McCain certainly has. John bore his cross for seven years in a Vietnamese prison camp, but in running for president, he quickly realized that being militarily crucified does not a savior make in the eyes of the evangelical electorate. In an age where Republican presidential candidates must look good with an airbrushed halo in order to win, McCain picked Palin to give a virgin birth to his candidacy.
It seems to be working, especially because Christians can be counted upon to pick the wrong messiah over and over again. McCain is counting on that too, which is ostensibly why he'd rather look all wrong to any sane political observer than alright.
The first messiah Christians got wrong was the first one of them all, Jesus. But even when Christians figure it out, they just un-figure it out. Bear with me through this.
A few weeks ago one Sunday morning, a right-wing conservative Fox News viewing Christian who writes to me from time to time -- coincidentally, her name is Sarah -- was quietly dozing during Bible study. Suddenly, she jumped with a startle and her eyes fell on a strange thing: Joseph was not the father of Jesus.
She read that earmarked page a thousand times before, but this time it hit her like a ton of congressional pork. If Joseph was not the father of Jesus, then Jesus's family tree--provided on the first page of Matthew, starting from King David and ending with Joseph--was as relevant to her as Global Warming science.
"I learned from a young age," she wrote to me, "that the coming messiah had to be a scion of King David. Well, I looked up the word 'scion' recently, and that was the missing link. Not that [cough] there is a missing link."
If Jesus was not the son of Joseph, he could not be the messiah because the messiah had to be a descendant of King David. But who was the messiah?
At first, Sarah was perplexed, and Lord knows it was a matter of life and death to the Iraqis.
"At first, I didn't know," she complained. "Maybe Joseph was. Maybe one of Joseph's sons born from Mary was. Whoever it was, it wasn't Jesus." She, like millions of other Christians, got the wrong messiah.
Could there be other false prophets in their midst? No time to ask, apparently.
Sarah went through a crisis of faith, but predictably rebounded with what she says her church calls "Extra Strength Conviction with Scouring Power." Sounds like a term out of Scientology's lexicon, but it was just good old-fashion denial doing its job of protecting an insecure mind.
The one thing keeping Jesus from being her savior was the virgin birth, and Sarah could take care of that as easily as banning a book from her house.
After all, the only thing that got in the way of her own sons being born of a virgin was unbiased observation.
But could she ban Matthew? In the throws of her Extra Strength whatever it is, she didn't have to. She simply banned any thinking from her mind.
Sarah privately pontificated in an E-mail: "King David's blood is probably everywhere by now, well, probably not much of it in Democrats. Whoever the next messiah is, he has to come through [lot's of] blood. That's why Republican presidents all want to be war presidents. That's also why no woman has the right to potentially abort the messiah and make the end of days not end on time."
After McCain won the Republican nomination, I asked Sarah if she thought he might be the messiah. She felt certain of it, and doubly so after he picked Palin as his running mate.
"Even Ms. Palin's name is special. Our minister told us that her name, "Sarah," like my name, is the same as the Hebrew word "kosher." And is it just a coincidence that "deified" is a palindrome? Our next vice-president is going to be kosher saintly woman."
Well, that settles it!
Meanwhile, I wondered whether VP Palin would be as kosher as the meat coming out of AgriProcessors, of Postville, Iowa, kosher meat producers now under investigation for countless violations that somehow none of their kosher-keeping fundamentalist Jewish consumers noticed.
The kosher label in politics and on our plates appears to be a useful ploy. Either way, McCain's kosher-Sarah pick worked.
Then again, my Sarah was sure George W. Bush was the messiah too. Did she still think he was kosher?
She resented my asking of the question, and then became upset with me. Finally, she exclaimed, "Stop it! Us trying to figure out who might be the messiah is like building a bridge to nowhere!"
After hundreds of exchanges with true believers that ended like that, and worse, I always wondered why fundamentalist Christians were not very good at building bridges. At last, I know.
Why build a bridge when you live in the clouds?