From a distance I follow what happens in Kentucky: burning barrels of bourbon, basketball recruits, and politics. This week, when Amy McGrath announced her candidacy for the U. S. Senate, I took notice.
McGrath is running against the number one obstructionist to all that is good and right for these United States, Mitch McConnell. McConnell has been in the Senate since 1984 (which is about the time the Constitution was ratified).
She is an attractive candidate: a female, a fighter pilot, a business woman, and a Democrat. But most of Kentucky is Trump territory, and so McGrath has added one more descriptive word to her political resume: Trumpster.
McConnell is hindering Trump’s effort to drain the swamp, she says, and for that, he needs to go.
Will this work? I don’t know.
But I do know what will work better than a pro-Trump gimmick: a pro-Jesus platform.
Jesus is more popular in Kentucky than Trump, by a long shot. Jesus is the favorite of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. He is even the person of choice for the unaffiliated, the disinterested, the undocumented, and the incarcerated. In other words—just about everybody.
People like Jesus even when they don’t like Christians, let alone Republicans or Democrats. There is a popular gospel song entitled, “Just Give Me Jesus” and that’s the way many of us feel most of the time. “I’ll take Jesus. Hold everything else.”
I want a politician to invoke the name of Jesus. I know that blows in the face of our “separation of church and state” as well as some versions of “religious freedom.” I get that, but I also get this: Jesus had a lot to say that America needs to hear.
Which is why I like the book by popular USA Today columnist, Tom Krattenmacker: Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower.
“I’m not a Christian,” he once told me, accompanied by winsome smile. But you would not know that by the book he published in 2016. One by one, he takes every political and social issue facing our country and asks the WWJD question: What Would Jesus Do?
What he found is that just about everything Jesus would do is exactly what we should do: as a nation, as a state, as a county.
Which is exactly the strategy candidates running in Kentucky or Indiana or Georgia or Wisconsin should adopt.
McConnell is not a Jesus-type person. Yes, I know he is a member of a church somewhere, probably a Baptist church. You really can’t get elected dogcatcher in Kentucky or Indiana or Georgia unless you are a member of some church.
McConnell has gotten fabulously wealthy during his time in Washington. And he has spent his time helping others get wealthy (or get wealthier!). He is generally on the side of the rich and famous and against those who are poor and weak.
I don’t know what kind of money McGrath has, but I do know she will need all that people will give her to run against McConnell. McConnell will spend millions, perhaps hundreds of millions to keep his cushy couch in the nation’s capital. He, of course, is against term limits.
But what McGrath needs more than money is Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have any money, but what he had was compassion, and courage, and a commitment to help the people who need it most. He said so in words that were among the last he ever uttered: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for you; for I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.”
Right there is that story, found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25, Jesus said things that impact refugees fleeing Honduras, addicts housed in state penitentiaries, families facing bankruptcy because of medical costs, veterans unable to find hope or a home, and citizens unable to drink their contaminated water.
Not to mention all of us who claim the name of Christ who have plenty to eat, a safe place to sleep, and a job with at least some security.
What Kentucky voters need is not a pro-Trump Democrat but a pro-Jesus citizen who is concerned, not about his rights to discriminate against people he doesn’t like or her rights to build a wall as a way of saying no to people, but about the well-fare of every person: young and old, rich or poor, sick or ailing, progressive and conservative, and yes, even decorated citizen or undocumented refugee.
We don’t need a gospel preacher in the White House, but we do need a leader who has read the gospel, who lives the gospel, and whose priorities as a public leader will be shaped by the gospel imperative announced by Jesus.
If McGrath aspires to replace McConnell, she needs to have a lot less of McTrump and a whole lot more of McJesus.
copyright 2019 Dwight A. Moody