today’s lead editorial in The Hindu :
Barack Obama made sure his eyes looked unblinking into the television camera as he said: “I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through him.” Barely an hour later, John McCain said from the very same platform (into the same television cameras) that being a follower of Christ “means I’m saved and forgiven. We’re talking about the world. Our faith encompasses not just the United States but the world.”
Both presidential candidates were confessing their faith to Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church. This was in mid-August and their first major public event on the same platform — though they did not appear together. They were interviewed one immediately after the other by the good pastor. They were reaching audiences of millions, but were basically aiming at a large religious constituency. Both knew what they had to say and how to say it. Neither had a problem with the idea that two potential Presidents of the U.S. could submit themselves to very public interviews (and seek absolution?) on a religious platform of one faith.
It is of course legitimate for candidates to harbour religious beliefs. It is also true that the U.S. was probably the first among modern nations to have a written Constitution making a strong and sharp separation of the church and the state. Among the founders of the USA were those who had seen religious persecution in Europe. Hence their wall between the church and the state. It is precisely that separation that begins to erode in such public displays of faith.
Let’s suppose this had happened in, say, Pakistan. Let’s say Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif or whoever, had had their opening debate moderated by mullahs at a mosque. You’d never have heard the end of it in the U.S. media. It would have been the ‘aha’ proof, if any were needed, of religious zealotry, bigotry, fundamentalism and the rest of it. In the U.S. though, the swamp of analysis in the mainstream media that followed the Saddleback event had no such conclusions to draw. Not even in mild, diluted terms.
which goes further to say that they are both two sides of the same coin and the coin itself is the proverbial Bad Penny.