The top press organizations from around the country gathered for what was apparently the first press conference ever called by Jesus. Word trickled out through various newsfeeds that the so-called Messiah wished to "set a few things straight."
The crowd quieted as a sharply-dressed woman took her place behind the lectern. She spoke.
“My name is Angela, Jesus’ press secretary. He’s become concerned about the misrepresentation of his brand, and as such has given me this hand-written statement to read. There may be time for a few questions at the end.”
She unfolded the papers. Along the top margin it read, ‘Cease and Desist.’ She took a breath.
“Dear America. I am asking you to stop using my name. I am not on your side. I am not on your team. I am not a delegate of your party. I am not a member of your church. I am not a citizen of your country.”
“I don’t salute your flag. I didn’t sign your constitution. I didn’t sanction your platform. I didn’t ratify your ticket. And I didn’t endorse your president.
“I am not for sale. I am not your marketing plan. I am not your PR firm. I am not your bumper sticker, your cap, or your hashtag. I do not wear your logo, and I am not your brand.
“I am not a fan of your drones and guns and bombs. I don’t trust you with weapons beyond a dull knife. I don’t command your military. I don’t fight your wars, and I don’t kill your enemies.
“I don’t turn away the poor. I don’t oppress the marginalized. I don’t abandon the hopeless. I don’t build barriers and I’m not a big fan of walls.
“While you speak of me, you do not speak for me. While you pray to me, you do not pray in me. While you spout clichés, you speak little truth. While you quote scripture, my voice is resoundingly silent.
“And I do not pledge allegiance to the United States of America.”
The press secretary turned a page.
“I have been getting altogether too much credit on your networks. Platitudes from your pulpits. Praise from your talking heads. Credit for things I did not do, do not care about, and do not believe in.
"Please stop. Where on earth did you ever get the idea that a guy who willingly gave his life for his enemies would curse those who make you the least bit uncomfortable, or cavalierly bless you in your opulence when you have crushed the fingers of the poor as you climbed each rung of your ivory tower?
“How will they know I am enough when your mantra is ‘more?’ How will they know my love is inexhaustible when you parse it out selectively, grudgingly? How can you introduce me as friend when we are perfect strangers?
“So, I beg you, please stop tethering me to the agenda of your empire. You are making it exceedingly difficult for me to be seen as kind, compassionate, and loving. Not only have you tarnished my brand, but you have libeled my reputation in what amounts to character assassination. You are making it all but impossible for me to do my work in your culture. If this is the path you are determined to take, which is your choice, I kindly ask that you cease and desist in the use my name.
The press secretary looked up, then said, “He added a short postscript, and wanted to make sure you heard this, clearly.”
“Yes, you frustrate me, and you disappoint me at times. But please know, I have never loved you more—more deeply, more profoundly. We have our issues, you and me—America, but you, I love.
“True, I don’t love you alone. I don’t love you exclusively. I don’t love you more or better. It’s not a competition. My love is big enough for all, so stop thinking you can hoard it, own it. Just receive it and then give it. If you do that, you will then be speaking for me; the world will hear my voice in yours. Then, and only then, do you again have permission to use my name.”
Angela looked up as if to welcome questions.
After a beat, a man from one of the networks spoke up, “Come on, Angela, we’re a Christian nation, founded on Christian values. We’ve got churches from sea to shining sea. Christmas and Easter—our two biggest holidays. Hell, even our money says ‘In God We Trust.’ How could God not bless a nation so dedicated to telling his story when the world is full of god-awful countries that curse his name?”
Angela pulled in a slow, halting breath and held it for a bit. She never looked up. Her eyes seemed to well with tears, one falling, slow-motion, as if coming from somewhere beyond. She folded her papers, methodically, precisely, then turned and walked out the door.