If you’re running for president, it’s better to be seen with a preacher, than for anyone to think you actually listen to one. This is especially true if the preacher looks like a preacher – the right vestments, the right hair – you know what I mean. If a candidate’s pastor just looks like an ordinary person, it just won’t help.
But whatever you do, don’t let it be known that you actually listen to your preacher. Now it might be that the preacher is saying things along the lines of Mr. Obama’s pastor – things disturbing and uncomfortable to white folks. Or it might be that the preacher is saying things disturbing and comfortable to non-white folks. Maybe its because I’m in the white folk category, but I confess I’ve heard more of the latter in churches than I have the former.
That’s the easy stuff to deal with. Although some of our favorite American sins have been in the area of race, Jesus didn’t say much about that. Oh sure, he had a deep conversation with a Samaritan woman – a person of such a gender and ethnicity that he wasn’t even supposed to speak with her. Or he once told a story where the Samaritan was the hero. Current American politicians seem to have heard this part of Jesus’ message, and though often far from our social reality, it at least depicts a reality we say we’d like.
It’s some of the other things Jesus had to say – and some of the other implications of his life that would embarrass any self-respecting presidential candidate. If you want to run for president you need to run on building the economy and national defense. Being strong on patriotism is a must. Old Jesus wasn’t much on any of those.
Jesus thought the pursuit of wealth was a deadly mistake. Democrats and Republicans agree against him that it’s a good idea – though of course they disagree vociferously on how such wealth should be pursued.
Jesus preached non-violence response to attacks. Republicans and Democrats, though again differing in particulars, think violence, if properly conceived and democratically approved, is just fine.
When it came to patriotism, Jesus was too much like Jeremiah – the prophet who told his people the best thing they could do, assuming they cared what God thought, was to surrender to their enemy.
“Go and sin no more?” None of us like to do that. We’re way too comfortable with giving into to our urges, whether they be in the direction of lust, greed, envy, power, hate or the like. We’d rather hear “Try hard” any day.
All that Jesus stuff is way too particular. If preachers would only stick to things like, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you [in your private life];” or “God helps those who help themselves;” or “Be a nice person of faith,” then it wouldn’t be so bad to be known as a person who listened to a preacher. Or if the preachers, however biblical in content, would simply be good Lockeans and cede the real world to the Magistrate and tend to eternity, they would have no trouble at all.
You really have to keep an eye on those preachers.