Good morning, y’all. Well it is a momentous day indeed. The Donald has released his tax plan, and wonder of wonders, it provides for a massive tax break for the rich. Somehow, the Republicans are thinking that the Reagan “trickle down” economics will still play well with the voters. Ironically, the term “trickle down” didn’t begin with the Republicans, but with my favorite Democrat, Will Rogers. Rogers said during the Great Depression that, “money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” It’s kind of like hoping that so much money will get stuffed into the fat cat’s pockets that some of it will fall out of their pockets for the poor to pick up. I prefer higher taxes for the rich. It certainly worked during our last good Republican president’s day. During the Eisenhower administration, the rich paid up to ninety four percent.
Speaking of taxing situations brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Elder Cheatum walked into the Wednesday night board meeting to hear Mulva Lite telling the collected group of her most recent baby-sitting adventures with the Bread Brood. “You know Valentine’s day is on Sunday, so I thought it would be nice if Bud and I kept the kids for a little while so Dale and Alva could go out”, Mulva continued,”I guess I wanted to be sure they celebrated”.
“Anyway”, Mulva said, “We rented this movie, ‘March of the Penguins’ to show to the kids, and it was just perfect, if you all haven’t seen it, you should.”
Mulva looked about the room to see if the audience was still following her, and everyone was.
“The ‘March of the Penguins’ is this French documentary about the Emperor penguins of Antarctica”, Mulva continued, “It’s a fascinating story, even with Bud constantly pointing out to the children how a good daddy takes care of his children, even when they’re just eggs.” “Anyway, Reverend Dale and Alva get back just as their eldest Devin is making a hangman’s noose out of the Venetian blind cord.”
“I just don’t know what to think about that one”, Mulva concluded, “he kindly sends chills down my back.” “Anyway, watch the movie if you get a chance”.
“Will do”, said Elder Cheatum, “how are we doing this week?”
“Well, our collections from attendance are around seven thousand this week”, replied Mulva, “the additional services are bringing about eleven hundred per week so far, so that’s good.”
“Where we are going ‘off the hook’ as the kids say, is the money coming from TV land” “The donations from the Bible Bookmarks are now averaging fifty dollars a piece, so we’ve collected nearly four hundred thousand dollars from the bookmark campaign.”
Mulva looked around the table at the other board members who appeared to be afraid to breathe or swallow or do anything that might change their good fortune.
“Regular donations from TV land are now about fifty thousand per week.” “I’m calculating that with an average check of thirty five dollars, and that’s if we’re getting one donation per twenty viewers, we’ve got between twenty-five and thirty thousand viewers watching each week.” “Of course we expect that number to rise as the market areas of the new telecasts expand.”
If Mulva had any anxious feelings about wasting the time of the board with the banality of her story about the penguins, she need not worry. The preponderance of the financial data had left the board speechless.
Finally, Reverend Helena broke the silence, “How many people are watching me”, she asked.
“Well, my numbers are inexact”, replied the secretary/treasurer, “but I’m guesstimating close to thirty thousand”. “It might be lower, but that would mean that the percentage of ‘givers’ in the audience is higher than we expect.” “One giver for every twenty viewers felt like a good estimate based on the area reached by Channel 99 when we started.” “I guess at some point Channel 99 will tell us what they know”.
“They’re called ‘Nielsen Ratings'”, chimed Elder Diggum, “they’re real hard to get for areas like ours.” “It’s much easier in the city where the station has a strong financial interest in knowing who is watching.”
“Well, I would like to invoke a little country wisdom here,” said Elder Wiley, “it ain’t broke, let’s don’t try to fix it.” “I’m amazed that Mulva’s ‘free’ bookmark idea has born so much fruit, and I think it has given us a great insight into our audience.” “I’d say let’s just keep on collecting data and once we get moved to the Crystal Palace we can hit the audience with a direct mail campaign.”
“I agree”, said Elder Cheatum, “the audience will see the telecasts coming from the Crystal Palace and have a real sense of ownership.” “Twice a year capital drives for improvements should be no problem for the first three or four years.”
“I’m curious”, said Reverend Helena as all eyes turned on her, “where’s all of this money going?” “I know it costs a lot to fix up the new church, and to keep this one open, but I get the sense we’ve collected over a million dollars since I started, and, well, I’m just curious.”
“Well, some time we’ll sit down and tell you about all of the missions that our church is involved in”, said Elder Cheatum as he stood to leave, ” but not tonight.” “Anybody have anything else?” he said as he backed towards the door.
No one raised an objection and the meeting was over.
As Elder Cheatum stood on the porch of the little church in the valley that Sunday counting the cars vying for parking spaces, he was glad that the faithful had failed to heed the warnings of the weather service. “Black ice” was predicted for the area, and it was clear from the cloudless blue skies that the weather people didn’t know what they were talking about. An old Bible verse popped into Elder Cheatum’s head as he shook hands and patted the backs of people crowding into the church. Proverbs 17:28 stated, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding”.
“So even back in Biblical times, they knew that it was better to, ‘remain silent and be thought a fool, rather than speaking and removing all doubt’”, thought Elder Cheatum as he headed inside to the beginning notes of the gathering hymn.
As the Reverend Helen Handbasket began her service, Elder Cheatum looked to see if his dear friend Barry Diggum’s ears were turning red. This week’s sermon topic was Gluttony. As the Reverend Helena warmed to her task, Elder Cheatum looked out at the congregation whose average BMI was higher than Hank Aaron’s lifetime batting average.
“I know she’s working her way through the seven ‘deadly’ sins, but the Reverend Helena is going after gluttony with a real relish”, thought Elder Cheatum, “real relish, I’ll have to remember that one”.
Reverend Helena must have dug deep into her research this week to be able to quote Thomas Aquinas on gluttony, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.”
“Well, I guess it’s interesting to learn that Thomas Aquinas took the position of gluttony not only applying to personal consumption”, thought Elder Cheatum, “but we may be getting too far a field for this audience.”
After an appropriate amount of time dedicated to the overweight, Reverend Handbasket’s admonitions turned from the portly to the wealthy. Reverend Helena dove right in to the defense of the poor and disadvantaged, against folks who already had “more than their share”. What started as an attack on all of the “big boned”, ended up as a diatribe against the wealthy. Reverend Handbasket talked the talk of economic injustice as well as anyone with a degree of economics.
Reverend Handbasket didn’t limit her arguments to the precepts of Keynesian economics but also interspersed the old saws, like Luke 18:25, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The hair on the back of Elder Cheatum’s neck raised up when Reverend Helena drew a fine line of distinction between the owners of Chevrolets and Lexuses.
“Geez”, thought Elder Cheatum, “that’s inviting some serious disaster when your congregation can go out into the parking lot after the service and see who’s going to Hell.” “We’re definitely going to discuss this sermon later”, he thought, “The only heat I want our wealthy parishioners feeling on their drive home is from their electric seat warmers”.