Editorial: Preachers, Painters, and Politicians

275-PRAYING-HANDSIn the 1990’s, I was licensed by the South Carolina Board of Financial Institutions to operate a small loan company. One of my mentors who had been making loans in Columbia for many years offered me some advice at a Christmas party one year — she told me if I wanted to keep a profitable loan portfolio, avoid loans to the “P’s”.

Having absolutely no idea what she was talking about, but hopeful to benefit by her wisdom, I risked great embarrassment and asked her who exactly the “P’s” are. She laughed as she took me aside and said, “You never loan money to anyone whose employment starts with P”. I’ll always remember the three examples she rattled off the top of her head, “You know, like Preachers, Painters, and Politicians”.

When I sold my business a number of years later, I told the regional vice-president of the company that bought my loans, “You won’t find a lot of P’s in there when you do your audit.” He just chuckled and nodded, seems he knew exactly what I was saying.

I would be reminded of the advice again during the sex scandals with televangelist preachers Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and any number of Catholic priests. Having worked in various paid and volunteer roles with political candidates since I was in my early 20’s, I’ve also seen my share of politicians fall into the same sand trap.

Recently I’ve had the occasion to see what happens when you comingle the “P’s”, too. I now pay particular attention to “preachers” who stick their holy noses too far up the robes of “politicians”.

I saw what happened to the trustworthiness of a well-thought-of priest who became the face and voice of the church on every 450th board and committee. Acting at the behest of a mayor with an unhealthy obsession to distract taxpayers from the millions of dollars going out, then being unable to reconcile the few dollars being returned, the “preacher” came under scrutiny during the First America Foundation scam, his involvement on the non-performing local and federal 450th commemoration commissions, and other failed political efforts.

When the mayor decided that he wanted to seek re-election, other preachers were recruited to persuade their flock to vote for the right candidate. One that comes to mind, the minister David Rice of Ancient City Baptist Church who fell into the presidency of the very political and controversial St. Johns Cultural Council, Inc.

Next thing you know, with little fanfare, the Cultural Council is getting a new president and Ancient City Baptist Church is getting a new pastor. Where is Pastor Rice going? Was there a crisis of faith? I suppose it is true that you can’t serve two masters. I also suppose that it is true that you can apply the rule of “P’s” to more than making small loans.

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