Over the years, I've wondered how an uncompromisingly Christian presidential candidate might conduct himself, what policies he — or she — might propose.
If memory serves me, I've speculated about this before, in this very space.
But as much as I've thought about the subject, Donald Trump's name never once popped into my mind as the exemplar of Christian values.
In a recent opinion column, the New York Times' Frank Bruni pointed out — with astonishment equal to my own — that The Donald is now the favored candidate among Republican evangelical Christians, who claim they want godly leaders.
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"Let me get this straight," Bruni said. "If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant, judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making amount of sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I'm at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I've amassed?"
Bruni's column started me thinking again: Wonder what a starkly, radically Christian candidate would look like.
One problem here is deciding whose idea of "Christian" we're talking about. The ideal leader to a Catholic wouldn't match the ideal of a Presbyterian, whose model wouldn't match an evangelical's, whose ideal wouldn't match that of a Greek Orthodox. Democrats and Republicans certainly would differ on who's a true Christian.
So I decided to go back to the basics. I tried to imagine a prototypical politician whose beliefs, policies and demeanor lined up with those of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament, as well as the early church fathers who followed the apostles.
For the record, you shouldn't mistake all of what follows as my own political preferences. I disagree with some of these views, frankly.
I'm simply saying that, given the content of the New Testament and various other ancient Christian writings, this is how I think such a pol might conduct business.
Our prototypical Christian statesperson would:
Be soft-spoken, self-effacing and yet often inflexible. Most early Christian leaders seem to have been humble almost to the point of self loathing. But also, they quite often refused to bend. They weren't driven by opinion polls.
Our gal wouldn't give a snap about what the broader public thought, even about what her party's base thought. She'd say what she believed, no apologies, period.
Propose opening the nation's floodgates to immigrants. Aiding strangers and aliens, including those from other faiths, is a key virtue in the New Testament and early church writings. Anybody remember Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan?
Warmly embrace our enemies. Our guy would, in fact, love our enemies — North Korea, Iran, China, ISIS. He'd hold prayer meetings on their behalf. He might ask what possessions of ours they'd like to have, then offer to give those to them.
Be soft on crime. Her approach to dealing with domestic wrongdoers, from hookers to muggers to white-collar thieves, would be about as benign as her foreign policy. She'd fling her arms around lawbreakers and say, "I forgive you. And God loves you. Now, please don't do bad things anymore."
Then she'd appoint some of these miscreants as her top advisers — her disciples, if you will.
Scald the rich. Jesus, St. James and the others never had anything kind to say about the wealthy. Their consistent message: "Woe to you; you and your money will burn together in hell." Citizens United be darned, it's hard to imagine our Christian candidate serving as a shill for billionaires, or being a billionaire.
Scald religious leaders. There seems to be only one group Jesus loathed as much as he despised the rich, and that's smug, legalistic religious authorities. He called them every name in the book, including sons of Satan.
Defend the poor, the sick and the marginalized. Besides spreading the gospel, the biggest concerns of early Christians were nursing the ill and helping outcasts. I'm betting our candidate would support universal health care and entitlement programs.
Advocate the redistribution of wealth. Whatever else you might think about Jesus and his early followers, capitalists they weren't.
For example, St. Paul urged Christians at Corinth to share their money sacrificially with the disadvantaged, "that there may be equality; as it is written, 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.'"
That was the early church's economy: No rich, no poor; equality for all.
There's more to say on a variety of issues, but I'm out of room.
Oddly, what you'd end up with is a strange mix of Jimmy Carter (of whom I'm a fan) and Bernie Sanders (who I realize is Jewish, but then, so were Jesus and the apostles).
Only he'd be far more polarizing than either Carter or Sanders.
In other words, you'd have a candidate who was basically unelectable. If he did slip into office — a la Carter in 1976 — he could never win a second term.
He'd be a terrific human, but an unsuccessful politician. He'd horrify Democrats and Republicans alike.
He might even get himself crucified.