The Everyman Sentiment

“He’s Everyman.”  “She’s Everywoman.”  We hear this comment about politicians, and it is supposed to be a compliment.  We have the sense they are “like us” in some way, so they can understand us.   And this is construed to be good.

But it actually can mean opposite things, depending on who is speaking, and it usually is just a cipher for “he is going to give me money.”

If this candidate is Like Me in that they want to “keep government off my back”, that would have certain policy implications.   “He has run a small business, he understands what a burden taxation is.”   But if this candidate is Like Me because he knows what it is like to have to “try and make ends meet”, that can have opposite policy implications.   The first Everyman might take less of “my” money; the second might send me more money.   These two policy paths are eternally at war with each other.   So much for politics; language is simply one weapon of many for collecting the guns and therefore the money.  (see Orwell, George.)

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I guess I’m a weird consumer of fiction, in that I don’t muster much interest in characters who are “just like me”.   I actually live with me 24/7, so the last thing I want to see on the page or the screen is…me.   I’d actually like to see characters who are better than me.   Weird.    Give me a screen depiction of Michaelangelo and that is an interesting 2 hours;   I haven’t slightest idea why I would want to watch myself paint for 2 hours.  I’ve seen it already.

The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted in all things so He could be a good priest, able to sympathize with His people.  So Jesus is Everyman is one sense then, but — imagine what attraction the Gospels would hold if the main character were Just Like You.   They would immediately never be picked up again.  The very reason the Gospels have grasped Western civilization by the neck and won’t let go is because here, finally, we have a character who is not Like Us.

Did we ever really lack for figures who would sympathize?   Is that the part of His portrait that captures us, that we finally have somebody who will pat us on the head no matter what?   I’m afraid of the answer, actually.   But I don’t think the main thrust of the Gospels is intended to be the sympathy we needed more of.

So Jesus is like us enough that He hasn’t lost touch with us, but all the charm is in His difference.

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