Georgians finally get to weigh in on the presidential primary in just a few days, and no matter what end of the political spectrum you call home you probably agree that this year's campaign is the strangest one we've ever seen. Both parties seem to have been abandoned by their more moderate voices and the primaries have turned into naked appeals to their more extreme elements.
For the Democrats that means a man who gleefully labels himself a socialist is giving a more moderate candidate a serious run for her money. It's the left against the far-left.
The Republican race is even more interesting. All the candidates are to some extent running to the right to win the nomination, but you also have a billionaire businessman who is a complete loose cannon with no real discernible political ideology who goes wherever his loose lips take him. And he's winning.
And with evangelical Christians making up such a solid portion of the GOP base, there has been higher-than-usual amount of overt religious expression in their primary. That has led to some strange incidents on the campaign trail.
Sen. Ted Cruz has probably courted the evangelicals most ardently, which of course means that Donald Trump had to take a shot at his faith. In a recent tweet the Donald questioned how Cruz could be a Christian when he "lies so much," and at a campaign a rally he cast some aspersions on Cruz's heritage saying "not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba."
Of course Trump's own Christian faith (he's a Presbyterian, but has never been what you'd call active in his church) has been famously called into question by none other than the current pope. During a recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis was obviously referring to Trump and his plan to build a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico when he said someone who only "thinks about building walls" and not bridges "is not Christian."
Trump responded to this barb with his trademark humility and good humor. He said that the pope will wish he'd been elected president if ISIS attacks the Vatican and huffed that "no leader ... should have the right to question another man's religion or faith." I guess there is an exception to that rule when you are Donald Trump and you want to trash a political rival?
It seems like a lot of people try to suggest they have an endorsement from God during political campaigns, but despite what Glenn Beck says about the Lord calling Justice Antonin Scalia home to pave the way for Cruz to be president (yes, that happened), I don't see an obvious winner in the WWJVF (who would Jesus vote for) competition.
But let's take a stab at it anyway. What kind of things did Jesus have to say about character? His most famous words on the subject might be what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. Let's review a few of quotes from that famous sermon and see how the candidates measure up.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Can you imagine Trump ever being meek for a moment of his life? How about Cruz? Maybe Jeb Bush could be described as meek, and look where it got him.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Has the subject of mercy ever come up in a presidential debate? And if it did, wouldn't voters just consider it to be a sign of weakness?
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Do you remember the last time a candidate gave a stirring campaign speech about his passion for peacemaking? Nope — they are much more likely to talk about who they're going to blow up to keep us safe.
The truth is that competing in a brutal political race does not really encourage anyone to portray the kind of character attributes that Jesus spoke of in the Bible. In fact, candidates often speak and act in ways that are diametrically opposed to those attributes. Very little of what goes on in a political campaign seems very Christian to me. But that won't stop candidates from making the dubious claim that they are really only pursuing these positions of influence to glorify God.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.