The Dynamic Duo

Their flocks have multiplied despite past controversy. But can the Revs. Victor Curry and Richard Dunn preach politics?

Curry, who has served on various city and county boards but never ran for office, insists he's prepared for the rough and tumble world of politics. "I'm not naive," he says. "I know that in some cases people will do whatever it takes to assassinate your character. I've made up my mind I'm not gonna sling mud. I may volley, but I'm not going to initiate anything. I'm going to run on the issues: economic development and jobs."

Whatever the issues, both Dunn and Curry shape up as daunting candidates. With the huge grassroots influence of their church network, they should make tough opponents for any of the more seasoned pros running. Dunn and Curry also could prove valuable assets to one another on the campaign trail. Though they no longer are the tight friends they were during the Issue for the Day era, the pastors remain chummy, and could potentially run as an informal slate. Curry's last call before deciding to announce his candidancy, in fact, was to Dunn: "I called to make sure he wasn't running in District 2."

Curry takes off his Miami Heat cap, rubs his neatly trimmed skull. He is growing distracted, again. "One more question and that's it," he snaps.

But even Curry can't help cracking a grin at the delicious irony of the Dynamic Duo reunited, ready to raise Cain on the Dade County Commission.

There is one place where Victor Curry never gets distracted. "God called me to preach sermons," he'll tell his flock. "I don't get tired. I just quit for y'all's sake."

Indeed, on the pulpit Dunn and Curry enjoy an amnesty absent in the secular world. They can plead eloquently for worshippers to cough up money (because God loveth a cheerful giver). They can float promises over which they have no sway (because God cares for all His children). They can admit to, even revel in, their own sin (because God, unlike the media, will forgive them).

What would appear hypocrisy in the cruel light of the outside world A the way in which they pump their own egos by preaching humility, for instance A passes for prophetism on the pulpit. No matter what the result of their forays into politics, the preachers flaunt a power of persuasion no one can take away. Like the slave pastors of the past, who defied chains with the Word, Dunn and Curry use the pulpit to exorcise the ugly truths and contradictions of their world.

But don't believe that simply because it's written. Believe Brenda Stephens. For two years the Carol City mail carrier has worshipped with Curry. "I don't know the man," she whispers. "But it's like he knows me inside."

Rail thin and buck-toothed, Stephens watches awestruck as Curry reels off one of his Sunday barn-burners. "Only when a man or woman comes to recognize who they are can God start working in their lives. Jesus came to save the lossssst," he hisses. "Y'all remember how the Pharisees dragged a prostitute in front of Jesus. They said, 'Now the Old Testament says the punishment for adultery is stoning. What say you?' And He said A now catch this, New Birth, don't go to sleep on me A He said, 'Let he among you who has not sinned cast the first stone.'"

His shadow dances on the pale curtain behind the choir. "Y'all know the Pharisees, don't you? You ought to!" Curry roars. "They come to church every Sunday. See, church ain't about 'I can outholy you.' Grace doesn't read us the riot act. Grace comes to us in the darkness and accepts us in our sin A can I get a witness? Grace stoops to where we are, and lifts us up to where we ought to be.

"I don't know if you can see it," he coos. "But there's a sign above my head that says: 'God At Work.'"

Brenda Stephens leans closer, as if she might just witness the apparition. Her three kids, her dreary job, the hopelessness of this world, all recede like a distant continent. "I'll tell you one more thing," she says quietly, and her eyes are big and wet. "When he speaks, it's not him. It's Christ within. That's what it is.

"Curry going somewhere," she says, and though she isn't entirely sure where, she knows that's enough for her.

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