Photography by D. Plasman
I don’t care if the next President of the United States is (or isn’t) a Christian. I don’t care whether the next leader of the free world is, what some would call, a “believer” or an “unbeliever,” an agnostic or a full-fledged atheist. I don’t care if the next resident of the Oval Office is a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a fan of Oprah, or a lover of opera.
As an ordained minister in the Christian tradition, I just want the next President to care deeply about the common good for all people—within and outside our national borders.
At this point in the touring circus known as the campaign season, I’m not at all sure who will be or what we will get in the next President. Maybe that’s why I recently caught myself fantasizing about serving as the moderator for the next round of presidential debates.
Here’s how I imagine it. I would hold up a copy of my book Jesus, a Life – Daily Reflections on the Gospel of Luke and say: “I know you haven’t read this. It’s about a man who influenced untold numbers of people in the last two thousand years. His life affected countless lives and changed the course of civilizations. He’s been misunderstood and misrepresented, ridiculed and revered. This is an excerpt found on page 370. It concerns his death by crucifixion and the response of those who watched him suffer and die.”
Bystanders watched while the religious leaders scoffed at Jesus, “He saved others. He should save himself if he’s God’s chosen Messiah!” The soldiers also mocked Jesus while offering him sour wine: “If you’re the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:35-37)
Actually, the scoffers, taunters, mockers, and ridiculers get it right. Up close, they’re the first witnesses to the ultimate expression of Jesus’ life and his approaching death. Honoring their unintended testimony, here’s a ten-part summary of what they see.
The path to greatness is achieved through descent.
Leaders don’t grasp power; they give it away.
Self-sacrifice is chosen over self-preservation.
This one seeks reconciliation rather than revenge.
Prayer is offered for those who inflict harm.
Nonviolence is the posture of resistance.
True power absorbs pain in order to mock the oppressor.
Minority voices are protected rather than silenced.
Losing one’s life is not the ultimate loss.
A non-anxious presence conquers the chaos.
As moderator, this would be my only question to the candidates seeking to become the 45th President of the United States: “We look to leaders to shed light in a world beset with storms. Pick any three statements in that ten-part summary, and tell us in specific ways how your leadership and policies will be shaped by them. Each of you has fifteen minutes to respond. Thank you, in advance, for your thoughtfulness.”