Rob Schenck, fresh off of addressing the “Prayer for Change” anti-abortion rally outside the Democratic convention (and presumably providing some sort of insights to NPR) takes time out to address a key election issue by informing us that John McCain is not an evangelical:
[T]he first two [requirements], “salvation” and “believer’s baptism,” form the sine qua non for initiation into the evangelical family. If you apply these two criteria to what we know of John McCain’s Christian faith he would fail the test for being a bona fide “evangelical.” According to various news reports, Senator McCain’s pastor of 15 years, Dan Yeary (of the clearly evangelical North Phoenix Baptist Church), says the senator has never made that initial walk of faith down the aisle. Neither has he undergone a believer’s full immersion baptism, a prerequisite for membership at North Phoenix. So, Senator McCain has all these years been an “adherent,” or non-member attendee, rather than a fully participating member. (This would mean, for example, that he likely couldn’t hold an office in the church nor vote at its congregational business meetings.) My conclusion from all of this: While John McCain is indeed a self-professed Christian; he would not qualify as an “evangelical Christian.”
Why does that matter, you ask? It doesn’t, unless you are a right-wing evangelical who is confused because you don’t have an evangelical candidate for whom you can reflexively vote, in which case knowing that McCain is merely an “adherent” is apparently relevant:
I frankly don’t think this has anything to do with whether or not Mr. McCain is qualified to be president. For that matter, neither does Barack Obama’s religious identification. What’s important is that Americans—religious and non-religious—have an accurate appreciation of who the candidates are religiously. Religion is an extremely important component to the electoral decision-making process for many voters. The fact that there isn’t an evangelical in this year’s presidential race may change the dynamics some, but it won’t necessarily change the outcome. We simply ought to deal with this factor candidly. (Even if you don’t think it’s important, I think you would agree it certainly can’t hurt to know) … In the end, it’s up to each voter to determine what John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s religious identity means and what bearing it has on which man should be president. I just think it’s something we all need to know, so we can at least pray about the matter in a more informed way.
The title of Schenck’s column is “Is John McCain an Evangelical? Short Answer: No.” Apparently, Schenck reserves his long answers for investigations into the faith of Barack Obama, which warranted a three–part report that concluded that Obama is “definitely not an Evangelical” and that his “Christianity woefully deficient.”