Archive for September 2014

A SYLLOGISTIC LAMENT FOR A WOUNDED PREACHER

In my longer than expected life, a minuscule amount of time has been directed toward the peccadilloes of preachers and priests caught in sexual scandals. I am not a Christian and do not intend to become one. Nor do I intend to become a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, et. al. I assume that the congregations and the authorities will tend to these matters of sexual misconduct. This case, however, has a slightly different twist to it.

The facts are as follows. Ted Arthur Haggard is the founder and was the Pentecostal pastor of the New Life mega-Church in Colorado Springs. It claims a membership of 14,000 worshipers. Mr. Haggard was also the president of the National Association of Evangelicals in this country which claims a membership of something approaching 20 million. In addition, Reverend Haggard participates in weekly telephone calls with Karl Rove, the assistant to the President of the United States. In that capacity he advises on political moves and on war strategy. Finally, Reverend Haggard has produced seven books on religious matters and was an actor in a religious film which portrays the eternal damnation of hellfire. As you can see, he has had a full plate.

The first week of November, 2006 has brought charges by a male prostitute in Denver that he had a three year homosexual relationship with Pastor Haggard. There is also a tape recording of the pastor calling the prostitute and arranging for the purchase of a quantity of methamphetamines, an illegal drug. When questioned by a reporter for a Denver television station, the Reverend said that he had no sexual relationship with the prostitute and that when he received the illegal drugs, he immediately threw them away1. I suspect that by now you may have some doubts about the veracity of the pastor’s story.

At the Sunday morning services on November 5th, the interim preacher read a letter to the New Life worshipers from Pastor Haggard in which he conceded that he was guilty of sexual misconduct. Nothing was said about the illegal drugs.

As a result of a this admission, the good pastor was dismissed as the leader of the church in Colorado Springs and also, he lost his job as the head man of the National Association of Evangelicals in America. We do not yet know whether his weekly telephone conferences with Karl Rove continue.

Now with those facts behind us, let us proceed to the syllogism. Syllogisms start with a major premise. In this case, Christians would contend that everyone is made in God’s image. It must be assumed that slaves, who are referred to throughout the Bible, are excluded from the likeness of the immortal God. So the major premise here is that all the rest of us non-slaves are created in God’s image

The minor premise here is that Christians seem to actively dislike homosexual or bisexual persons whom we must presume are also created in the image of God.

From the major and minor premises, we are now able to draw a conclusion. It is inevitable that the conclusion must be that God or the Intelligent Designer made one hell of a mistake by creating homosexuals.

So on this basis, the Reverend Haggard is to be shunned, outcast and condemned. The New Life Church does not want to be led by a man who has conceded a homosexual relationship with another male.

The Pentecostals that Reverend Haggard formerly led, hold the belief that every word in the Bible is literally true. For example, they accept the belief that Joshua actually stopped the sun in its tracks and lengthened one day into two days. If they can believe that Joshua was able to snare the sun while it circled the earth, they should have no trouble in believing Reverend Haggard’s story.

The folks in Colorado Springs seem to have no interest in redemption at all. What they seek is revenge. The good reverend seems to be condemned to hell for the rest of eternity.

I have no intention to be the preacher that my mother had envisioned; however, I have a thought using this same syllogism as the basis for my logic. The major premise again is that God created all of the humans here on earth in his image.

The minor premise is that God or the Intelligent Designer also created homosexuals, bisexuals, slaves, and heterosexual non-believers such as myself.

From that set of premises, we can then arrive at the conclusion that God loves the sexually deviant and slaves as well as he loves the rest of us.
Any argument?

This not only relieves God of having made a terrible mistake, but it presents a compassionate image to the world. If I were a Christian and if I were a member of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, I would not be thumping the tub to chase the Reverend Haggard out of the church. On the contrary, my mind tells me that Pastor Haggard is just an unfortunate subject of ignorant prejudice and hypocrisy. Can anyone guarantee that there are no members of the New Life Church who have ever had a homosexual relationship?

