Krista Tippett, in this unedited video, moderates a conversation between Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, and Gabe Lyons, founder of Q: Ideas for Common Good. - This is a compelling discussion with implications for all of us.
“Well, hello to you, Parson. Hope your Christmas was as good as it could be.”
“It was, Frank; it was,” responded the parson to Frank Jerkins, a pastor at one of the larger churches a bit south of the parson. “Surprisingly, everything I got was something I really could use and everything fit.”
“That's good to hear, Parson. Good to hear. How was your attendance on Christmas Sunday?”
“It was better than average,” said the parson. “I don't know if it was just because of Christmas or whether the tornado that hit two days before, but folks seemed eager to be there on Christmas Sunday. How about your church?”
“Well, we didn't have church on Christmas Sunday, Parson. We got to thinking about it a few years back when Christmas fell on Sunday, and we decided that since Christmas was a family time we'd cancel services when Christmas fell on Sunday.”
The parson stared at Frank. Frank seemed to be waiting for the parson to speak. After a pregnant silence, the parson did speak. “You canceled your worship services because Christmas fell on Sunday and Christmas is a family time?”
“Yes, that's right. Folks seem to be real pleased with the decision.”
“You canceled your service because Christmas fell on Sunday and Christmas is family time?”
“Are you going to keep repeating that?” Frank asked.
“No, Frank, I'm not going to keep repeating it. I think I'm going over in that corner there and weep.”
“What's your problem, Parson?”
“I'm just curious, Frank, if Christmas is family time then what's your service, PG-13?”
“Oh, that's cute, Parson. You know good and well that when Christmas falls on Sunday the attendance is usually down and it's just impossible to compete with the distractions families face. And it is a time for the family to gather around the Christmas tree.”
The parson stared another silent moment. “Are you nuts?”
“No, Parson, I'm not nuts. I'm practical.”
“Well, I guess that makes me impractical, Frank. I was under the distinct impression that when Christmas fell on Sunday we had a really good opportunity to focus ourselves on the Child and celebrate Christmas as it should be.”
“There's no harm in canceling the services one Sunday, Parson.”
“Oh, but Frank, there is. You just gave a testimony to your people as to where your loyalties lie. You just said to your people that worship is not central, that the old lines of John, 'Prepare ye the way,' are irrelevant. And worse than that, Frank, if you want my opinion you just spit on your vows.”
“You know, Parson, to use one of your favorite expressions, sometimes you can be the north end of a southbound horse.”
The parson smiled, “You know what, Frank, I'm not going to deny that. But I'll tell you this: on Sunday, especially on Christmas Sunday, this southbound horse is going to make sure his ordained north end is behind his pulpit giving witness to who is Lord in his life.”
Bryan Fischer Columnist and Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy American Family Association
Dear Mr. Fischer:
I normally reserve this space for stories that revolve around the life of the Questing Parson, a retired pastor who still serves a small little church out in the country. They are stories, I hope, that keep things on a positive side and provide a chuckle here and there. I don't often express opinions outside the persona of “The Parson.” But in your case I have decided to make an exception.
I make the exception because you, sir, are … hmmm, how shall I put it? You are an idiot. Now my Mama would be a bit upset that I just called you an idiot. She would have told me I had to respect you because you're an ordained minister. But my Mama never had to put up with the damnable swill that spews from your mind.
How dare you question the correctness of awarding the Medal of Honor to United States Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Guinta. While, in your column “The feminization of the Medal of Honor”, you acknowledge that Sgt. Guinta “took a bullet in his protective vest as he pulled one soldier to safety, and then rescued the sergeant who was walking point and had been taken captive by two Taliban whom Sgt. Guinta shot to free his comrade-in-arms,” you then say, “We have feminized the Medal of Honor.”
Here's where I get my assessment of your mental capacity” You point out that the Medal of Honor has been given in the latest conflicts for saving lives and for not killing people. And then you show your ass by stating: “When are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night?”
Let me get this straight. Taking enemy fire while dragging your fellow soldier to safety, chasing down two enemy thugs who are attempting to drag another soldier into captivity and then rescuing that soldier and dragging him back to safety all the while hearing the rounds whip around your space and knowing that at any minute your brains may be splattered all over the landscape is “feminine”?
I've read your biography, Reverend Fischer. You never served in the military did you? You've never known fear so penetrating your innards shake and your bowels contract, have you? You've never come face to face with the certainty of your immediate demise, have you? You've only pontificated from the safety of your closeted comfort and railed down judgment on anyone who does not share your disconnected view.
We have feminized the Medal of Honor by giving it to people who save lives rather than killing? Are you nuts? Have you read any of the scriptures on the right hand side of Malachi? There's a great story there about this fellow from Nazareth who taught that “Greater love has no one than to lay down one's life for another.” And that's what Sgt. Guinta practiced that day.
