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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

February 4, 2004
Vol. 1, No. 195




Pat Marrin Jesus had a credibility problem

By Pat Marrin, editor of Celebration

Today's Gospel reading: "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?" Mark 6:3.
I voted in the Missouri primary yesterday. I had to go Democratic because they didn't have a punch card for my current political affiliation, Tired People. But I got the little sticker when I dropped my ballot into the box. Like ashes at the start of Lent, or the Band-Aid from the blood bank, I wore it proudly around the office. Even if my choice came in behind Uncommitted but still ahead of Lyndon LaRouche, I could still say, "I Voted Today."

Leadership. We look for someone who looks presidential, an adult we can entrust things to so we don't have to think about them. The problem is that the media is vetting every candidate so mercilessly, especially front runners, that by the time they show some promise, their flaws make them look just like us. And who would trust you or me to run the country?

Charisma costs money, apparently. The expensive commercial, the right props, filters, camera angles, music, the soothing voice over, the right sequence of images, in real-time or slo-mo, each frame dense with subliminal cues floating like angels around the Product, who speaks, the precise quote in response to the right question, the candidate's voice remastered to blend perfectly with the subsonic, subwoofered boffo grande vibrato. Make John Kerry or George Bush sound like Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.

Jesus apparently had a credibility problem in his own hometown. They knew him too well. "Isn't this the carpenter?" Blue collar, took shop classes instead of going to seminary. "Son of Mary." Whoa, no Dad, or missing Dad, or some hint of questionable lineage. The bastard. "Where did he get all this?" Who's backing him? He disappears for a while, gets linked up with the Wild Man John out in the desert, splashing around in the Jordan River, stirring up trouble, John got himself thrown into jail. What next? Now he's back, this carpenter son of Mary, and he comes to synagogue and says the scriptures are about himself. "Fulfilled this day in your hearing." He is promising everything, a jubilee year, canceled debts, amnesty for those in jail, freedom from oppression. Great platform, but can he deliver? "He is altogether too much," they said.

Other Today's Takes by Pat Marrin
Feb. 3, 2003 The sacrament of touch
Feb. 2, 2003 Leap year is an invitation
Dec. 5, 2003 We are expecting a baby
Dec. 4, 2003 Facing the storm head-on
Dec. 3, 2003 Just one pope away from ...
Dec. 2, 2003 'Hope is the thing with feathers'
Dec. 1, 2003 Peace: the minimum requirement
Oct. 31, 2003 Freely chosen reality
In one of the more unsettling passages in the New Testament (depending on how high your Christology goes), Mark says that "Jesus could work no miracles in Nazareth so taken aback was he by their lack of faith." Apparently, even God can't do it without us. This is part of the Incarnation, God entering our world as one of us. Human activity takes place within the thick networks of collaboration. A lot of work to get everyone on the same page, motivated.

It makes sense. Jesus does not act alone. He first forms a community, drawing everyone into his vision of what it would be like if we all knew and did God's will. Heaven could come to earth. Everyone would eat every day, forgiveness would flow freely among us, we would be strong in solidarity, keeping evil at bay long enough to see what the glory and the power of God looks like. And we would say, "Look what we did."

In religion and in politics, the idea of full, conscious, active participation is not a concession leaders make to ordinary people; it is the essence of the process. We become something large, generous and effective, even miraculous, when we work together to make the world better. This is real liturgy, the work of the people. This is grassroots religion and holy politics. Get involved, show up in church, at the polls, go to meetings, talk to each other about what we hope for. Work it out, make it happen. Jesus is out there now warming up the car.

In November 2004, one of us will be elected president of the United States. At the next conclave, one of us will be chosen pope. Tired People, show up, do your part. The reign of God is at hand.

Pat Marrin's e-mail addres is Celebration, NCR's sister publication, is an ecumenical worship resource. For a preview, follow this link: Celebration.
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