Under the present set of circumstances, it is clear that Reverend Haggard is a liar, a cheat, a hypocrite and a homosexual. He has been knocked flat on his back side. I cannot find it in my un-Christian soul, or what passes for a soul, to kick him or to condemn him while he is down. Quite to the contrary, I believe this is the time for Reverend Haggard to be given a helping hand, even if it comes from a heterosexual
non-believer.

Earlier in this essay, there was a reference to ignorant prejudice about homosexuality. Homosexuals are born that way2. They do not become homosexuals out of some evil and malevolent desire. Some people are born left handed, some are bald and some are gay or lesbian. I suppose it is the great decider that makes those choices. But if there is a Christian God, it is my naïve belief that he must love all of the creatures that he created.

So you see that I have hope and I have some compassion with respect to our wounded preacher. It grieves me that his congregation and the collection of evangelistic sects have elected to treat him as a pariah. They disdain compassion, while they embrace the bitter grapes of wrath.

Whether one wishes to admit it or not, homosexuality has been with us from the beginning of time. There are some religions, such as the Muslims, who claim that there are no homosexuals in their ranks. May I suggest that they are clearly wrong. If one believes in God, one cannot escape the conclusion that God created homosexuals just the way everyone else was created. If a homosexual couple moved in next door to me, it would be my intent to welcome them with a bottle of champagne. They are trying to make it through this life the same way I am. As Lillie Carr would say, they are doing the best they can.

An amendment in Colorado outlawing gay marriage, which was sponsored mainly by Reverend Haggard, was adopted on November 7th. The supreme irony here is that the ban against gay marriage is now embedded in the Colorado Constitution, while the Reverend Haggard is out of a job and his heterosexual marriage is in shambles. Man, it stretches my compassion and understanding to the breaking point, but Haggard needs a pat on the back, not another kick in the rear-end. It seems to me that if there is an Ultimate Decider, Haggard has simply become the person that the divinity wanted him to be.

E. E. CARR
November 8, 2006
Essay 214
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Kevin’s commentary, in footnote style:

1. Of course he did! What else would you do with drugs you’ve just purchased?
2. I feel like stories like Haggard’s are the best possible evidence, as if any more evidence were needed, that being gay is not a choice. The most vitriolic homophobes are often gay themselves — how much would they give not to be?

“…HE KEPT IT FOR HISSELF ” (sic)

It may come as a surprise to all of you to know that your ancient essayist has been a victim of permanent shock since 1940. Permanent shock is sort of a funk which is debilitating in every sense. The shock was caused by Del van Buren Barbee, a philosopher who also washed cars for a living. Del became a philosopher after completing the fourth or fifth grade in a segregated Mississippi grade school. Professor Barbee and I were the two employees of what came to be known as the Friendly Sinclair Service Station in Richmond Heights, Missouri.

Permanent shock is a different creature from merely temporary shock. For example, this country invaded Iraq in 2003 on the ground of weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Iraq. Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz both swore that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, but nonetheless, based on faulty intelligence, we invaded that sovereign country. As facts turned out, Hussein and Aziz were absolutely right and we suffered a case of temporary shock which now seems to have worn off.

In another case of such a temporary shock, Madam Dr. Secretary Condoleezza Rice has told the world after September 11th that she was completely shocked with the thought that people would actually fly airplanes into big buildings. Condoleezza, of course, skipped that chapter in history where the Japanese flew their airplanes into our ships for extended periods of time during World War II. Admiral Harry Livermore, of the Ticonderoga Task Force should have pointed out this fallacy to the Madam Secretary before she made such a colossal mistake. They were called kamikaze. In a way, kam-i-kaze sort of rhymes with Con-do-leezza which would make it a little bit easier for the Madam Secretary to remember. But nonetheless the temporary shock of 9/11 seems to have now worn off.

Finally, we have the case of Pat Robertson, the eminent preacher, who holds regular conversations with God. In a recent conversation with God, it was agreed that God would visit a stroke on Ariel Sharon because he moved settlers from the Gaza Strip. Nothing has been heard about Mister Sharon and his coma, but it appears that the temporary shock about Pat Robertson’s conversation with God has now also worn off.

So you see, there is a vast difference between permanent shock or funk and temporary shock.

