Demythologizing the Presidency | Sojourners

Demythologizing the Presidency

Arthur Blessitt is walking for president. He is the evangelist who carried a cross from California to Washington a few years ago, and then fasted for forty days under a tree near the White House. Not only has he walked across this continent, but also across Africa and Europe -- some 12,000 miles in all. Blessitt believes we need a “committed, born again, spirit-filled, witnessing, open disciple of Jesus Christ in the White House -- a president who ... will seek to lead his life and the nation on the principles of the Bible.”

Since he is on the ballot in New Hampshire and Florida, the sponsors of Religion and the’ Presidency (RAP 76) felt compelled to invite Blessitt, along with all the other announced presidential candidates, to Washington in January to be questioned individually by representatives from America’s religious communities.

At the conference’s opening Martin Marty commented that in his view, the New Testament gives no social or political ethic for the whole society; it only provides glimpses--like the Good Samaritan--for pointing us there. That Niebuhrian perspective seemed to be the consensus shared by both liberals and evangelicals present there.

When Blessitt talked about needing an open disciple of Jesus Christ in the White House, it made everyone a little nervous. Thomas Gumbleton, the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, said Blessitt frightened him--that his religious beliefs were creating sectarian politics which could oppress those who differed. Don Tinder of Christianity Today asked whether Blessitt would require the same spiritual commitment of everyone whom he, as president, would appoint; when Blessitt said no, several accused him of contradicting himself. Even Arnold Olson of the Evangelical Free Church said he was troubled by Blessitt’s statement that if one president could take two weeks off and ski, another could take two weeks and witness at evangelistic crusades.

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