From Valerie Elverton Dixon’s October 21, 2010 post in The Washington Post’s “On Faith” column…
… If Jesus were running during this election cycle, he would be subject to attack ads.
Imagine the possibilities. Imagine that the various towns named in biblical texts were in somewhere USA.
On foreign policy:
A shot of the World Trade Center towers falling.
Voiceover: 9/11. The nation suffers the worst attack on its soil in history. But Jesus says that we ought to love the people who did this. He says: “do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who misuse and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Love al Qaeda? Do good to the people who attacked us? This is no plan to keep us safe. Jesus. Soft on defense. Wrong for America.
On guilt by association:
Scene: Nighttime on a city corner where prostitutes and drug dealers are doing business. Cut to Jesus having dinner with the same people.
Voice: People are known by the company they keep. Jesus is friend to prostitutes, drug dealers, tax collectors. Is this the kind of man we want in the United States Senate? Jesus. He’s just not one of us.
On family values:
Scene: Children outside playing in the yard, happy and carefree. The father is washing the car while the mother watches from the kitchen window. Everyone is happy and contented.
Voice: Strong families are the backbone of America. Faith and family are what make this country strong.
Next scene: Father and son are screaming at each other. A daughter stomps out of the room, slams the door and leaves the mother looking lost and bewildered.
Voice: But Jesus wants families to be at war with each other. He said: “For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10: 35-36) Is this what we want for our families? Is war in our homes a family value? Keep Jesus in Nazareth and in the carpenter’s shop. We do not need him in Washington.
On Jesus’ patriotism:
Scene: Jesus is speaking to a large audience. He says: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the Day of Judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11: 21-22)
Voice: Why does Jesus hate America? Do we really want someone who hates his country so much making laws for us? Real America, tell Jesus no on Election Day.
Scene: A scene from the movie Dr. Zhivago when he comes home from the war to find strangers living in his house. The woman says there was room for many families here. Freeze frame.
Voice: Karl Marx says that the government ought to take from each according to his abilities, and give to each according to his needs. This is socialism. This is communism. Jesus agrees with Marx. He says to be saved, you have to give your hard-earned possessions away. He said: “Go and sell whatever you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.”(Mark 10: 21) Jesus. Socialism. Dangerous for America.
Our elections have been about which candidate seems to be the less monstrous. For some of us, a return to party loyalty is the lens through which we view the campaigns and the various attack ads. Our side tells the righteous truth, and the opponent airs only distortions. Negative advertising seeks to show that the opponent is extreme and dangerous, a person who is not one of us, who does not share our values. However, even Jesus can be portrayed as some kind of monster.
What is worse than the negative advertising is the superficial discussion of issues. Our leaders talk to us in poll-driven bumper-sticker slogans. Our elections are an insult to the intelligence of the American people. We get stuck in the muck. The media gets stuck in the muck because we allow it. Rich candidates think they can buy elections. Outside groups spend money from undisclosed sources. We elect candidates that have neither the knowledge nor the experience to hold high public office. In a representative democracy, we get the leadership we deserve.
The solution is to end the perpetual campaigns and punditry that asks only what this or that policy will mean for the next election. We need shorter campaigns and a ban on paid political advertising. Require media outlets to give free time and space for a more substantial discussion of the issues. Perhaps then, the electoral process will attract people with better ideas and qualifications who do not now participate because they do not want to be the targets of false advertising. Perhaps when Jesus comes back, we can persuade him to run.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.