Moderator Rick Warren of the Saddleback Civil Forum said presidential hopeful Barack Obama needed to be more specific in his answer to the question of when life begins.
Obama, the putative Democratic nominee, had glibly responded that “it’s above my pay grade” to answer specifically when asked the question on life.
“I think he needed to be more specific on that,” said Warren in an interview following the forum with Beliefnet.com. “I happen to disagree with Barack on that.
“[T]o me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t take the time to figure out’ because if I was wrong, then it had severe implications for my leadership if I had the ability to do something about,” Warren explained.
The influential megachurch pastor wished Obama would have stated clearly that he did not believe life begins until “X” point or that it is a human being at “X” point.
“But to just say ‘I don’t know’ on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me,” Warren, who refused to say who he will vote for, said.
Other evangelical leaders, such as Janet Folger, president of Faith2Action, also were dissatisfied with Obama’s answer to the abortion question.
She said the question could be interpreted as “when does a baby get human rights?” in which Obama’s voting record would reply “never.”
“He’s the only Senator in the entire Senate in Illinois who actually stood on the floor and spoke against protecting babies that were completely severed from the mother, that had survived the assault of an abortion,” Folger said during a teleconference with other evangelical leaders following the forum. “That answer should have been ‘never.’ He tried to avoid it, and it tells me that he shouldn’t be getting the pay grade of President.”
During the interview with Beliefnet, Warren reaffirmed what he and many others have said in the past - that evangelicals are not monolithic and he cannot predict who this group will vote for.
But he did say that evangelicals will vote based on their priority in values, and for many, the abortion issue could be the “deal breaker.”
“If they think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted,” Warren said.
“They would call that a holocaust, and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier …”
Polls show that young evangelicals are more pro-life than their parents' generation. Although these young faith voters are looking at other topics such as poverty, AIDS, climate change, the issue of abortion remains at the top for many, according to surveys.
The Saddleback Civil Forum, which took place last Saturday evening, drew massive media attention because it was the first time presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama shared the same stage this election year.
Warren followed up the forum with a sermon, which was streamed lived on the Internet, on Sunday, preaching on the qualities of a biblical leader. He purposely avoided naming names of candidates, but said the purpose of the special sermon, titled “The Kind of Leader America Needs,” was to simply teach Christians the characteristics of a leader, as taught in the Bible, who will be blessed by God and let Christian voters make up their own political decisions.
"Don't just look at issues, look at character," Warren told Saddleback congregants and those watching on the Internet. "Look at the candidate and say, 'Does he live with integrity, service with humility, share with generosity, or not?'"