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A few of you probably read last night that Barack and McCain have agreed to appear together at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County on August 16.  I would guess that some of you are suspicious, but I would have to add that here once again the Senator from Illinois seems to know what he's doing.

If you don't know who Rick Warren is...

...Warren is a friend of both men. He's also a friend of Jack Welch and Rupert Murdoch, and lots of other white male power brokers.  This New Yorker backgrounder from a couple of years ago on Warren, who has taken of late to sounding more politically neutral than most evangelical pastors, has more than a few informative moments in it.

The article notes Warren's most notable key to success in forming small groups in Orange County---where they may be easier to form than you might suppose (long commutes, dull suburbs, consumer culture, plastic lifestyles make for alienation, for a thirst for community, which mainline religion does not easily fulfill).  It's the kind of organizing that progressives don't do well precisely because their lives are typically more creative, more cosmopolitan, more interesting.

The tv show The OC gives lip service to a plastic kind of life in the OC.  But how plastic can life be in Orange County? Warren's Saddleback Church is in a town called Lake Forest, incorporated in 1991, which is nowhere near either a real lake or a real forest.  But also note evolution: the City, a white-flight bastion, elected Orange County's first African-American mayor ever.

And this is the kind of tension that suburban American itself, as far as I can see, is experiencing: a generation or even two generations removed from white flight from the cities, some of the descendants of the bluehairs are questioning the dominant paradigms---this is also the County, after all, that brought us Bob Dornan and Wally George, people who grew on suburban America in the Reagan/Bush I years.  But this is a County which, like suburban America, now includes the descendants of Vietnamese boat people, Mexican day laborers, and plenty of gender issues.

In this context, Warren is like a second-wave suburban preacher. Though Warren professes not to write well, his books have sold tens of millions, and he sells his sermons to anyone who wants them on the Internet.

A lot of you have read about the way Orange County, long California's conservative bastion, has made steps towards engaging progressive politics in the wake of the Bush administration failures.  I mostly see Warren as more weathervane than wind; his activism with the dispossessed, with AIDS in Africa, has come long after he should have known better, and it comes precisely parallel to the political windshift in the OC.  But some of that may simply be my cynicism about the state of spiritual fitness in OC in general.  Twenty years ago, the evangelical movement really took hold there, with churches like Calvary Chapel, as empty suburban lives inadequately fed from "our parents" churches cherry-picked from Catholic and mainline Protestant faiths, usually coming down on the side of Reaganomics and white flight.  Things have changed a little as the movement is now well into its next generation; churches have been obliged to accommodate more inclusion of other kinds of identities, even as America has.

If you click to the NYT article, Warren promises to lob softballs to both candidates.

Through the whole W presidency, I've mostly thought of America's key split as not being Demo-GOP or progressive/conservative, but really urban v. suburban: snippy, sanctimonious, narrow, closed-minded, hectoring churchgoing parents in the 'burbs; disdainful, artistic, creative, open-minded full-flush-of-youth in the cities; these may not be the dominant statistical groups, but they are the activists: they are the worker-bees of contemporary politics.  Orange County is a kind of suburban paragon, a white-flight exemplar where life is mostly simulated rather than directly experienced.  But even the 'burbs can evolve over time---think of how dated that not-even-a-decade-old best picture about suburban life, American Beauty, is by now.

FYI/fine print/full disclosure: a small part of the foregoing was taken from a short post at my LA-based blog street-hassle.

Originally posted to joseph on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 10:59 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Though I despise theocracy (6+ / 0-)

    and have a deep suspicion of mega-churches, I'm pretty sure that Obama's superior rhetorical gifts make ANY head-to-head matchup with McCain, advantageous.  I look for him to wow the Saddleback congregation and undercut one of McCain's few reliable constituencies.

    And I think you're right about this:

    more weathervane than wind

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 11:06:27 AM PDT

  •  This is great. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There is no reason to ignore a whole demographic of voters because even in sympathy groups, there are vast differences.

