By Patrick O’Hannigan
“Didja hear about how Joy Behar slammed Mike Pence for talking with Jesus?”
“Who’s Joy Behar?”
“One of the panelists on a show called ‘The View.’ Supposed to be a comedienne, or something.”
“She hates the vice-president?”
“I don’t know if she actually hates him. But he works for Donald Trump, and he’s not shy about being a Christian, so to her that’s two strikes already. Some former White House staffer said that Mike Pence thinks Jesus tells him to say things, and Behar jumped on that. She figures it’s one thing if you talk to Jesus, but another thing if Jesus talks back to you. I guess she thinks that’s like calling your toaster a life coach, or pouring milk over breakfast cereal carefully so you don’t muffle wardrobe advice from your Rice Krispies. Behar said if Jesus talks to you, that’s a sign of mental illness.”
“Well, the Man said somewhere in Scripture that He came for the sick, not for the well. But why do you care what Behar thinks?”
“I think it’s funny that she stumbled over the one thing that might unite different denominations. Maybe Billy Graham and William Barber are both praying for her now. And the hypocrisy is fun, too. I bet Behar never accused Ray Charles or Elvis of being mentally ill.”
“What are you talking about, and what do musicians have to do with politicians?”
“Remember the Ray Charles version of ‘America the Beautiful’?”
“Before my time, but yeah, it’s a classic.”
“In between verses, he says God talked to him, about what He had blessed America with. It sounds like he’s sharing the memory of a conversation — ‘America! Mmmm, I love you America, because my God done shed His grace on thee. And you ougtta love him for it, ‘cause He crowned thy good; He told me He would, with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.’ Ray sings the whole song in that heartfelt shout he always had.”
“I’d forgotten that.”
“It also occurs to me that Elvis is right there with Ray.”
“Elvis recorded America the Beautiful, too?”
“I don’t think so. But what I mean is that some of the Elvis music has conversations with God in it, too.”
“Okay, music nerd. Put me some knowledge. But you can’t build an argument on song lyrics.”
“I can try! Here’s a memory from the gospel album that Elvis recorded: When he sings ‘In the Garden,’ there’s this whole thing about Jesus — ‘And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own / And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known.’ The boy didn’t write those lines, but he sure sings them like he means them.
“And people like Joy Behar would say what? ‘Elvis had talent, but if he believed that he walked and talked with Jesus, then time-travel was as real to him as those peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches his mama used to make?”
“The problem is that Behar and her crowd don’t understand Christianity. Worse, they layer that ignorance with snobbery. Indiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee are all the same to them. DPAC pulls in the Broadway shows, and the guys who work the lumber aisle at Home Depot still have the accents they left New Jersey with, but network TV people assume we’re in flyover country, making hushpuppies or laundering Klan hoods.’
“Now you’re just picking fights. But for a guy who can’t remember his bank account number, you sure don’t have trouble with lyrics.”
“It’s a gift.”
“Still, you gotta admit that having actual conversations with Jesus is a little strange.”
“Nope. I have an aunt in Minnesota who says Jesus talks to her, too. And we’re in the Bible Belt. Hearing from Jesus might not be common, but it doesn’t deserve to be called a mental illness. What if it just means that you take Christianity seriously and you’re trying to pay attention? What other goal of Christian meditation would there be, if it’s not hearing what Jesus has to say? Oprah Winfrey said something about getting messages from God, too, and Behar never had a problem with her.
Closer to home, there’s a YouTube video with Reverend Barber talking to MSNBC about what ‘smells in the nostrils of God.’ How would Barber know what God considers smelly, if Jesus hadn’t told him? Barber means Donald Trump and almost every Republican policy you can think of, so maybe something got lost in translation. But I don’t doubt his sincerity.
You ever been to Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, or talked with people who believe Rev. Barber is on a mission from God, despite his shotgun-and-soundbite approach to all things justice? What if they’re right? Personally, I don’t think anyone on a mission from God would shill for Hillary Clinton the way Barber did, but it’s a much bigger problem if you don’t actually believe anything.”
“You mean the old joke about Denial not being just a river in Egypt.”
“Something like that. My beef with Joy Behar is that her comment was mean and stupid. She tried for a laugh at the expense of a politician she despises. And it wasn’t a one-off, because she also made fun of the vice president for not meeting privately with women. But then Billy Graham died, and I saw an obituary for him that mentioned that he had the same policy.”
“Well, there you are. I’m not saying every married guy should act the same way, but Pence and Graham had similar motivations. The takeaway might be that smart guys don’t watch The View, or go looking for scandals. They go looking for churros.”
Patrick O’Hannigan is a Civitas contributor, a father of two and works as a technical writer and editor in North Carolina.