Good morning, y’all. As we watch rerun after rerun of the security footage from the cameras in the Istanbul airport, we recognize how powerless we are against well armed religious fanatics. I guess the fanatics don’t have to be of a religious nature, there just seems to be more attacks attributed to a religious faction. Of course well-armed is the important part of the equation. Maybe the solution is to have all religions denounce the ownership of weapons. Just spit-balling here.
As we mull on the responsibility of religion to moderate the behavior of their members, it provides an opening into our retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. After her stellar opening performance, Helena Handbasket was completely washed out. She had taken a seat in the little office on the church to remove her robes and change into her traveling clothes. The knock on the door startled her. Helena clutched her blouse as she cried out, “Just a minute” to the person knocking.
“Ok, it’s just me, Buster Cheatum, I just wanted to settle up before you got away.” “I’ll wait for you in the auditorium if that’s ok”. said the Elder.
“That’s fine, I’ll just be another minute.” said the Reverend’s voice from behind the door. In fact, it was closer to ten minutes before the Reverend emerged into the auditorium. “Wow, she’s just as pretty in jeans as she is in her robes”, thought Elder Cheatum.
“I just wanted to give you your money and tell you what a fine job I think you did.” the Elder said as he passed the envelope containing two hundred and fifty dollars. “We’d definitely like to invite you back if the occasion arises.”
“I’d like that very much”, replied Helena, “I appreciate being appreciated.” The Reverend said as she smiled, revealing a toothpaste ad smile. “I’m not getting as many calls as some of the other substitutes, so I’d really appreciate the reference.”
“No problem, happy to do it.” I’ll see to it that Elder Diggum takes care of it right away.” Elder Cheatum said as he walked the Reverend to her car.
The Reverend’s car was an older Honda Fit patched together with bumper stickers pronouncing “Peace Now” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Green”. “Hmmm” thought Elder Cheatum, but he said nothing. The Elder and the Reverend said their goodbyes and headed to their respective homes. She in Blue Ridge, he in Nunsuch.
The unofficial Wednesday morning meeting of the Elders was held in Denny’s in Blairsville. While Elder Diggum dug into his double stack with eggs over easy, bacon, ham and sausage, Elder Cheatum opened this weeks’ edition of the North Georgia Gazette. He went straight to the “religion column” as presented by Howard Doohan. Relieved that there was no mention of their little church, Elder Cheatum passed the article to Elder Wiley. It read:
A lot has been said about forgiveness. Some people claim that learning the ability to forgive is one of the important precepts for any religion. Who could argue that if Jesus were able to forgive all of those who transgressed against him, that we should not also be able to forgive all of the petty transgressions we encounter in our lives.
Forgiveness makes us free, some argue. Psychologists tell us that hanging on to anger is a chief cause for mental breakdowns. Obsessing about the wrongs that have been done to you will eventually send you over the edge. There is some discussion as to whether some people anger more readily than others, or act out inappropriately on that anger. The simple truth is, we all fall guilty to the temptation of anger, and as a result, are in need of the ability to forgive.
Being forgiven is the other side of the equation. We all need to feel like that when we transgress, we can repent and be forgiven. The most extreme example of the need for forgiveness is the Christian belief that we are all born into the world with the original sin of Adam and Eve hanging over our head. If you are following the concept, a new born baby needs forgiveness for being born into a world that includes sinners. I can’t get my head around that one. I’m more of a “I cut in line ahead ahead of you. I’m sorry” kind of guy. I can’t conceive of having sinned before I was born, but millions, maybe billions do.
For some, the need for forgiveness goes much deeper. Obviously Hitler, Stalin, Mao are some names that we are sure required more forgiveness than is/was humanly possible. Sometimes, forgiveness must also be extended to those who are charged with providing the rest of us a path to righteousness. Some of the most famous ministers of the faith have been found to have transgressed against their fellow man, their congregation and their God. Jimmy Swaggart comes to mind.
For those of you that don’t remember the story, Jimmy Swaggart was a Pentecostal preacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that went from poor to super rich via his televangelism. As it is with many members of the cloth, preaching to a camera doesn’t have the same satisfaction as bearing witness to sinners in person before a live audience. It was during the laying of hands on a wayward female that the Reverend Swaggart was exposed as a frequenter of a New Orleans red light district. Jimmy Swaggart had risen to fame and distinction through teaching others how to be pure. Now he was undone by his own base desires.
Unlike his singing cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley, Reverend Swaggart chose to entertain people who felt the need to be led on a higher path. Jimmy Swaggart fell victim to his crisis of faith, and ultimately was defrocked by his church. Swaggart’s tearful apology to the world on his TV show was one of the great moments of religious programming. It was second only to Oral Robert’s “900 foot Jesus”, in my opinion. Check it out, it’s on YouTube. Judge for yourself if Reverend Swaggart is truly repentant for the loss of heaven, or his worldly goods.
“Well, he’s still picking on the Pentecostals, but at least it’s not us.” said Elder Diggum as he finished the article. “How about we go some place nice tonight for dinner after prayer meeting?” “I know it will be late, but I’m tired of just snacking all of the time.”
“Sure, you pick out the place, surprise us”, said Elder Cheatum, “And, by the way, it’s on you.”
The three friends left Denny’s for their daily tasks. In just hours, they would be back again doing church business.