gracious loosening of ropes
I get trying to spice up your spiritual life in front of the audience at Saddleback. I understand trying to connect with a group of people you need, but don't really like. But, please, stop using Jesus as the means to do so. Jesus is not a political tool. Jesus is not a way to get the "evangelical voter". Jesus is the Son of God and too important for these silly games. John McCain ought to be ashamed. And I'm pleased he's being exposed for the fraud that he is.

If you want more details, there are other issues and internal consistency errors. Andrew Sullivan has more, more, more, and more.