Columns » Bob Lancaster

Parleyvoo

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God and I chat not.

Neither do we tweet.

I have friends and relatives who have regular or at least semi-regular two-way conversations with Him, and best I can tell these exchanges are warm and collegial. One side is not struck dumb with awe, as was customary with the ancients. There seems to be a goodly amount of give-and-take, consistent with the modern democratic ideal, as opposed to the monarchial deferences that once applied. There's usually a frank exchange of views, in the Cold War parlance.

So the dialogue proceeds with a kind of affable George Burns informality that's very popular except with the mossy segment that still considers it a compliment to be called “God-fearing.”

Discussion was nearly always God-initiated back when. And His beck was so terrifying to mere mortals that they not only shrank from it but literally ran away. You couldn't amscray from God, though, if He was of a mind to parleyvoo. He'd send a fish after you if He had to. And when you were brought back and barfed up inescapably, He'd give you to know how it was going to be, not inviting your input.

It's apparently exactly the opposite now. It's the mortals who make first contact and the Deity who keeps glancing at his watch. We get our input put in before He has a chance to demur, and His alleged responses have none of the old Godly enthusiasm. He's often said to reply in a still small voice. Very unlike the old thunder.

Or He's said to reply by allusion. Or in dreams. Or in the unfolding of events. Or in dillweed billboard quotations. Or otherwise vaguely, indirectly, almost wearily.

This just doesn't sound like Him. If Strunk and White knew you should be clear and concise, surely God knows it. And wouldn't you expect the Author of forcefulness and directness to be forceful and direct? Why, then, without melting their very pusses as in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” would He suffer all these intercessory weasels and weenies and rollers putting foolish words in His mouth ?

Short answer, He wouldn't.

You don't beat around the bush if you ARE the bush.

So over the weekend, I saw on TV an East End woman whose mobile home was destroyed when a big tree uprooted by a tornado the evening before fell through it. She thought the mister might have been killed by the tree, too, but even before they dug him out unharmed, God assured her that He had more work that He expects the two of them to complete before He calls them home. He didn't hem and haw about it, and the message zapped through strong and instantaneous, bypassing mistranslation by Pious J. Middleman.

Who's to say if God really spoke with this woman, or if she just thought He did, or if that's not just two ways of saying the same thing? I thought the account more credible, certainly, than that of the owner of the horse that won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. He credited God for giving him the victory. Not Calvin, not Todd Pletcher, not the horse, not the weatherman -- God. He didn't exactly say that God fixed the race in his favor because he's a bigger God fan than the owners of the other 19 horses in the race, but I'd bet that's how those 19 losers heard it.

My guess is an ulterior motive, perhaps unconscious. That the God-stroking here was to make and bank some bonus points for use during the afterlife bargaining over his final destination. “Yeah but God, don't you remember me bragging on you there on national TV?” Like the 19 losers, I'd venture that God is deaf to such flattery. He likes the smell of burnt ox haunch, yes, but nothing this greasy.

Pretty much the same story the same day with the doofus roundballer crowing that his team was advancing to the second round of the NBA playoffs mainly because God was their Sixth Man.

An element of that too, I suspect, in the continuing push for press-box prayer on the stadium P.A. before high-school football games. “If one of these boys has to be hurt here tonight, Lord, let him be on the other team. Or one of our scrubs.”

Or in putting up graven Decalogue stelae.

But you never know. Even Billy Graham in his newspaper column last week said it's really hard to tell sometimes whether it's God talking to you or the Devil. The Devil is such a good mimic and God gives him such latitude. You usually know after the fact which one it was, but by then mootness has pretty much set in.

Some chatter over the weekend wondering why God sent two and even three tornadoes along the same track – through East End and over the Little Rock airport – at different times on the same evening. Was there a providential point, and if so, again, why wrapped in such obscurity? Was it meant to teach a lesson to someone in the affected areas? Or, as Bro. Pat and Bro. Jerry said after 9/11, was it a shot across our collective bow? Showing His displeasure, His gathering wrath, over all these abortions,queers cornholing one another, etc.?

Short answer: None of the above.

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