So go take a hike, you sanctimonious ____ (Well, there's a word I wanted to put there, but the memory of Mama washing my mouth out with soap prohibited it.) We both know if you were there that day with the smell of gun powder all around you, to say nothing of the smell of blood, to say nothing of the smell of fear, the panic, the confusion, the sound and the feel of projectiles flying all about you, would have placed you in such a panic that you would not have even attempted to match the feats of heroism for which Staff Sgt. Salvatore Guinta received the highest honor this nation can bestow. And praise God that he got that Medal for saving lives.
I fear you would just have stood there and pissed your pants.
And by the way, a lot of the members of my family have spilled blood on foreign soil in an attempt to save lives, including yours. So while Mama might have been mad about that sentence above, I'm also quite sure if she heard what you said and how you, by diminishing Sgt. Guinta's self-sacrificing exploits, diminished our loved ones who served, she would have slapped you silly.
I remain, one angry Parson,
The Reverend Guy Kent Elder The United Methodist Church and The Questing Parson
The parson stood in line at the pharmacy, waiting to get a prescription for a member. He was fourth in line. The woman at the counter was asking for some sort of consultation about her medicine. The explanation took over five minutes but maybe a couple short of ten. The parson shifted his weight, the pain in his hip, the result of an old soccer injury according to the doctor, was above average today. The woman, finally satisfied with the explanations, paid and walked away.
The parson was not only three from the counter. It was a shorter distance to the counter and not as long a wait, but the distance was enough to put him in the middle of the aisle and the wait long enough to allow time for him to be confronted by Jim Rightside.
“Hey, Parson,” he said. “Up here getting some old age pills?”
“Something like that, Jim,” said the parson as he shifted his weight to the opposite to relocate the uncomfortable feeling in his hip.
Jim began talking to the parson about a number of things. This conversation took enough time the parson moved to second in the line. And then Jim got around to his usual subject.
“I've got to tell you, Parson, this coming election is going to be an important. The President has just passed to much legislation that's sole purpose is to lead this country down the slippery path of socialism. What do you think?”
“Well, I'm trying to remember my college political science classes, Jim. I don't remember anywhere in the Constitution where the President is given the power to pass legislation.”
Jim's brow wrinkled. He stared at the ceiling a minute. “Okay, okay, but that's a technicality. He's wants to socialize everything.”
During this the parson was able to move to the counter. He gave his member's name to the assistant and she retrieved it for him. “Hey, Parson,” she said, “did you know we've got a prescription ready for you?”
“No, I didn't,” said the parson. “What is it?”
“It's medicine for pain.”
“Oh, you bet, I want that,” said the parson.
He signed for the prescriptions, paid two separate bills, and turned to leave.
“Anyway, Parson,” said Jim, who had been waiting. “We need to stop this country from taking from one and giving to another. It's just not right. Don't you agree?”
The parson smiled, he reached out and put his hand on Jim's shoulder. He pulled him closer and whispered in his ear, “Repeat after me: Luke 6: 30.”
Jim whispered, “Luke 6: 30.”
The parson patted his shoulder. “See you later, Jim. See you later.”
The parson was visiting at his old seminary, researching in
the stacks for some material he had not been able to find on the internet. The
smell of the old books assaulted his nostrils triggering memories of hours
spent among these books a lifetime ago.
As he rounded a corner he came face-to-face with Deborah, a
student pastor at a church he once served. They both expressed animated surprise
at the encounter with unrestrained hugs. They had not seen each other for about
three years. Deborah was pursuing her Ph.D. in religion with an intention of teaching.
They quickly made arrangements to meet for dinner at a
familiar spot where, in her days as a student pastor at the parson’s church,
the staff had often held staff meetings over a shared pizza and beverage. The
parson had just found a table looking out the window toward the university when
Deborah arrived late in the afternoon. They quickly settled down and began to
catch up on each other’s life as well as sharing information on other folks
they held in common.
Soon the pizza arrived. They began to devour it as they
continued to exchange updates. “So, what’s the emphasis of your doctoral
program?” the parson asked.
“I’m working on an analysis of the developing multi-cultural
patterns on the theology of the mainline Protestant church,” she said, leaning
forward with enthusiasm.
“Tell me something about it,” the parson said.
Deborah reached down and pulled a box from a shopping bag
she was carrying. “Look at this, Parson,” she said. “I bought some shoes this
afternoon.” She smiled and continued, “I’m not going to ask your opinion on the
shoes,” she said, “but look at the box.”
She handed it across the table.
The parson examined the box in a perfunctory way.
“No, no,” said Deborah. “Look on the bottom.”
The parson held his hand on the top and turned the box over.
There was printed two charts, a men’s and a woman’s shoe size chart. The
interesting thing about the charts was the comparisons of sizes for different
parts of the world. The countries were America, the United Kingdom, Mexico,
Europe, and Japan. The parson looked to Deborah.
“Here’s the thing, Parson. Here we are sitting at a pizza
place in the heart of the Southern United States.I just bought these shoes at that store down
there.” She pointed out the window to the store. “The very fact that I bought
shoes with international sizing comparison charts on the box shows the impact
that multi-culturalism is having on our world already. There’s a mixing of
these cultures here right where we live. Now look at the list on the chart.