    If we can peel off 10% of these voters we win.

    And the DEM platform is more Sermon on the Mount than the GOP.

  •  Asskissing extraordinaire (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sharman, Dude1701

    Yuk and ugh. Megachurches are golf courses with more poison.

  •  Drinking McCain's milkshake (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chicago minx

    I'm not a huge fan of MegaChurches,  I keep flashing back to stranger In Strange Land whenever i see one.  However they are chock full of thousands of people that get some sort of spiritual sustenance out of them and who  are , each and everyone, voters.

    Thus I think Obama should "preach" his message anywhere he can gather tens of thousands to listen to it.

    And while an evangelical mega-church in Orange couty CA wouldn't exactly seem like Obama territory, that's what makes it such a brilliant choice of venue.  If he gets a poor reception?  eh.  Expectations weren't very high anyway.   If he wows em?  then it s a MAJOR victory for him.  OTOH all John McCain can do is not lose.

    tactically, it a brilliant manuever

    Knowledge is power Power Corrupts Study Hard Be Evil

    by Magorn on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 11:16:20 AM PDT

  •  As a denizen of Lake Forest, I am curious (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raatz, joseph, tethys

    to see if the local Cox cable company televises this on channel 3.  It televises the July 4 parade every year; I would assume the powers would think this worthwhile.

    I'm curious how attendance will be regulated.

    I'm curious whether Obama would like to cross the valley and attend/speak at services ending the Sabbath at Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo, the "Center for Progressive Judaism."

    No, we cannot tolerate even a one-term McCain presidency.

    by algebrateacher on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 11:18:57 AM PDT

    •  I am in the north of you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In the Huntington Beach Parade, on the 4th of July, the Democrat banner stated there were over 400,000 registered Democrats in that city alone! The OC sure has changed. I am a recovering Republican and am now registered as an Independent. I work not too far from the church. This is an interesting decision...

      •  Since neither of the nearest Congressional (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Districts are in play (sorry about that, candidates), the effect the campaign must be seeking is media-based.

        Warren has been a leader in the move to take evangelism in the direction of service and environmentalism.  Lots and lots of churches also owe Warren something fierce; his symposiums on how to build a church are always well-attended.  To have him simply be neutral in the coming election would be worthwhile.  A lean towards Obama would be huge.

        No, we cannot tolerate even a one-term McCain presidency.

        by algebrateacher on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 02:27:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have to wonder (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if this will be the event that brings out an endorsement from the Orange County Observer...
    There have been rumblings..

    •  i read a lot of papers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but that's not one of them.  Could you please email me if that happens?

      thanks so much for a close read.

      "Hibernate between 45 and 65 if you can."--VS Pritchett

      by joseph on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 12:25:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The reason I bring (0+ / 0-)

        it up is I cam across an interesting tidbit when I did a diary a while back..

        There was some interesting 411, this included.

        Scott Flanders, the CEO of Freedom Communications--the company that owns The Orange County Register--told a company meeting that he believes Obama will accomplish the paramount libertarian goals of withdrawing from Iraq and scaling back the Patriot Act

  •  From a Suburbanite.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joseph, algebrateacher, luckylizard

    in place if not in spirit.  Living about three miles from the Pacific coast off of Southern California is perhaps somewhat different than most suburbs, but it has much in common.

    First, explain why American Beauty, a great incisive film is now outdated.  Of course there is the phenomenon that young people think that they invented the their own original set of passions and worldview, that the transformation they are undergoing is unique to them, or at least their generation.

    Actually, my election district is about even between the two parties.  We live next to the most expensive zip code in the country, Rancho Santa Fe, and more moderate housing, (that is only still in six figures)

    About Obama's meeting with McCain at a MegaChurch, I'm sure it's damn smart politics, but every time Obama makes another overture to the forces of faith, I feel a little more distant to him.

