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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rudy's Praise of McCain Went a Bit Too Far


Last night Rudy Giuliani with his eminent flare delivered some of the most quotable lines of both conventions in his repudiation of Barack O’Biden and endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket.

For instance:

“Then [Obama] ran for the state legislature and he got elected. And nearly 130 times, he couldn't make a decision. He couldn't figure out whether to vote "yes" or "no." It was too tough. He voted -- he voted "present."… You have to make a decision.”

“He is the least experienced candidate for president of the United States in at least the last 100 years. Not a personal attack, a statement of fact. Barack Obama has never led anything, nothing, nada. Nada, nothing.”

“Well, I'll tell you, if I were Joe Biden, I'd want to get that V.P. thing in writing.”

“So -- so he changed his position again, and he put out a statement exactly like the statement of John McCain's three days earlier. I have some advice for Senator Obama: Next time, call John McCain.”
But how many of us who listened to the speech were struck by this:

“And we can trust [McCain] to deal with anything, anything that nature throws our way, anything that terrorists do to us.”

The last thing I was looking for in any of the speeches was a mistake, let alone a near-blasphemy. What does it mean, after all, that John McCain can deal with anything – again anything (!) – that “nature throws our way”? My immediate thought was, “Oh my, this man is challenging God, most unwittingly.” Hyper-sensitivity on my part? Well, maybe, but then I must ask, could one who was living in close proximity to Coram Deo make such boast? Would we have been O.K. had Rudy said that Senator McCain can deal with anything that God (not nature) throws his way? If not, then why does the word “nature” soften the claim? Isn’t what nature can throw our way equivalent to what God can throw our way?

Now some might respond with “Then why not qualify every statement of what you plan to do in the future with ‘if God so wills’”? In other words, is it not equally presumptuous to think that anything can be accomplished apart from God’s grace. Accordingly, if we don’t speak that way with respect to running an errand, then why need we take such care with our words when dealing with anything “nature” might throw our way? The difference, as I see it, is that when someone states “I’ll see you tomorrow” a claim of self-sufficiency in the face of adverse providence is not necessarily being purported, let alone promulgated. Accordingly, to add “if God so wills” to “I’ll see you tomorrow” need not alter or undermine the sentiment since it does not so much promote self-sufficiency as it does communicate a mere intention. In other words, leaving out “if God so wills” does not imply that the intention can be fulfilled apart from God’s will; whereas Rudy’s comment was aimed not at promoting a man’s intention but his moral fiber. Therefore, to have said that Senator McCain can deal with anything nature throws his way - if God so wills, does not make Rudy’s point at all! Instead, such a qualifier would actually eclipse his very point because given such a qualifier it could equally be said of Obama, and even the weakest of men.

In a last-ditch effort to save Rudy from his own words, we might be inclined to render his meaning as “McCain is so obviously full of grace, it’s unimaginable that God would not sustain him through anything he can dish out.” That, however, would be to overstate the grace God has bestowed upon this man (affording a frothy basis to anticipate extraordinary future-grace), while underestimating what God could bring upon him. Let's get hold of the fact that Katrina was less than the finger of God and that no man is to be compared to lesser men but to Christ. A healthy view of God's omnipotence and sober view of the fraility of man and his need for grace prohibts such sentiments as Giuliani expressed in his address. Obviously when put this way, Mr. Giuliani could not have meant what he actually said. But that's the point, isn't it? He wasn't even conscious of what he was actually saying. Autonomy got the best of him. His unthinking praise was grossly overstated and more importantly, highly offensive.

At the very least, in the realm of judgment in crisis, make no mistake that we are often preserved and kept from despair, even disgrace, because God prevents us from being exposed to more than we've been trained to handle. For anyone to presume that even the godliest saint will endure under any unprecedented disaster that will challenge judgment in unimaginable ways implicitly denies that we can be challenged beyond our understanding and experiences.

