“Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.” Words of a leader.
John McCain died last weekend only hours after announcing he was leaving his political career because of brain cancer. He spent thirty years in the US Senate representing the state of Arizona. And for 1800 days, he outlasted the torture, the beatings, and the broken bones inflicted by North Vietnamese captors as an American prisoner of war.
One conservative columnist said with McCain’s passing, “Real men must stand up now to be measured by the standards that Senator McCain left us as his legacy.”
A friend of mine and colleague at Ambassador Advertising Agency, remembers A Tale of Two McCains:
What fascinates me most about this American hero is the change in his life which was forged through the crucible of 5½ years at the Hanoi Hilton. Torture, pain, isolation, broken bones, beatings, starvation, mistreatment—these were all de rigueur. And in some measure, this unthinkable punishment was a result of his desire to not receive preferential treatment which would have left his comrades behind.
By most accounts (including his own), John McCain’s life was one of two major periods and personalities: there’s the pre-Vietnam Top Gun hotshot pilot and playboy, and there’s the post-Vietnam stalwart of his family and his country.
In his memoir Faith of My Fathers, McCain wrote: “In prison, I fell in love with my country. I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn’t until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her.”
McCain ran for president twice and was twice defeated. Before dying, he asked the two men who defeated him—Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama—to speak at his funeral. Both immediately sent word that they would.
He could be measured as a good man, but he always reflected what he called a quiet faith as a Christian. He told the story of one Christmas in that POW camp when a Vietnamese prison guard stood next to him and drew a picture with his boot of a cross before rubbing it out … as that would have put his own life in jeopardy if discovered. As McCain put it, “for a minute there, there were two Christians worshipping together.”
One pastor asked McCain more specifically to define his faith the final time he ran and lost for president. His response?, “It means I’m saved and forgiven.” Agree or disagree with his politics or other views, I believe John McCain understood humility … a quality sorely missing among most modern-day leaders in his country. And I believe he would have made a great president. But after losing, he returned to working hard not just for his state but for his country.
All our lives are ultimately in the Lord’s hands. In his book Faith of My Fathers, McCain recounted how, while a POW, “I prayed more often and more fervently than I ever had as a free man.” Today, I pray John McCain is now free in Christ.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.