by Dr Alan Snyder
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
John McCain died on Saturday evening from an aggressive brain tumor. His death was announced not too long after the family informed the public that he had decided to stop the cancer treatments.
McCain, in some ways, was a controversial senator, not always in agreement with the Republican party in which he served. That’s why he earned the nickname of a “maverick.”
I have no problem with mavericks as long as they are standing on the principles they espouse and are doing so with integrity.
Often, I disagreed with McCain on specific policy issues, but in my many years of watching him, I rarely disagreed with the manner in which he carried himself. Many who are commenting on his death have said something similar: he was a gentleman respected by others in the Senate even when they opposed his latest vote.
No one can adequately analyze John McCain without spending some time remarking on his time as a POW during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down, he was captured, beaten, and nearly died. When the North Vietnamese discovered that he was the son of an American admiral, they sought to use him for propaganda purposes, promising to release him.
So McCain could have been freed from that camp if he had chosen. Instead, he refused to be used for propaganda and also felt it would be wrong for him to receive special treatment that the other POWs wouldn’t get.
That angered his captors even more, and the beatings became worse than before. Yet McCain suffered it all willingly.
Five years he spent in that horrid camp. He didn’t come home until after the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. President Nixon met with him to show his appreciation for what he suffered.
Some people think that if a man is captured in war, he is not a hero. I reject that categorically.
Others will point to his divorce after his return and chastise him for that. I agree that he wronged his first wife. It’s also instructive, though, that later, when asked if he had any regrets, he cited his divorce. Whether that was a true repentance or simply a regret, I cannot know, yet one wants to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who will publicly acknowledge a moral failure like that.
His nomination for the presidency in 2008 was ill-timed, coming as it did on the heels of the bank bailout and recession blamed largely on Republicans. Although McCain was not my candidate of choice for that nomination, I had no problem supporting him in the campaign. I don’t have to agree with everything a candidate does. In McCain, at least I saw someone who sought to halt the oncoming Democrat onslaught.
And he was solidly pro-life.
What about McCain’s faith? Was he a Christian? An article by Ed Stetzer and Laurie Nichols on Christianity Today International‘s website states the following:
McCain was a man of faith and talked about his faith when he had little, and quietly practiced when he had much. He has been attending North Phoenix Baptist Church for years. His experiences might have pushed him away from God, but he quietly engaged there at the church. When Rick Warren asked what being a Christian meant to Senator McCain, he replied, “It means I’m saved and forgiven.”
My sincere hope is that this testimony is real and that McCain is now with his Savior.
It’s only right to take the time today to honor the service of John McCain.
Image: Excerpted from: By Series: Nixon White House Photographs, 1/20/1969 – 8/9/1974Collection: White House Photo Office Collection (Nixon Administration), 1/20/1969 – 8/9/1974 – https://catalog.archives.gov/id/66394362, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69599434
Alan Snyder is Professor of History at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Ideas expressed in his books, articles, and online posts are his own opinions and do not necessarily represent the policy of Southeastern University.