McCain on Faith

Ed Lasky
 McCain talks faith in a fascinating interview with the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman -- and describes the little-known "church riot" he helped lead against his captors in Vietnam.
 

The church riot erupted after U.S. Special Forces raided a site about 40 miles from Hanoi trying to rescue prisoners who, it turned out, were no longer there. The Vietnamese, fearing more such raids, rounded up American POWs and moved them from other outlying camps into Hanoi. That meant an end to isolation, as dozens of prisoners were packed together.

"We agreed that we were going to have a church service and told the Vietnamese, and they said no," recalled fellow prisoner Bud Day. But on Feb. 12, 1970, the prisoners went ahead anyway, holding a service and singing songs.

"The Vietnamese broke in and seized the people who were standing against the wall doing the service," Day said. "They marched them out of the room at gunpoint. So I stood up and started singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' 'God Bless America,' 'My Country 'Tis of Thee' and every song we could think of."

The Vietnamese stormed back in, putting a definitive end to the service.

"We wanted to actually just have a chance to do what we felt was a fundamental human right ... and we got spiritual comfort from being able to worship together," McCain said. "We thought, look, if we're going to be together, then we're going to stand up. ... They'd done so many bad things that we weren't nearly as afraid of them as maybe we would have been if a lot of us hadn't gone through what we'd gone through."



"It is a story unknown by a public still getting to know McCain and searching for shared values with the candidates," Zuckman writes. "In an extended interview, McCain talked about how his faith was tested during his years as a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973, said God must have had a plan for him to have kept him alive, and reminisced about his appointment as informal chaplain to his cellmates."

Said McCain: "There were many times I didn't pray for another day and I didn't pray for another hour -- I prayed for another minute to keep going. . . . There's no doubt that my faith was strengthened and reinforced and tested, because sometimes you have a tendency to say, 'Why am I here?' "

And he suggests he was spared for a greater purpose: :I can't help but feel like that to some extent, and I'm not a fatalist," said McCain. "I think it's remarkable that I've been able to survive so much and to have the opportunity to do the right thing. I do think we make our own choices, but certainly I think I was meant to serve a cause greater than my self-interest."
 McCain talks faith in a fascinating interview with the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman -- and describes the little-known "church riot" he helped lead against his captors in Vietnam.
 

The church riot erupted after U.S. Special Forces raided a site about 40 miles from Hanoi trying to rescue prisoners who, it turned out, were no longer there. The Vietnamese, fearing more such raids, rounded up American POWs and moved them from other outlying camps into Hanoi. That meant an end to isolation, as dozens of prisoners were packed together.

"We agreed that we were going to have a church service and told the Vietnamese, and they said no," recalled fellow prisoner Bud Day. But on Feb. 12, 1970, the prisoners went ahead anyway, holding a service and singing songs.

"The Vietnamese broke in and seized the people who were standing against the wall doing the service," Day said. "They marched them out of the room at gunpoint. So I stood up and started singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' 'God Bless America,' 'My Country 'Tis of Thee' and every song we could think of."

The Vietnamese stormed back in, putting a definitive end to the service.

"We wanted to actually just have a chance to do what we felt was a fundamental human right ... and we got spiritual comfort from being able to worship together," McCain said. "We thought, look, if we're going to be together, then we're going to stand up. ... They'd done so many bad things that we weren't nearly as afraid of them as maybe we would have been if a lot of us hadn't gone through what we'd gone through."



"It is a story unknown by a public still getting to know McCain and searching for shared values with the candidates," Zuckman writes. "In an extended interview, McCain talked about how his faith was tested during his years as a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973, said God must have had a plan for him to have kept him alive, and reminisced about his appointment as informal chaplain to his cellmates."

Said McCain: "There were many times I didn't pray for another day and I didn't pray for another hour -- I prayed for another minute to keep going. . . . There's no doubt that my faith was strengthened and reinforced and tested, because sometimes you have a tendency to say, 'Why am I here?' "

And he suggests he was spared for a greater purpose: :I can't help but feel like that to some extent, and I'm not a fatalist," said McCain. "I think it's remarkable that I've been able to survive so much and to have the opportunity to do the right thing. I do think we make our own choices, but certainly I think I was meant to serve a cause greater than my self-interest."