Tuesday, June 23, 2015

He Jumps Off The Page

I have always loved William Jennings Bryan. Bryan is the type of guy that people who love politics hope for, but he was real. Ardent, zealous, and pious, he sticks out. Pick up any serviceable history book, and he gets more "air time" than you would think, and rightly so.

I probably couldn't vouch for him in economics; I probably would have been a Cleveland Democrat back then. But I picture all the common folks in America; I can see why a man like this would inspire a young Harry Truman. Where have these Democrats gone?

We have this funny habit of letting presidential candidates speak in churches, and we should probably not. It's always some tendentious appeal to a certain Scripture, for the sake of some policy that he hasn't been able to convince people to adopt. Gore did this once, and I wanted to punch him.

But I have always dreamed of taking that opportunity, and saying, "Forget the politics; this is a church, and this is a sermon." Jesus, grace, sin, faith. Maybe on national TV. Because that's what Bryan would do. (As a Catholic, this would be really odd, especially in a Protestant community, but I can't say I wouldn't try it.)

You'd never get away with it, of course. We long since decided that faith can't actually matter, unless you are a Democrat, and it doesn't really change what you'd do, anyway. C'mon, you know it's true.

As a Catholic, I might say that Bryan's religiosity represented an unhealthy fideism. If Darrow did anything, he showed us the limits of Sola Scriptura, and the goodness of reason in dialogue with faith. But are you kidding? When I open the Bible, I know acutely that I am more with Bryan than against him. That testimony in the Scopes Trial was, in many ways, big time hero stuff, as I like to say.

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