    He must know there is a trade off to this, his own personal Faith Based Initiative, and I hope he has the calculation down right.

    •  Understand your (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joseph, arodb

      concern but I am choosing to look at it a bit differently.  We've had plenty of pols who have professed their Christianity without ever really acting like Christians.  Obama came to his faith later than many and I think he did it with both heart and head.  In the same way, he is embracing his faith and not allowing it to be an issue (OK, Wright).  I look for him to govern with the compassion of a true Christian and for him to wipe the floor with McCain, who only does church when it suits his political ends.  The megagchurch folks will have no choice but to recognize which of the two really knows scripture.  They may want to agree with McCain but in the context of their worship space, they won't be able to ignore the man who really fits in.

      I don't know if this is a good thing in any broader sense but in the context of the church, I think it will be good, maybe even great.

      -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

      by luckylizard on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 11:56:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "you're so busted" (0+ / 0-)

      American Beauty, I mean.  arodb is asking me why it's outdated.  But to me it seems so Columbine in retrospect, the BMW and swastika on the china and guns in the closet, the repressed sexuality, the white picket fence and red roses and the most memorable line of the best picture going to someone working a drive-thru lane.  Today, the BMW is a Prius, the sexuality is a gay pride parade, the white picket fence and red roses are drought-tolerant desert shrubs, the most memorable line might be more self-reflexive, so much more introspective, such as..."I'm so busted..."

      But you said it, not me: "Actually, my election district is about even between the two parties."  Ten years ago?

      "Hibernate between 45 and 65 if you can."--VS Pritchett

      by joseph on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 12:35:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's no repressed sexuality anymore... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and the scene where the Keven Spacey character finally had the opportunity to score with his daughters girl friend, and finding out she was a "nice girl" only felt protective of her.

        As I wrote in

        I am old enough to remember when the use of the word "virgin" made a movie off limit to those under 16. (The Moon is Blue, 1951) Only during the sixties did all restraints on film censorship end. This opened the floodgates of pornography (fine for its purpose) and unfettered depiction of dehumanizing violence. It made me wonder whether the advantages of freedom compensated for the coarsening of sensibilities that came with the downward spiral of sex, violence and exploitation.

        Then we have American Beauty. This film is a magnificent work of art, one that couldn't have achieved this perfection without the ability to realistically depict language and images that would have been banned in the olden days. This is the reason that the battle was fought, the rare example of art that inspires and illuminates a particular time and place. All of those pioneers, some of whom served hard time in prison, to insure freedom of expression, are vindicated by a film such as this.

  •  Senator Clinton spoke at Saddleback Church (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    back when the "inevitable" meme still seemed reasonable.  Many thought she was starting her post-nomination strategy of seeking evangelicals.

    Some ideas are just good.

    No, we cannot tolerate even a one-term McCain presidency.

    by algebrateacher on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 11:24:10 AM PDT

  •  2/3 of the Key to the RR is "Community" (0+ / 0-)

    and the other 1/3 is the aristocratization of the economy.

    Together these things make fundamentalism a way of life for the future not the past. For more and more people, it's more adaptive than rationalism and the mainline (Protestant, at least) faiths as they're being practiced these days.

    This presents real challenges both for progressivism and for our system of government itself.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 11:24:59 AM PDT

  •  Absolutely brilliant! (0+ / 0-)

    I think Rick Warren has turned from being a complete wingnut to being interested more in social justice and the environment. Obama is so smart to do this and next to John McCain (who is not comfortable talking about religion) he will trounce him.

  •  If Obama's performance (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    at the evangelical Messiah College forum on faith back in April (?), in which Clinton and Edwards also participated (each separately), poor McCain doesn't stand a chance.  Obama was brilliant both in his response to questions from the moderators (Meecham from Newsweek and a woman from CNN), but also from the audience.  They loved Obama and this was not a liberal crowd.  McCain is stupid to do this.

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell

    by accumbens on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 12:40:58 PM PDT

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