“Personal Faith and Moral Clarity”

It’s worrisome that conservative presidential candidates still think they need a seal of approval from Billy Graham—and now his son Franklin:

Franklin Graham issued a statement after the meeting praising the Arizona senator’s “personal faith and his moral clarity.”

Personal faith and moral clarity are vague, nebulous qualities that have little objective correspondence with the world. Not that I mean to fall into the cliché—and I don’t think this does—but Adolph Hitler had personal faith and moral clarity, too. He had personal faith in his own twisted ideology and he had moral clarity so sharp that it drove him to exterminate people who drew his moral disapproval.

But stepping back from the precipice of hyperbole, what exactly does it mean to have “personal faith and moral clarity”? Perhaps more importantly in these particular circumstances, why is it so important for John McCain to have Franklin Graham declare his “personal faith and moral clarity”?

If these qualities meant anything, wouldn’t they be apparent to everyone? Or are the Grahams more like palm readers, who pull heads of state behind their curtains, engage in a hushed dialogue, only to emerge with some kind of “expert” proclamation regarding the inner or spiritual qualities of their supplicants? What gives them the authority? And how exactly do “personal faith and moral clarity” translate into policy?

Better to vote for someone with personal integrity and intellectual clarity—those are the qualities of someone who makes good decisions. But good luck getting the voters excited about those qualities. It seems Americans prefer to hang their hat on things that equate, in practical terms, to “goes on hunches” and “shoots from the hip.” You’d think people might learn after eight years of that leadership style that it’s nothing but trouble. Apparently not.

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