Of Killing Snakes and not Kids

               The story begins either with an outdoor writer, a district president, or a secretary but culminates with a journalist and an organist.

               First, Field & Stream editor-at-large, Bill Heavey, had an op-ed about how to handle the anti-hunter. I haven’t run across them much in my ministry, but they are the ones that ask, “How can you kill Bambi?” or the like. Bill Heavey, because of his occupation, gets a lot more of this. He decided the best way to handle it was to respond with, “I see your point.” Or, “You know it killing isn’t the part I hunt for.”

               Then, district president Brian Saunders said at the 2012 ACELC conference that whenever someone asks you about receiving Communion the first word out of your mouth should be, “Yes!” I was among other pastors there who wouldn’t move on from, “But sometimes you have to say, ‘No!’” Later, I started thinking then Saunders was more along the lines of Bill Heavey than Open Communion.

               Time passes. I don’t know how long, but I happen to see the secretary’s emails to a non-member’s enquiring about having her marriage service here. It was a hoot. It didn’t say a flat ‘no’ right off the bat but started with, “Yeah it’s a bummer trying to get everything lined up for your wedding.” She gets to no, but it’s not harsh or personal. The person responds back in a friendly, understanding way like she was responding to a friend.

               By now the process has been going on about 9 years. Then a sort of mental Rubicon was crossed. (And these are the hardest to cross and usually are done so involuntarily.) I was reading Marvin Olasky’s op-ed in WORLD, 05.22.21 (72). I’m not telling the Lincoln story exactly as he did, but all credit goes to him for gelling or birthing my gestating idea.

               Lincoln was explaining the need to be careful in making policy pronouncements. He said, “’If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road, any man would say I might seize the nearest stick and kill it; but if I found that snake in bed with my children, that would be another question. I might hurt the children more than the snake, and it might bite them.’”

               An apparition of an idea started to rise, but it wouldn’t have formed without Olasky’s next paragraph which I give in full: “The slogans of the poltical left are now in bed with our children, and older Christians need to battle those snakes with compassion rather than contempt.”

               The final piece to this process of maturation is the organist. I was talking over these things with her. She said, wisely to this wizened one, “The left has succeeded in making the plain speech that was spoken in the past and you are use to” i.e. calling a spade a spade “say something derogatory about you and nothing about the matter at hand.”

               Booyah! The scales fell off. The fruit has yet to bear; now I’m just marking my ditches. The one ditch is to avoid is speaking like Dr. Wither in Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. He speaks politely, calmly and says nothing at all definite, and means to do that. The other ditch to stay out of is speaking like Archie Bunker. That identifies and maybe kills a few snakes, but it wounds or worse the kids in bed with their language, worldview, and outlook.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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