John McCain: Dan Yeary
McCain recently rejected the endorsements of two offensive pastors: John Hagee, who called Catholicism a “false cult system” and believes Hitler was a part of God’s plan to get the Jews to Israel, and televangelist Rod Parsley (once referred to be McCain as a “spiritual guide”), who called for a war against the “false religion” of Islam. But it is Dan Yeary, the much less abrasive pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, who helped usher McCain into the Baptist faith fifteen years ago. While McCain has, for reasons unknown (he’s very quiet about his beliefs), been reluctant to be baptized, Yeary has “minister[ed] to the family in times of challenge and difficulty” and the two are having “a continual dialogue about [McCain’s] spiritual pursuits,” as the pastor himself informed Reuters. The same Reuters article points to an insidecatholic.com interview in which McCain said he’s “grateful for the spiritual advice and counsel” that Yeary has given him (though Yeary told the Associated Baptist Press that they don’t talk “every week or even every month”). Back in 1984, U.S. News and World Report highlighted Yeary, then 45 years old, as a next-generation Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell, saying he believed that “the recovery of the family” was the “No. 1 need of our culture.” He preached in Coral Gables, Florida, for eighteen years before moving to Phoenix, where he now leads the 7,000-congregant megachurch. Yeary believes homosexuality is a sin and enjoys chocolate-chip cookies and butterscotch pie. McCain has said he doesn’t believe homosexuality is a sin but has yet to take a position on butterscotch pie.
Barack Obama: Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr.
Though Obama’s relationship with his former pastor Jeremiah Wright has been covered more than the Kennedy assassination, it actually remains somewhat murky. Obama told reporters in late April that Wright “was never my, quote-unquote, ‘spiritual adviser,’ … he was never my ‘spiritual mentor.’” And yet the two seemed to have shared a very meaningful connection before the recent imbroglio forced Obama to distance himself from the preacher. In a speech in Philadelphia on March 18, Obama said Wright was “like family,” “strengthened my faith,” and “helped introduce me to my Christian faith.” The two met in 1985 to discuss Obama’s community organizing and how Wright could help; in 1988, Obama responded to his first altar call at Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama borrowed the title of one of Wright’s sermons, “The Audacity of Hope,” for his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention and his second book. Their relationship is well documented. In April 2007, long before Wright was on the political radar, the New York Times had it that Obama “tends to turn to his minister at moments of frustration.” And a January 2007 Chicago Tribune article does indeed characterize Wright as Obama’s “spiritual mentor,” someone who keeps Obama’s “moral compass calibrated,” and who Obama turned to “before making any bold political moves”—including running for president. Apparently he was asking the wrong person. Wright’s offensive statements on everything from 9/11 to AIDS have done more damage to Obama than anything else during his campaign for president. “I may not know him as well as I thought,” Obama has admitted.