Ron
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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. DiGiacomo,

I'm just wondering, why not assume that the Mayor is using hyperbolic language and leave it at that? Obviously, the Mayor recognizing that Sen. McCain is not perfect. So what would be wrong with assuming that he is simply saying that by the grace of God Sen. McCain will handle whatever God brings his way. I know that I believe that about my husband. That, although I know him to be a sinful man and who falters through trials, by the grace of God he seeks to honor God in all that comes his way (or rather is brought his way by God). Am I missing something?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

You wrote: “So what would be wrong with assuming that he is simply saying that by the grace of God Sen. McCain will handle whatever God brings his way.”

I addressed that in my post when I wrote: “Therefore, to have said that Senator McCain can deal with anything nature throws his way - if God so wills [which is to say: ‘if God grants grace’], does not make Rudy’s point at all! Instead, such a qualifier would actually eclipse his very point because given such a qualifier it could equally be said of Obama, and even the weakest of men.”

The prima-facie point of Rudy’s statement is that McCain, unlike his “inexperienced” opponent, can take anything – again anything (he even said it twice) - nature {God!} brings his way. McCain’s opponent as well as the weakest of men can ALSO take anything “nature” throws their way by the grace of God. Accordingly, the statement becomes at best superfluous given your rendering and in addition denies the implicit distinction being made between McCain and his opponent.

You said: ”I know that I believe that about my husband. That, although I know him to be a sinful man and who falters through trials, by the grace of God he seeks to honor God in all that comes his way (or rather is brought his way by God). Am I missing something?”

Yup, you are I’m afraid. You are confusing passed character over matters that are not extraordinary with future grace as it pertains to unprecedented testing, which I also addressd in my post: “In a last-ditch effort to save Rudy from his own words, we might be inclined to render his meaning as “McCain is so obviously full of grace, it’s unimaginable that God would not sustain him through anything he can dish out.” That, however, would be to overstate the grace God has bestowed upon this man (affording a frothy basis to anticipate extraordinary future-grace), while underestimating what God could bring upon him. Let's get hold of the fact that Katrina was less than the finger of God and that no man is to be compared to lesser men but to Christ. A healthy view of God's omnipotence and sober view of the fraility of man and his need for grace prohibts such sentiments as Giuliani expressed in his address. Obviously when put this way, Mr. Giuliani could not have meant what he actually said. But that's the point, isn't it? He wasn't even conscious of what he was actually saying. Autonomy got the best of him. His unthinking praise was grossly overstated and more importantly, highly offensive.

At the very least, in the realm of judgment in crisis, make no mistake that we are often preserved and kept from despair, even disgrace, because God prevents us from being exposed to more than we've been trained to handle. For anyone to presume that even the godliest saint will endure under any unprecedented disaster that will challenge judgment in unimaginable ways implicitly denies that we can be challenged beyond our understanding and experiences.”

---

If you believe your husband to be a godly man, then you might ask him if he'd appreciate someone saying of him "He can take anything - anything - God throws his way", and see what he says. Aside from putting God to the test, the statement is (a) superfluous (because anyone can do anything if God so wills) and (b) it commits two fallacies of category because it presupposes the comparison of past successes by grace with future success of a different order that has no limits(!) while not mentioning the grace that would be necessary to achieve such success (which if mentioned would cause the statement to lose its differentiating quality, as already noted). Again though, I addressed all these things in my post, and then some.

Ron

Go McCain said...

Ron,

Not to mention when we say "by God's grace" the point is at God is being glorified not man! I can do all things through God who strengthens me is not a tribute to me but to God. It's God who causes us to differ from others and I doubt that's what the ex-mayor of NY city had in mind!

Anonymous said...

'Therefore, to have said that Senator McCain can deal with anything nature throws his way - if God so wills, does not make Rudy’s point at all! Instead, such a qualifier would actually eclipse his very point because given such a qualifier it could equally be said of Obama, and even the weakest of men..'

That's the nugget!

Anonymous said...

I would have missed the the Mayor's mistake had it not be teased out that "nature" is God's providence. The mayor actually communicated that McCain could handle anything God could dish out in nature. Good catch.