The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson

Jesse and the Bible

ERIC EASTER, Campaign Staffer in '84 and '88

I think a lot of people follow the Bible and try to live like Jesus, or say that that's how they pattern their faith and deal with other folks. But I think he sees Jesus as kind of the ultimate political strategist. Not just a religious figure. And that he follows the paths of Jesus in the Bible as really a guide for political empowerment and political leadership.

And, that he patterns himself off Jesus in that sense. I mean, that's kind of my feeling. I don't know if it's right. But, I get the sense that he really studies the Bible as a guide not only for life, but for politics, for power. And it seems to me the whole thing with dealing with staff as kind of disciples and that whole pattern of his life has amazing parallels to kind of Biblical passages.

I don't know if there are any literal comparisons to make, but it was just a sense of, first of all, his amazing study of the Bible, amazing knowledge. I mean, there are not many times when he had to really look up passages to be able to meld them in his speeches. They seem to come and seem to be able to match a passage in the Bible with whatever situation was happening politically. Almost as if it was a natural connection. And that he thought that everyone else should be able to see those connections.

And I don't think that too many people really see it as a real way of life and take it seriously as he does.

I mean, the downsides of that--the expectations of how other people should react don't necessarily happen. For example, disciples, followers, that people will kind of follow you and accept you as the person you are. And I think it's a source of consternation that the press and the people who work for him and other folks don't always realize the work that he does and the level of impact that he has on this nation and politics and the level of change that he has made.

But really that's very much like Jesus. I mean, it was not until he was gone that people really accepted him as the Messiah and it's very much a parallel to his life and I think as long as he's young and around and with us and we see him every day and kind of accept him as kind of a brother figure -- that he will never been seen quite as the leader and quite as the person who has made the impact that he really has.

MARK STEITZ, Policy Advisor in '88 Campaign

I think it's important that people understand his religion is what gives his politics a broadness that policy politics never has. He's not approaching these questions or these days from a managerial perspective. He's approaching them from a moral perspective. He's approaching them for a spiritual perspective. He's approaching them from a religious perspective. He believes that this is what the Bible, that this is what he is meant to be doing and that informs his politics profoundly.

Reverend Jackson believes in what he's doing and he believes that large forces of good are working through him. That belief in his mission gives him a strength to endure the endless pettiness and problems. If he didn't have that deep belief, he would have gone off and done something else. So that deep belief, while it may not be fashionable to have, to act out of strong political conviction rooted in a moral view, that is how he gets done what he has to get done. That is how he gets up in the morning and answers the question, why am I am doing this? How am I getting this done? He's doing it because it is part of something he deeply believes in and he believes that he is needed to do it by God.

RICHARD THOMAS, Breadbasket Staffer

I started travelling with him, I guess the summer or fall of '68.

We would leave town Saturday evening and make a tour of the United States practically and get back usually about 10 o'clock on Friday night. Time to go to bed and jump up and go to the meeting. Stayed gone all week. We'd sometimes go to New York before going to Los Angeles. And leave Los Angeles and go back to New York. And then come home, that type of thing.

There's always someone wanting him to speak at their school and address the problems of the day. And he'd do that.

And churches. The cornerstone for the trip were always churches around the country. There's this network of preachers that are very close and I imagine that every Sunday he preached at someone's church. And it could be in Spokane, Washington or Tampa, Florida.

Whatever hotel would have us, that's the one we would have. Single room, double bed. And we did that for, I guess, a year.

The two of us in the same room. We shared a room for quite a period of time. Well, every night he got on his knees and said his prayers. Every night, religiously, without fail he was on his knees and said his prayers and it made me uncomfortable because I had never shared my prayers with anybody. But he had no problem. And he'd say his prayers, get into bed and read the Bible.

We'd get to the hotel, go [to] the room and get on the phone. And that was two hours of phone calls. Then we'd go to bed. So it wasn't a fun trip. I mean, I didn't get to movies and plays unless it was something connected with work. Get to the hotel, having had a hamburger on the way. And address what was going to happen, lay out what the schedule was going to be tomorrow. Where we were going and whoever we had appointments with. I kept the appointment book. And I usually read too--after a while I knew he wasn't going to talk. He's going to read. So I carried a book to read. And we would start reading -- he reading the Bible and me reading some fiction and 9 o'clock, 9:30, get out of bed, on his knees, and start to say his prayers.

(He wasn't embarrassed about it) at all. No, that was the essence of his being. He'd tell anybody at all times. His reading of the Bible not only soothed him, it prepared him for whatever he had to do next. He is very capable of quoting passages that refer to what's going on in every day life that you were experiencing at the moment and he'd throw some passage from the Bible at you in a minute.

VIVIAN TAYLOR, Neighbor and Family Friend

My father (the Reverend Sample, minister of Jesse's church) would go to his study on Thursday; we lived next door to the church. We had a pastor's study. My father would go to his study Thursday to prepare his sermon. Nobody bothered my father during the time he was preparing. But he'd let Jesse in.

He picked up a lot from my father. I can remember him being a sophomore, maybe a junior. No, he'd gone to Seminary in Chicago. And my father was sitting in the living room in a chair something like this, and Jesse came and he said, I been up to Chicago Seminary he said, I got to sit down here by that old man, that old man knows the Bible. So he just sat right down on the floor. He was, well he was his mentor, without being too much formal education.

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