There’s the United States where the dominant religion is Protestant; there’s
the United Kingdom which is Anglican; there’s Mexico, Catholic; Europe which is
– well who knows what Europe actually is; and there’s Japan with its
traditional religion. Here they are on the back of a shoe box, in a pizza
parlor across the street from this university. Something is happening in the
world, Parson. And tomorrow or next week or maybe even next month it will
impact the theology of the church. Our church is going to change, Parson. In
two more generations we’ll not be able to recognize the way we describe our
church today. . . .”
Deborah continued on with her analysis of the multi-cultural
development of the United States and that development’s impact on theology
through the consumption of the entire pizza and then through the downing of
another mug of beverage. She was excited and on fire about her studies.
The sun had set and darkness had closed the door to the sky
when the parson left to head for home.As he drove, he reflected on Deborah’s thesis. He had a feeling she was
right. And he was disappointed that he probably would not live long enough to
see the new theology fully.
parson sat on the sofa in the corner nook of the coffee shoppe. He took
a moment to arrange the pillows behind his aged back to accommodate his
five foot six frame on the furniture designed for five foot seventeen.
Having adjusted to the maximum he took a sip of the rich java, and
enjoyed the full body and rich flavor which belied its decaf makeup. Two
seminary students sat across from him, one working on his Master of
Divinity the other working on her Ph.D. in a yet to be narrowed down
field of American religious history. Both were drinking a mixture whose
name the parson might once have recognized when he was learning ancient
trio shared news of various acquaintances. The students asked the
parson if certain rumors about certain better-know pastors were true,
and asked for the parson’s evaluation of the new bishop. The parson, in
turn, asked them what they’d heard about the better-known pastor. Their
revelations he added to his otherwise empty store house of gossip. As
for the new bishop the parson pleaded ignorance, as the bishop’s as yet
never extended invitation to dinner at his residence deprived the parson
of adequate knowledge to make a determination.
the M.Div. student, fired up his notebook to share with the parson an
article the new bishop had written. The parson promised to read it later
in order to become better informed.
“So, are you’re finishing seminary this year?” he asked James.
“I am, Parson. Finally.”
“Have you started the process with the Board of Ministry?”
closed his notebook, glanced over at Monique, the doctoral candidate,
then back at the parson. He cleared his throat and said in a quiet
voice. “Actually, Parson, I haven’t,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going
to take the path toward ordination.”
not!” the parson stammered, forcing himself forward on the sofa. The
statement had caught him completely by surprises. He’d known James for a
decade and his whole life journey had been leading toward ordination.
James smiled at the parson a moment, then he asked, “You don’t know?”
what?” The parson looked over at Monique whom he’d know just as long as
he’d know James. She was smiling, obviously at the parson’s
“Parson,” said James, “I’m gay.”
room seemed to shrink. The parson was completely surprised. He’d never
considered this. He’d never had occasion to consider this. The parson
sank back into the sofa. A thousand emotions surged through his body. He
stared at young man he’d thought so long to be a rising star of the
church. He did not know what to say. Sorrow wracked his being. The
consequences raised their head and impaled his spirit.
It seemed a short eternity before the silence was broken.
“Parson, are you okay?” asked Monique.
“I guess so,” said the parson. “This is why you’re not going before the board?” he said to James.
“It is,” said James. “I’m not going to lie.”
“Are you going to another denomination?” asked the parson.
“No, Parson, I’m not going to do that. I’m sticking around and I intend to make a nuisance of myself.”
The parson smiled. James was a delegate to the Annual Conference. He might start attending more frequently.
“What about you, Monique,” the parson asked.
“I’m not going to be ordained either, Parson.”
“I know you’re not gay, Monique.”
Parson. But the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m uncomfortable
with the thought of being ordained. I think it would be more than
two-faced. I can’t reconcile the enormous amounts of money the church
spends on itself while the world is hungry. I’m fed up with the
hypocrisy. I could go on and on, Parson.”
parson said nothing for a couple of minutes. James excused himself to
get another cup of the concoction he and Monique were drinking. Monique
leaned forward, “Aren’t you going to show off any grandkids pictures?”
The parson smiled at her winsome way. He pulled out his iPhone. Monique
moved to sit beside him on the sofa as the parson began to flip through
the pictures. James returned and sat on the arm of the sofa to view the
while later James moved back to his seat. Monique remained on the sofa.
James said, “Are you okay with what I told you, Parson?”
James, I’m not. And I’m not okay with what Monique tells me. I’m
disturbed that folks like you can’t find a home in the church. I’m just
conversation continued for another hour. At that point it moved to the
restaurant two blocks down the street, and from there it continued at an
Irish pub another block down.
was almost midnight when the parson left for home, exhilarated from
having been with two young people who’d skipped through is parish almost
two decades ago and sad, so sad.
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