The room is filled with supporters, and reporters, and the cameras are rolling. The pastor is speaking his mind, and also venting his spleen. His remarks may have begun in a low-key tone -- the academic, explaining to the nervous and the unaware -- but now he’s fielding questions, and the questions seem crafted to provoke.
He hardly needs the encouragement. He has an answer for every question, and the answers are much smarter than the questions, because he knows his turf, and his questioners clearly do not. His answers are clever, often curt, sometimes mocking.
“See how ignorant they are!” is his (barely) unspoken message. “See how little they know of us!”
He gives as good as he gets -- he gives better than he gets -- and he doesn’t retreat an inch from his most inflammatory comments, although he’s still willing to explain them, to provide the missing context. Although it’s obvious he no longer expects his explanations to sway the closed minds in that room.
Just days ago, he was sitting across a table from Bill Moyers, and the tone of the conversation -- the questions and the answers -- was altogether different. He was soft-spoken then, and friendly, eager to explain his ministry’s principles, its numerous good works. He was a learned man, teaching. Not taunting.
But that was days ago.
* * *
The pastor is feeling frisky today.
The room is filled with supporters, and reporters, and the cameras are rolling. The pastor is cracking wise, and his fans in the room are eating it up. He’s making funny faces. He’s exaggerating his gestures, even his posture, for comic effect. He’s floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee.
“I’m free to speak my mind,” his every action shouts. “I can behave however I want to behave, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
If one particular “anyone” comes to mind, it hardly appears to restrain him. He’s having a fine old time up there, consequences be damned.
He’s having too fine a time up there, given the damage he has to know he’s doing to the goals he professes and to one particular congregant: the golden child.
He’s not angry at the golden child, he’s at pains to point out. Nor is the golden child angry at him, not really. The golden child is only doing, only saying, what he has to do and say; he’s a politician, after all.
There are few words more harmful to the golden child, as the pastor surely knows.
It has the scent of payback.
* * *
The pastor is feeling famous today.
The room is filled with supporters, and reporters, and the cameras are rolling. The pastor’s face, the pastor’s words, have been everywhere lately, and it’s heady stuff. Never before has he had a pulpit so elevated, never before an audience so enthralled by his every utterance.
Who knows how long it lasts, but in the meantime, he grasps at it, revels in it -- the invitations and the interviews. The book deals. Even the incoming fire.
The attacks are not attacks against him, he says, sounding a note of seeming modesty. They’re attacks against “the black church” -- the modesty abandoned, his own situation suddenly conflated with an entire movement.
It’s all happened so quickly, after so many years spent laboring in relative obscurity. So difficult to resist, this sudden attention, despite the accounting sure to come; he’s only human, after all.
It’s like something out of the Bible.
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.