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SLOUCHING TOWARD ZION, Part IV

Added: Wednesday, May 28th 2008 at 7:10pm by robertflynn
Related Tags: humor, entertainment
 
 
 
When Thurston and Elaine returned to Chillicothe from their visit to the Middle East they were changed forever.  Elaine, who had never before traveled farther than Wichita Falls had a spiritual, intellectual and gynecological experience. 

Thurston, who had chosen the gastronomical rather than the cultural tour, had experienced delight, dismay and diarrhea.  He had discovered Arab cuisine.  She had discovered what her gender meant.

Elaine had been born a woman and in much of the world that was worse than being born a mule.  A mule was also a beast of burden but sterile.
In Israel Elaine had sat through Brother Jerry’s morning Bible studies in silence.  If she had a question, she had to write it down, wake Thurston, and give him the question to read aloud.  “My wife doesn’t understand why the church dislikes women so could you go over it again?”

Brother Jerry said there was no need to gloss over it.  The church had good reason to disdain women.  Immorality could be controlled only when the sources of immorality were controlled.  Brother Jerry identified the sources of immorality in order of their threat to a Christian America as women, blacks, members of other minorities, members of other religions, Supreme Court justices who put the Constitution before God, and heretical preachers in his denomination.

Elaine who had seen the plight of women in other countries was determined to be more than wife and cafeteria lady.  If Elaine had said she wanted to be a mullah in a mosque she could not have shocked folks more than when she said she wanted to dedicate her life to peace. 

Brother Cofer, her pastor, said women could dedicate their lives to serve as missionaries or to serve their husbands.  Those were the only dedications possible for women in the Baptist Church because that’s what the Bible said and God was bound by what Moses, Paul, or one of the prophets or apostles wrote.

Elaine said that Paul wrote that in Christ there was neither male nor female.  When Brother Cofer replied that even Satan could cite scripture, Elaine knew he meant Satan just did.

“Southern Baptists don’t believe in anything they used to believe in,” Elaine told the Women’s Missionary Society.  “The reason men seem intrusive is that sometimes a portion of their anatomy precedes them, and it’s not just their nose.”  The other ladies gasped.  Two left the meeting.  “Their stomach,” Elaine continued. 

“Men don’t butt in, they gut in.  They push their bellies into the kitchen where women are working and look for scraps of left-over food to push down their gullets.  They push their bellies into prayer circles where women are praying and ask for the key to the pantry.  They push their way out of choir practice to grab a fistful of fries at Modeen’s Home Cafe.”

Elaine’s comments were prayerfully spread through the congregation like gossip, some comments that she had made, some that they thought she had made, some that they thought she had intended to make. 

The pastor called a meeting of the deacons to decide what to do with a willful woman, disobedient wife, and upstart member of the church who wanted to dictate to men.  They were also to decide whether Thurston could remain Chairman of the Board because if a man was not master of his home, he had no right to be master of the congregation.

Other than Elaine and his God-given right to be Chairman of the Board of Deacons, Thurston believed in two things.  Fire-power and the Bible.  He had returned from the Middle East determined to have more firepower than anyone in town.  He already owned two rifles, two shotguns and three handguns but he had bought more. 

He believed in the Bible as much as any man.  And he had read it as much as most men, which is to say, not at all.  However, he had heard enough to convince him that the Bible was written by God, and he quoted it often.  “God helps him who helps himself.”  “To thine own self be true.”  “All men are created equal.”  Although Thurston rarely quoted him, he often reminded himself that Jesus said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” and “I shall return.”

Thurston owned as many Bibles as anyone in Chillicothe, and Chillicothe had more Bibles than a motel chain.  Every home had a Cotton Patch Gospel in the bedroom for bedtime reading, a Scofield Reference Bible for study, a leather-bound, gilt-edged, red-letter Thompson Chain Reference Bible in the living room for demonstration.

In addition, Thurston had a well worn Bible on the television to sanctify it, a torn-cover Bible on the “Playboy” and “Mature Living” stack to conceal it, an old family Bible with records of births, marriages, deaths and baptisms kept in the attic along with the rest of Thurston’s mother’s belongings, although he did not intend her to ever leave the nursing home.  There was a good cloth edition of the Bible on the dining room table to signal there would be grace with meals, a Harmony of the Gospels in the den to prove that someone in the family, no one could remember who but it was probably Uncle John, had attended a Baptist college; a mess of Chaplain’s Editions of The New Testament plus the Psalms in the closet as proof that the men of the family had not only served in the military but that they had at least one time attended a service in a military chapel; the white linen Bible that Elaine had carriedat her wedding, the red leather Bible that Sister carried at her wedding, the rainbow colored Bible that Thurston’s nephew carried at his mutual pledge of affection that no one from the family or church attended and that took place in a cow pasture, and the cheap cloth Bible given by Oral Roberts as a token of his appreciation for the generous check Thurston had sent to bribe God out of killing Oral.

Thurston searched them all for evidence that a woman could dedicate herself to peace.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  But he also said, “I came not to send peace but a sword.”  Thurston was confused but the Bible said there was a time for peace and a time for war and he preferred to err on the side of war.

Thurston went to the deacons meeting with a .44 magnum pistol stuck in his belt.  He explained that he bought the pistol to signal midnight on July 4, Christmas, the New Year, and other sacred occasions and that he brought the pistol to the meeting to signal Elaine that he had been removed as Chairman of the Board.

The pastor and deacons unanimously supported his continued Christian service as Chairman.  They also said that Elaine could be a peacemaker but that there was no official title, no salary and no publicity.  Thurston went home to tell Elaine that he had won a Baptist victory.

Unlike a Pyrrhic victory where the win was at too great a cost, a Baptist victory was a noble gesture in a lost cause.  Like sacrificing your body to gain an extra half yard when your team was behind 55-0.  Like mentioning that when Moses broke the stone tablets bearing the sacred Ten Commandments, God gave him a different set of commandments.  Like calling for scholarship at a Southern Baptist seminary.

When the church became hostile, Thurston and Elaine became mobile.  Elaine joined the Methodist Church where women carried Palm Pilots to meetings instead of casseroles.  Thurston bought boxes of ammunition, crates of freeze-dried rations and began building a bunker on the three acres he had kept from his father’s farm. 

Elaine continued as cafeteria lady, patiently enduring the contempt of students.  Since she had dedicated her life to peace, everyone thought she was afraid to speak up or defend herself.  Everyone except Thurston.

One day while brooding over injustice she accidentally cut off the fleshy part of her thumb while grinding hamburger.  She searched the hamburger conscientiously but could not find the missing part of her thumb before frying  patties for lunch. 

“Why don’t you dedicate your life to cooking?” a boy sneered.

“You’re hamburger,” a girl said.  “At least an onion fights back.” 

“We can make them behave but--” a teacher said.  She shrugged. “They’re going to let you go as soon as they can find someone else.” 

Elaine ignored the taunts and humiliations and maintained her smile of peace and brotherhood.  She would step aside graciously when they hired her replacement.  She would retire to Thurston’s bunker and cook for the militia group he had formed.  Until then she would put saltpeter in the cafeteria food. 

After lunch when the students left the cafeteria, she held up her bandaged thumb and with the same benevolent smile said, “Bite me.”

In this manner, Thurston and Elaine brought the peace they had found in the Middle East to Chillicothe, believed by some to be The Holy Land.

See http://www.robert-flynn.net



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