I know some of my posse disagree, but I like Mayor Pete, and I think he might The One.
One, he’s likeable. Likeability is an intangible factor. It isn’t all that correlated, I think, with whether you are actually a good person—let along whether you’re a person with good ideas, or a person with the full set of leadership skills needed for an important job. But it is, nonetheless, hugely important, even if we shy away from talking about it.
Barack Obama said that Hillary Clinton was “likeable enough.” That may well be, but she wasn’t likeable enough to get the 70,000 votes she needed in three midwestern states. This time, we had damn well better pick a really likeable person.
Two, Mayor Pete is extraordinarily intelligent and extraordinarily erudite, but he wears his intelligence and his erudition lightly.
Third, I think it’s of the highest importance that Buttigieg is trying to get inside the evangelicals’ heads. It would be nice to peel some of them off from their nauseating tribe. Impossible, you say? Maybe so. But think about this.
To be a Franklin Graham/Mike Pence evangelical is to bear an enormous burden of cognitive dissonance. To suffer from constant, high level cognitive dissonance is to be unstable in your thinking. To be unstable in your thinking means that there’s at least the bare possibility you might listen to a different point of view.
The core of the Sermon on the Mount is a message of radical inclusiveness, radical caring, and radical love. I saw Stacey Abrams quoted recently as saying that Jesus would be a progressive. But that means more than saying that Jesus would vote Democratic, but if the Republicans won, he would try to be tolerant and make the best of it.
No, my friends, if you read the literal words of the Sermon on the Mount, you see that caring for the weak, the stranger, and the oppressed is more than something that’s nice to do, if you get around to it, and it’s not too much trouble. Instead, it’s a matter of whether your immortal soul is damned to hell.
That’s not what I believe. But we’re not talking about what I believe or don’t believe. We’re talking about the literal words of Jesus, as purportedly recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. And we’re not talking about people who worship Zeus or Odin. We’re talking about people who claim to worship Jesus and claim to take the Bible literally.
No wonder that, according to the New Republic, “the Religious Right is terrified of Pete Buttigieg.”No wonder that Mike Pence had a very bad week—even though his “religious freedom” was in no way prejudiced. Mr. Pence has the freedom to espouse any religious beliefs he chooses to espouse, and to give his religion any name he chooses. If he wants to scoot on over to the local Hindu temple, prostrate himself before Shiva, and then walk out claiming to be a Muslim, then he enjoys the freedom to do that. But he does not have the freedom to escape the discomfort that arises when someone points out the inconsistency with his claiming to be a Christian, yet acting in ways that Rabbi Jesus damned to hell.
If you weren’t raised in Sunday School, you may not know the 25thchapter of Matthew. If you are Mike Pence, you may have forgotten. Just read the words—the literal words of the King James Bible, If you take them literally, and if you mistreat the poor and the oppressed, then you are going to hell.
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.