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October 7th, 2008
07:11 PM ET

Talking the Walk

John McCain during a rally on Monday at the University of New Mexico.

John McCain during a rally on Monday at the University of New Mexico.

Tony Carnes
Christianity Today

John McCain has finally begun to talk his walk with Jesus. Until recently, the details about the Republican presidential nominee's Christian convictions were missing in action. Starting this summer, McCain and some of his closest Vietnam War-era buddies began pulling back the narrative curtain.

These war stories reveal McCain's stoic, generically Christian spirituality and his honor-driven self-discipline. During his five-plus years as a prisoner in Hanoi, McCain had many defining religious moments. One Sunday in 1971, the North Vietnamese Communists decided to put an end to the church services being held by the prisoners. They burst into Room 7 and dragged McCain out. "Bud Day [commander among the prisoners] jumped up and sang 'God Bless America.' It was singing to the heavens," recalled fellow prisoner Orson Swindle in a recent interview with Christianity Today. "The Vietnamese dragged Day out and someone else jumped up." Next, Swindle and others started loudly singing, "Onward Christian Soldiers." That provoked a squad of armed soldiers to rush in and shut down the service completely. McCain was thrown into solitary confinement.

The prisoners' Christmas celebration that year proved to be another defining experience for McCain. For weeks, prisoners had demanded an English-language Bible to conduct a proper Christmas observance. The guards eventually relented and allowed one prisoner access to a Bible for 30 minutes. McCain was chosen. Using tiny pieces of broken pencil lead, McCain copied the Nativity story down on scrap paper. And on the evening of December 25, 1971, the prisoners held their service with the Lord's Prayer and Christmas carols as McCain recounted the birth of Christ. At the end, all sang, with much weeping, "Silent Night."

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Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Ashu

    Mixing religion with politics? Why??
    When both are mixed together your only asking for complications.

    Freedom to practice religion has been given to everyone. When it comes to politics it shouldn't be mixed at all because then it becomes personal. Your faith is yours regardless of what it is but when your faith becomes a part of your professional matter or job then I think it's wrong. It disables you from you doing your job properly.

    These things should not be even said in regards to politics stating whose the better one. vise versa. The only importance that should be given is that who is the better one for the job that is the purpose to the whole debate. To find out who is the better one to become president.
    Bring faith and religion into it shouldn't effect the end result. It won't make you work any harder or any less. Everyone should be given equal rights, opportunities. That's what makes a great country.
    That is exactly what is lacking.

    October 8, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  2. Alex

    It is times like this in a political campaign that I deplore the discussion of a person's religious beliefs under unusual circumstances which the vast majority of people have never and will never experience. The headlines go to the state of mind of a person experiencing a horrible event and not to what people care about today, what are you going to do to help straighten out the economy? It seems to me the only relevant issue then is how could such a horrible experience help a person lead our nation? Based on what I've observed throughout this campaign thus far, there is NOTHING that McCain experienced in those POW camps that could lead to positive decisions making. In fact, it could potential lead to wrong decisions that are slanted more to the belicose side. Like has been said throughout all this, we certainly thank Senator McCain for his military service to our country as we do hundreds of thousands of other Americans who have served our country. But that doesn't necessarily mean he will make an appropriate decision alone. Character means alot in this campaign, but McCain's obvious disdain and lack of respect for his opponent makes me wonder how his past may affect his future thinking.

    October 8, 2008 at 8:33 am |
  3. Ashley

    Please! Give me a break! America is not a christian state, it is a multireligious state where each citizen has the funfamental right to choose his/her own religion. We reaaly don't care whether Mcain is a christian or a Muslim or whatever else. That is his personnal choice. I am seek and tired of hearing people speculating about ones christianity, who cares? Do you think jews and muslims cares that Mcain or OBAMA read the bible on sundays? Well there are american just as every american citizens. Religion should never be a factor specially in the US. We claim to be tolerant and all emcompassing. Well let's live up to it.

    October 8, 2008 at 7:57 am |
  4. Cory

    I love the Lord Jesus Or Saviour, I truley do....but isn't that belief that got us in this mess with the Republicans and Bush?

    Let's face it..the Republicans have pushed the bible in our faces and after election it turned into a comic book. They repolished the comic book to look lke a bible when they needed the evangelical base support.

    McCain was raided in a Christian faith so it was taught to him to accept.

    Obama had a family that had Muslim faith and he CHOSE Christianity in his mid 20's. Not for political gains, not to fit in, but for his discovery in his faith in God and the Lord Jesus. I think that speaks volumes in a person.

    October 8, 2008 at 6:40 am |
  5. J.V.Hodgson

    I and all Americans admire, his, Mccains religious beliefs and service to his country.
    The rest of the world expects him to respect ours as well even if he disagrees.
    25% of Americans, if the polls are correct hold the same deep religious beliefs he has ( Palin as well), what about the other 75% in America and the the Islamic believers and the Buddhists, Sikhs, ( who do not share his particular faith) protestants and catholics who maybe only share part of his/Palins religious vision.
    I love the hymns Silent night and onward Christian soldiers, but it does not mean I share Mccains or Palins rekligious views.
    What they both need as far as all can see is good dose of "ABIDE WITH ME" fast flows the eventide ... oh lord ( prophet) abide with me!!
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    October 8, 2008 at 1:31 am |
  6. Kim

    God's mission and he's still on it ! "Johnney Be Goode ! "

    October 8, 2008 at 1:16 am |
  7. James McCaghren

    Truly inspirational!

    October 8, 2008 at 12:57 am |
  8. Kenneth

    Remembering the birth of Christ goes beyond a once a year reflection.I wonder how will Christ our Lord play a role or factor in McCains life as Minister of this nation should he be elected?

    October 8, 2008 at 12:25 am |
  9. aware

    McCain is the genuine article! 🙂

    Obama is a universalist postmodernist who consequently does not believe in absolutes and who does not adhere to traditional American or Christian values! 😦

    October 8, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  10. Nan

    I believe McCain stores much deep-seated anger as a result of his long imprisonment and torture. He is not a well man mentally, and has an axe to grind.

    October 7, 2008 at 11:51 pm |
  11. Kent, Illinois

    He is mostly silent on religion. Palin is silent because she doesn't want us to know her extreme beliefs. But, we have her witch doctor preacher and her on video. Religion isn't reserved for the Republicans. The Dems believe in religion also, and they have expressed those beliefs. It's too bad, as Jesse Ventura said that religion is such a factor in choosing our politicians these days. Pretty ridiculous really.

    October 7, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  12. Les

    Why are we mixing religion with politics?

    October 7, 2008 at 8:58 pm |
  13. JJ

    John MCcain, The Word of God states: You shall know the Tree, by the Fruit it Bears. And your fruit has rotten. You can fool men, but you can not fool God!

    October 7, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  14. Carol, CA

    Hmmm... are you sure this actually happened?

    McCain claims to have had the exact same experiences that Alexander Solzenitzen had while in prison, and wrote about in his books. Books, that McCain has said he has read and admires. "Cross in the sand" story, that he told at Saddleback, for example.
    Just coincidence, I guess.

    October 7, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  15. Rose from Calif

    Where was his CHRISTIAN FAITH when he left his FIRST wife and children for a younger woman, CINDY! To start his career as a potitician?

    October 7, 2008 at 7:37 pm |
  16. Louise

    whatever, who really cares

    October 7, 2008 at 7:21 pm |