I just finished reading American Savior by Roland Merullo, a novel that explores how people today might react if Jesus were to come again -- this time as a U.S. presidential candidate.
The book -- remember, this is fiction -- seems to lift Jesus' adult life from the pages of Scripture and fits it into contemporary society. When those whom he calls as his modern-day disciples question him, Jesus explains that people didn't fully understand his message the first time and that he wanted to try again.
The main character is Russ Thomas, a young, but already hardened, broadcast journalist in a small market and with aspirations of a big break onto a major network. Jesus calls him, his boss, his girlfriend and his parents and brother, among others, as disciples.
Published during the last presidential race in 2008, the work reflects the power of special interests, greed and Christians' often undisguised contempt for one another. As expected, religious people fight over whether Jesus is the "real deal." He is vilified for not performing as expected.
Jesus campaigns on kindness and mercy, rather than on answers to specific issues because he wants to show voters that the country could be operated from those principles.
The three-way race for the presidency comes down to the wire, with Florida hanging in the balance. Jesus wins that state and the top post.
SPOILER ALERT: As Jesus leaves the hotel where he and his crew waited for results, he is assassinated by a disgruntled newspaper reporter. You’ll have to read it to see what happens next.
The book has lots and lots of theological holes -- remember, this is fiction -- but in many ways, it made me think.
If I had lived during Jesus day, would I have followed him or would I have been more like the scribes and Pharisees?
Today, how often am I quick to point to a legalistic answer to someone's problem? To simply spout off a simplistic response? To offer an answer but no love or mercy or understanding?
How often am I willing to remain silent in the face of injustice?
How often am I willing to wait for a word from God?