As many have noted in emails to RD, as well as in comments elsewhere, who cares?
Well, on the one hand, many many Republicans do. Without a significant portion of the conservative religious vote a Republican cannot win. That's a given. Hypocrisy is nothing new for a politician, but claiming to be an evangelical when the public record, and your rhetoric, barely reveals you as a Christian, well.
On the other hand, if you take him at his word, John McCain cares:
What, then, ought it matter whether he is or is not, technically speaking, Christian?
It apparently matters to him, and to his opponent, and maybe it matters to you. McCain has noted several times that the "number one issue... that people should [use to] make a selection of the president of the United States [is] will this person carry on in the Judeo-Christian principle that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?" A person's faith is, according to McCain, an "important part of our qualifications to lead."
Far from partisan hair-splitting, this is a careful assessment of the available evidence against a voluminous body of scholarship and testimony.
McCain doesn't talk the talk:
in his years of public service prior to 2008, John McCain's speeches are models of secular aridity. He doesn't just occasionally speak of God or faith or America's Christian promise; he never does
... And he doesn't walk the walk:
When asked how often he attends church McCain says, "not as often as I should." When asked whether he has participated in adult baptism, a ritual requisite for converts to the Convention, McCain says no, calling it "a personal thing," adding on another occasion that "I didn't find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs."
His only religious story, about a shared moment with a guard at the Hanoi Hilton on Christmas, wasn't included in his 1973 captivity narrative--a curious oversight, to say the least. In any case, as historian John Fea has noted, "[it] tells us more about the guard's faith than McCain's."
Lofton never uses the "a" word, but she doesn't really make the argument that McCain is an atheist. There is, indeed, a God that McCain worships...
Read Kathryn's entire essay here and discuss in RD's new comments section.