Columns » Bob Lancaster

Probably pranked

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Since 1819, the Arkansas Times, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, has provided readers with local, national, and international news, and with popular features like "Ask Assmunch," which furnishes advice to the lovelorn and star-crossed, and practical information on such topics as gardening, pet care, almanac lore, and trailer-park yard ornamentation.

Well, the first advice-seeking query of the 2011 season poured into the Ask Assmunch in-box last week, and it was unique. Nothing like it in the  AT assmunchery annals going back 192 years.

Sir: What if you offer to give your life to Jesus and Jesus says, "No, thanks." This happened to a friend of mine — call her Devastated — and now she don't know what her next move should be. Can you advise?  

Assmunch mulled this one long and hard before sending this reply:

Madam:  It sounds to me like this "friend" of yours is really you. Because no one would want to admit, even to a lame and semi-fictional newspaper advice column, to having undergone such an embarrassing experience. I mean, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that if you knock on the Good Lord's door, He'll let you in, no matter how mangy of a dog you are. Even if you're Charles Manson, if you're sincere, and can make yourself reasonably comfortable with the born-again metaphor, you get in. Judas Iscariot gets in; Benedict Arnold... Jim Bruton ... Old Lady Threet, with her giant hickory paddle with the holes in it.

Even pencil-neck Hitler, for crying out loud.

The Holocaust millions might not be there — if only because they were not disposed to petition for entry — but Hitler could weasel in by way of a loophole or technicality. If this seems grossly unfair, well, fairness just wasn't something that interested the Gospeleers. It was too this-worldly for them. I think it's unfair to the point of disgusting that because of the easy entry requirements an Ann Coulter or Erick Erickson can theoretically qualify for a posh pad on Golden Street right next door to Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Florence Nightengale; but that's my problem. It's a monarchial religion, remember, not a democratic one, and we don't get a vote on who's gets in, or why.

The point being that if Hitler could get in, surely this "friend" of yours could. So let's assume there is no "friend"; that it was you who got high hatted by the Good Shepherd. That'll make it easier to discuss the matter.

My first thought is that you might have misheard Jesus. He hasn't walked with me and talked with me, as He did the writer of the hymn "In the Garden," so I don't know if He's as perfect in His enunciation as He is in other respects. Maybe His still small voice is a little too still and small for some of us who were down front at too many rock concerts. Or maybe He's something of a mumbler — in an awesome King of Glory kind of way, of course. I know His first language wasn't English, so there might have been an accent trace or something like that which caused you to misconstrue what He said.

Or you might have what the shrinks call Hysterical Ear Syndrome, which causes you to hear the exact opposite of what the voice in your head is actually telling you. This is your brain's way of punishing you for childhood traumas that weren't really your fault but it thinks they were. So it punishes you by having you hear compliments as insults and other reversed dualities  — by hearing Jesus saying "Welcome home" as Jesus saying "No, thanks."

Assuming, though, that you did hear what you thought you heard, are you sure that the voice was really His, and not that of one of your moron friends playing a practical joke? There's an Andy Griffith episode in which Opie and one of his friends attached a walkie-talkie to a dog's collar and fooled Goober into thinking he'd found himself a talking dog. Goober was so bedazzled thinking his talking dog would make him rich and famous that he wouldn't even consider the more likely alternative talking-dog possibilities.

Do you have acquaintances like that, Jackass types who'd ventriloquize the Lord's imagined voice damning you to Hell just to see you squirm, probably making a YouTube of it that a billion people will soon be chortling over? Most such total aholes are in Delta Tau Chi, and you might want to check your suspected perp's pin. If it has the telltale Greek letters on it and they're a sort of puke green, you'll know for sure.

One of those two — either you misheard Jesus, or you were pranked. Either way, I'd resubmit the offer. It might take two or three submissions, like with SSI, because the process, while divine, apparently has glitches and there are suggestions of red tape. If the offer is made in good faith, though, it's pretty much guaranteed of eventual acceptance. Some sects say it's then irrevocable and permanently binding on both sides ("once saved, always saved"), though John Calvin's followers see the matter in a different light. I'm pretty sure that L. Ron Hubbard's followers do too. I'm not sure about Glenn Beck's followers. I think they might all just be crazy.

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