In a famous anecdote, former Globe Washington bureau chief Robert Healy is campaigning with Senator Jack Kennedy, during his 1960 run for the presidency. “Bob, what do you think my chances are?” the young senator asked the seasoned political journalist.
“Hard to say, Jack,” was Healy’s storied reply. “I can’t see someone I know becoming president.”
A friend of mine, Bob Massie, is running for governor. And yes, it’s hard to imagine someone I know in the State House.
I know Bob, or Bobby, as his family calls him, mainly as a preacher. In addition to holding a doctorate from the Harvard Business School, he is the Rev. Robert Massie, ordained into the Episcopal clergy in 1983.
I remember seeing Bobby preach just out of divinity school, in front of a tiny congregation at Christ Church, Somerville. His theme was money. It was probably the dreaded “stewardship Sunday,” when priests and ministers throughout the land sheepishly beg their flock to keep paying their salaries in the form of yearly pledges. These services are cringe-inducing, to put it mildly.
Bobby started his sermon by thumb-tacking a dollar bill to the front of the pulpit, and taking it from there. Right on! Let’s get the money talk out in the open, where it belongs. The Hebrew prophets talked about money. “Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasure?” Micah thundered. Jesus the carpenter, whom Bobby likens to a small businessman, talked about money, a lot.
Bobby did a great job. Let’s just say it’s pretty rare that anyone remembers a sermon 30 years after it was delivered.
The best preachers discomfit you, and that is one of Bobby’s specialties. In his 130-page monograph “A Handbook on Faith and Money,” which you can download free from the Internet, he describes his first job, at Manhattan’s venerable Grace Church. He hoped Grace would purge its considerable endowment of stocks in “weapons manufacturers, chemical companies known for their toxins . . . and many other questionable investments.”
Allowed to preach one Sunday in five, Bobby stood before the 500-person congregation and told a parable of a rich Christian woman who attended church every Sunday, “but was reluctant to give up her many forms of wealth, including her stocks in questionable industries.”
“That woman is here today, in this congregation,” Bobby said. “Her name is Grace Church.”
He expected to be fired. He wasn’t. Yet, “as far as I know,” he wrote, “the church never addressed those core issues. Despite the sincerity of so many, it was not fully willing to integrate its convictions into its way of life.”
I don’t talk politics much with Bob. He belongs to the Bill McKibben wing of the Democratic Party, which I didn’t know was a wing until I sat down with Massie a few days ago. He is running for the Democratic nomination for governor against Newton Mayor Setti Warren.
The other candidate is Jay Gonzalez, a businessman whose campaign website says he has “helped tens of thousands of low-income residents access the health care services they need” — in New Hampshire. Maybe Gonzalez should be running in New Hampshire. I hear Concord is lovely this time of year.
Bobby seemed a bit crestfallen when I told him I would probably be voting for Charlie Baker next November. But he’s a tough cookie. Bobby the hyper-analytic business school grad may revile me for my stupidity, but I know the Rev. Robert Massie has already forgiven me.
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.