Pontius Palin and Messiah Obama

The "community" Jesus "organized" would have to be defined as primarily the core 12 apostles (13 if we count that important, but late-arriving, St. Paul), although we should perhaps include the 70 missionaries of Luke chapter 10. Looking at these two groups in the Gospels, it's obvious that 1) neither group consisted of folks who lived "in close proximity," and in fact contained members from different areas of Roman-occupied Judea; 2) neither the 12 nor the 70 were concerned with "common self-interest" but, on the contrary, were united around Jesus' call for them to deny their own self-interest; 3) Jesus didn't exactly have any Roman imperial social agencies from which to apply for grants, especially for messianic claimants. Jesus called these men -- sorry, Dan Brown fanatics, the Gospels are clear that the 12 and the 70 were all male, a fact that would get Him disqualified for community organizing on Chicago's South Side, no doubt -- to take up a cross and follow Him, not to figure out how to write grant proposals to the first-century version of ACORN, had such a thing even existed. He also empowered them to heal the sick, drive out demons (not Republicans), and forgive sins. Therefore, "community organizing" doesn't even remotely describe what Jesus did.

More importantly, the third problem with this trope is that it is an attempt -- conscious or not -- to undermine the gravity of Jesus' role in Christianity and in history. From Albert Schweitzer to Episcopal "Bishop" John Spong to Oprah, outside-the-Christian-mainstream critics have tried to make Jesus only a man with a plan, a social reformer, a self-help guru, you name it -- anything but the crucified and resurrected Son of God as described in the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds. Community organizers don't raise the dead, heal the blind and sick, walk on water, or return from death themselves.

Liberals are free to disbelieve what orthodox Christianity teaches about Jesus, but they are not free to ahistorically and insultingly appropriate Him for their own narrow political agendas, no more than the religious right is. Ms. Brazile is Catholic, so she should know better; Representative Cohen is Jewish, so he can be forgiven for not, although it's worth observing that were a Christian legislator to opine publicly on a non-Christian religious figure -- saying, for example, "Mohammed was (merely) a community organizer" -- the critical outcry, and not just from Muslims, would almost certainly be deafening (at best); so why the double standard when a non-Christian makes a glib, politically expedient remark about Christianity's founder?

Fourth, it's ahistorical to equate Palin, a state governor in the 21st-century American republic, with Pontius Pilate, a provincial governor in the first-century Roman Empire. It's pathetic, really, that this has to be explained to historically ignorant Democrats, but Sarah Palin was elected to her office, not appointed by an emperor -- and no amount of jejune Bush-bashing will change that. As for responsibility and administrative experience, Alaska is about 23 times larger than the Roman Judea under Pilate's watch. To be fair to Pilate, however, Alaska is not full of oppressed, resentful, conquered people longing for a messiah -- unless you count the folks at Palin's church, as the media does. And unlike Pilate, Palin has not had to order the slaughter of any such rebellious natives, much less of any prominent rebel leaders with messianic pretensions -- which of course is the implied main point when Democrats analogize Palin to Pilate.

Fifth, the most egregious aspect of the "Pontius Palin" trope is the implied messianic role it imputes to Barack Obama and the fuel it throws on extant political fires. We've all heard and read about the deliverer, bordering on messianic, role imputed to Barack Obama by his supporters -- and not just Chris Mathews -- whether or not Obama buys into it himself. It's insulting enough, both historically and religiously, to imply Obama's messianism by suggesting he was, like Jesus, a community organizer; it's even more offensive to imply, as Democrats clearly are in equating the jobs of Pilate and Sarah Palin, that Obama is a messiah targeted for liquidation.

We can already look forward, should McCain win, to cries of "the Republicans stole another election" and, of course, "America is racist." Will we also be treated to post-messiah stress syndrome, in which Obama's loss will take on not just political and cultural but eschatological overtones for his disappointed followers? Rhetoric like that employed by the left's bloggers, Brokaw, Brazile, and Cohen make that increasingly likely. Some, like Phyllis Chesler here on PJM, have even posited that a new American civil war is a real possibility should Obama lose. To use the Pilate analogy appropriately: do Brokaw, Brazile, Cohen, and the Democratic left really want that blood on their hands?