June 22, 2004

Jesus for President

The rise of the religious right has brought with it a disturbing notion: that the President of the United States, in addition to being the political and economic leader of the free world, must also be morally infallible. The roots of this belief are not entirely unmerited; any good president should have some moral compass that prevents them, for example, from acting out fantasies of a warmongering dictatorship. But in the eyes of the fanatics, presidents must also have an impossibly perfect personal record. In other words, they must be Jesus.

The Jesus in question is not the historical one revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike as a paragon of love, peace and tolerance. I’d vote for that man in a heartbeat. Instead, they refer to the divine messiah Jesus Christ, the omnipresent son of God, who can create and destroy universes with a wave of his hand. Their version of Jesus reads Jack Chick pamphlets and nods with ecstatic agreement. He is the artist of Armageddon who will wipe out Israel and those filthy pagans at midnight next Friday. Yes, the Jesus they believe in holds no bones about destroying the entire human race in the name of love.

Jesus for president! Wouldn’t he be such a perfect fit for this “Christian” country? Not according to our laws! Isn’t it amazing how, theo-smackers’ arguments to the contrary, Jesus could not be the president under our Constitutional law? For one thing, the Constitution mandates that a President must be at least 35 years old. Legend has it that Jesus was 33 when he got double-crossed. Also, the president must be an American-born citizen and have lived on U.S. soil for a minimum of 14 years. Where was Jesus from, Bethlehem? Galilee? Nazareth? Steppenwolf? The Promised Land was somewhere east of America. It certainly was not in, say, Utah.

But let’s assume we did the Christian thing and gave Jesus a divine break from Constitutional law to allow him to run for president. Would he? Given his advocacy of humility, I doubt it. Assuming he did, however, his platform—peace on earth, good will toward men, love thy neighbor, don’t do bad things—would NEVER fly with the conservative theocrats. They’d just accuse him of being a long-haired, hippie peacenik Jew who bucked the godly ideals of the United States of America. Imagine the top story on The 700 Club: “Jesus: is he the anti-Christ?” Not even Jesus would be perfect enough for his most fervent followers to be President of the United States. No wonder they’ve settled for such guys as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Gary Bauer.

Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jesus as president. The religious right wants moral absolutes and Jesus is the perfect person to give it to them. Only, I think, Jesus would be (bad pun alert) a hell of a lot more forgiving than his self-proclaimed lobbying group. His tolerance for religions would be much closer to the ideals espoused by the Bill of Rights than the hellfire and damnation often preached in his name. And, as he notes in Matthew 22:21, he clearly supports the separation of church and state. Jesus is my kind of leader for sure!

On the other hand, I wonder if he could even grasp the idea of democracy, a concept completely absent from the Bible. Religion, in general, tends to favor an autocratic deity who rules with an iron fist over a terrified and appeasing populace. Then again, our current leadership has no grasp of democracy either, so why not give him a try? Jesus for President!

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