Is Jerry Dyer running for mayor of Fresno or fighting a holy war against the forces of Satan?
Sounds like an absurd question, right? I would’ve thought so, too. That is until someone sent me the latest issue of the Fresno Police Officers Association quarterly magazine that included Dyer’s regular “At the Helm” column.
Writing to the rank-and-file officers of the Fresno Police Department, the 18-year chief explained his decision to enter the 2020 mayoral race rather than ease into retirement while touching on fundraising and his “One Fresno” campaign theme.
So far, so good. It’s when Dyer touches on the “very ugly” world of politics that things take a strange turn for the spiritual.
“I am confident that those I have upset over the years, as well as my opponents, will take advantage of every opportunity they have to destroy my reputation,” Dyer wrote. “The truth is it is not my reputation to begin with, it belongs to God.
“When you know you are called by God to serve and the cause is great, the opposition and the attacks by Satan are of no meaning as you realize the battle belongs to the Lord.”
(Insert sound effect of a needle scratching across a vinyl record here.)
While Dyer, a born-again Christian, has every right to express his religious beliefs in any manner he chooses, his words raise numerous questions.
● Is it an attack by Satan to question Dyer about why he didn’t know his close friend and second in command, Keith Foster, was dealing drugs under his very nose?
● Is it an attack by Satan to ask why taxpayers keep forking over multimillion-dollar settlements to the families of victims shot and killed by Fresno police?
● Is it an attack by Satan to question why Dyer made sexually suggestive and racially charged comments at staff meetings, which his own lawyers admitted in a 2011 lawsuit?
● Is it an attack by Satan to ask Dyer about the circumstances behind the black and white photograph of him grinning while holding up a noose that has been widely circulated on social media?
Agents of Satan or legitimate gripes?
How about Andrew Janz, Elliott Balch and anyone else who opposes Dyer in the 2020 mayoral race? Are they running on their own volition, or did the forces of evil put them up to it?
And what about the protesters who gathered outside Dyer’s campaign kickoff at Manchester Mall wielding milkshakes? Are they agents of Satan, or citizens who have legitimate gripes about Dyer’s job performance and the conduct of officers under his command?
Heck, am I doing the devil’s bidding just by writing this?
I posed many of these questions to Dyer in an email. He seemed taken aback.
“I have no idea how you are connecting the two,” Dyer wrote. “The issues you raised … are legitimate questions that have been raised by the media and others. Fair questions. In fact, folks have an absolute right to question those issues.”
Very happy to hear that because I and others in the Fresno media will be raising them as the campaign moves forward. It’s our job to do so.
In a subsequent email, Dyer said I misinterpreted his words.
“I never said those who oppose me or attack me are attacks by Satan,” he wrote. “I said the opposition and the attacks by Satan. Much much different. Just because someone opposes me or attacks me does not mean that is from Satan.”
So some of the opposition and attacks are by Satan and some aren’t. Got it.
No, actually, I don’t.
Dyer drawing a line
And therein lies the problem with any politician, or would-be politician, who displays their religious faith on their sleeve.
While Dyer’s fellow evangelicals will no doubt nod along with everything he says, the rest of us are left to scratch our heads.
The chief may not realize this, but in essence he’s drawing a line between those who hold the same religious beliefs as him and those who don’t. Where does this leave Fresnans who practice a less zealous form of Christianity? And what about followers of other religions, non-religious types like myself or staunch atheists?
If elected next year, would Dyer represent their interests, or only the interests of devout evangelicals who seem to see Satan behind every tree, mailbox and lamp post?
Dyer claims he would (“My track record speaks for itself in this arena,” he said), but his own words leave a shred of doubt.
The last thing I would ever do is tell Dyer how to conduct his campaign. If he wants to frame the Fresno mayoral race as a battle between God and Satan, or good vs. evil, that’s entirely up to him.
But for someone who claims to be about “One Fresno” and bridging our community divide, this sure seems a funny way to go about it.