To set the stage for my becoming a victim of permanent shock, it is necessary to review very briefly my career as a filling station attendant. This will give you an idea of how I was terribly influenced by the utterances of Professor Barbee. In 1940, I left the employment of Schroth Flying Red Horse Mobil Gas Station and accepted employment at Ed Williams’ Sinclair Service Station further down on North and South Road in Richmond Heights, Missouri. The lure was an extra two bucks a week, which was a fairly sizable sum in 1940. My duties at Ed Williams’ involved working from noon until nine PM six days a week. I had the station all to myself on Sundays, as Ed Williams and Del Barbee took the day off.

At the time I went to work for Ed Williams, he was driving a new 1940 Chevrolet sedan. One evening, Mr. Williams seemed to suffer from loss of sleep as he was driving his new car and had somewhat of an accident. It so happens that a road in Brentwood, Missouri called Eager Road terminates at Hanley Road. Set back from this intersection was a lumber company with a large glass window. In front of the window, out toward Hanley Road, was a short lawn which had an embankment of eight to ten inches as it reached Hanley Road. Mr. Williams, going west on Eager Road, was apparently asleep and driving at a fairly good rate of speed and went through the stop sign and hit the embankment which then launched him into the air. Shortly thereafter, his car penetrated the window and he found himself in the showroom of the lumber company along with all of the lathes and doors and other things that are found in a lumber company supply room.

Within hours, one of Mr. Williams’ pals who was a lawyer changed the name of the service station where I worked from Ed Williams’ Sinclair Station to the Friendly Sinclair Station. I suspect that Ed Williams’ wife wound up owning the service station.

Next door was a building which eventually came to house a beauty parlor. It was run by a young Greek woman whom I suspect was perhaps thirty years of age. I noticed as my evening shift at the service station progressed that one, two, or three nights of the week, this young lady would return to the beauty parlor about 7:30 or 8:00 o’clock, accompanied by an older gentleman riding along with her. In those days, it was quite unusual for a woman to drive with a male passenger. Males always drove. But in this case the beauty shop owner brought her “friend” back to the beauty parlor. They entered the beauty parlor and frequently did not leave by the time I closed the filling station at 9:00 PM.

The owner of the beauty parlor made a deal with Professor Del van Buren Barbee which involved his arriving early before 8:00 o’clock and sweeping out the hair and the refuse on the floor of the beauty parlor. Professor Barbee told me a few stories about the accommodations in the beauty parlor which led me to believe that maybe the owner of the beauty parlor and her older friend were not discussing double-entry bookkeeping during his evening visits.

Discussing the amorous adventures of the beauty shop owner and her elderly lover, Del delivered himself of the following remark which has caused my permanent shock which lasts until this day, some 65 years later. Del said, “If God invented anything better than sexual intercourse, he kept it for Hisself.”

It took me a while to recover from this announcement. It must also be noted that Professor Barbee did not say “sexual intercourse.” In its place he used the ancient Anglo-Saxon expression involving the “f” word with “ing” on the end of it. That made it sound more compelling and indeed, the statement as used by Professor Barbee rolled with Churchillian profoundness.

Now it must be understood that as an old soldier, I was not offended in any respect by Professor Barbee’s use of the “f” word. What caused my permanent shock had to do with his using the term “hisself” rather than “himself,” which, as all of us grammarians know, is a case of first person pluperfect. Professor Barbee should have used the third person penultimate, obviously. Every good grammarian will recognize Del’s terrible faux pas. And so my shock continues in its permanent state, even to this date, some 65 years later. Can you imagine a fellow with a fourth or fifth grade Mississippi education in an advanced segregated school making a mistake like that? I am shocked, shocked, shocked.

E. E. CARR
February 12, 2006
Essay 177
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Kevin’s commentary: As good an essay for restarting the site as I could have asked for. I like to think that I read a lot, generally speaking — but no matter how much I read or where I search around, I don’t think I can find anything else quite like a good essay of Pop’s. There’s just this great mix of nostalgia and humor that’s so uniquely his. And it would seem like some of the best essays are still yet to come.