January 17, 2017: Politics, Pastoring, and Peanuts

“Well, Drackler, you made a nice column two weeks ago from my political idears. Real good work there,” Chuck Q. Farley grumbled the next time we talked on the phone.

“It all made for a good story, Chuck Q.,” I answered. “Politics makes the world go round, and if you and I can make people think even a little bit, we’re doing our job.”

He humphed. “Atter that Twitter danger, I’ve quit foolin’ with politics. From now on I’m just gonna watch church programs and stay away from the news!”

“Well, if you can catch the address for that TV Miracle Water, send away for some and share it with me. But TV or not, you’ve always got to think politics in church too. The preachers and deacons do, anyway. Especially the pastor. And sometimes, everybody.”

“Why you say that? You study Political Science along with all them other sciences you took, Drackler?” he asked.

“Never had a Political Science course in my life. I learned politics the hard way, right behind a pulpit.”

He clicked his tongue. “That’s right. You was once a preacher. Well, then, tell me why they has to be politics and politicians in church! If I’m gonna help you any more with that column, Drackler, I’ve gotta know somethin’ about what you think.”

“True enough,” I admitted, and deliberated a moment. “Tell you what, Chuck Q. Once there was a fellow named Socrates who answered questions WITH questions, but he still got his points across. Years ago a really good teacher, rest her soul, showed me how to do it too. So let me try to answer you like Socrates. First question: how important is it in your religion to love your enemies, return good for evil, pray for those who mistreat you, turn the other cheek to somebody that hits you, that kind of thing?”

“Why, that’s ever’thing that matters!” he shot back. “Well, doctrine, too, I guess…”

“Let’s just let doctrine take care of itself for the time being. Second question: if all those things I mentioned are so important to your religion, where do you find that you have to use them the most? With ‘sinner’ people, or when you deal with your fellow church members?”

He pondered the query a moment, and grew solemn. “I never thought of it like that,” he finally replied. “I’m gonna have to study on that one…”

“Well, study on this, too,” I responded. “Third question: don’t you think anybody having to lead a bunch that acts like that had better learn his politics fast, or else he’ll have to soak ‘em up through the knots he’ll get on his head?”

Chuck Q. was silent. “Drackler, is that how come you quit preachin’ and pastorin’?” he eventually asked quietly. “It wasn’t no woman, like with so many?”

“No, no woman,” I answered with a sigh, “though I halfway expected somebody would start up a rumor like that, even so.” The phone was silent as I pondered. Had I already said too much, or not enough? There was no way for me to tell. Could anyone who hadn’t actually been there truly understand mere words? I owed Chuck Q. some response, though, and so I took a deep breath and began to speak.

“Once I had a church member in the hospital, and I went to see him,” I said. “We had a good visit, but he had a bowl of peanuts on his side table, and as we talked I’d reach over and grab a few peanuts and eat ‘em. And finally I noticed that I’d absentmindedly eaten his entire bowl of peanuts.

“That really embarrassed me, so I apologized to him for eating all his peanuts and I promised him I’d go buy him some more right then. But he just looked at me with a great big gummy smile—poor old fellow didn’t have a tooth in his head, you see—and he said to me, ‘Brother John, it’s okay. All I could do was lick the chocolate off them things, so you was welcome to the rest.’

“It never was the same after that,” I concluded.

There was another moment of dead air on the phone, and then a snort. “Aw, shoot, Drackler,” Chuck Q. complained, “You had me a-goin’ there a minute. Shame on you! I nearly swallered that one whole! And now you’ve done gone and took my appetite too,” he added reproachfully.

“Sorry, Chuck Q.,” I answered, “let’s just call that tale a parable. But if you had swallowed it whole, at least I hadn’t licked off the chocolate first!”

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