THE WHIP, THE TEMPLE, AND THE MONEY
Even kids have opinions. Even kids set values. And believe me, as opinionated as I am now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You should have seen how opinionated I was when I was a kid.
It should have never happened. It was so ‘not right’. God said so. He said so in the story of Christ using a whip to chase the moneychangers from the temple. And he said so through another story. The story of Christ’s examination of the image on a penny and what he then spoke to those around him. “Render…unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. (Luke 20:25)
(all of this a pre-cursor to the phrase – “separation of Church and State”)
So although I was a little eight-year-old, I took this stuff very seriously. And I knew for a certainty that it was wrong and I was righteously indignant at those who exchanged money in the temple-church in the form of harvest suppers, Bingo, card games, silent auctions, and flea markets. Some used the feeble excuse that they only engaged in this sort of thing in the ‘basement’ of the church, but that wasn’t a good enough excuse for me.
I knew the Bible perspective (as stated above). So why was this happening with adults? Had no one told them the rules? That there should be zip, nanna, NO moneychangers in the temple. In what other instance did the loving Christ get so thoroughly upset? So completely and uncharacteristically angry and annoyed? So quick to show disapproval? So quick to punish?
My annoyance about it burned in my child-heart and brain like a fire. Like a unique communication given to me in the form of a daunting challenge from God, himself. You know full well what any Minister will say if you ask them why they became a Minister. They all tell the same story. The calling came to them through a whisper in their ear. And when pressed further they will also say, “It was clear and well articulated.”
All of that quite amazing to me, but now I understood it. It was kind of nice to know that ‘whispers in the ear’ were not specialized things reserved only for Ministers. I know that now cause I definitely heard a ‘whisper in my ear’ as direct as God’s clear-speak to Noah to ‘build an ark’. And the voice in my ear told me that it was up to me to fashion a sturdy whip to snap about the ears and rears of blatantly irresponsible adults so impervious to holy writ. The lot of them, mature adults no less, buying and selling in the church basement.
Of course, some of them were to be pitied. I knew nothing of addiction but still I knew that some were there to play cards or Bingo, not because they wanted to be, or chose to be, but because of entanglement of intemperance in soul-strings and heart-strings. That I could understand. Cause I was a good honest kid, wanting to be the best I could be, but I could not stay my hand when there were Jap oranges, chocolates, and nuts stashed under the cupboard at Christmas, or tins of thick-creamy evaporated milk in reserve in the attic.
Now I want you to hold those thoughts, while here I digress for just a moment to tell you something quite personal about my own contemplation of the temple tirade. I never could quite come to terms with the rashness of Christ’s reaction to buyers and sellers in the temple. Until I realized that I (as the very good person I wanted to be) exact far more pain from observing disciplinary justice than being a participant.
I’m not sure you will understand this but I would sooner be cruel myself, I would sooner man the whip, be the cruel surrogate, as it were, then watch others be cruel, because at least when I am in that role, I have control over the severity of the cruelty.
This no doubt, sounds to you, like a dangling principle, but nevertheless, that is my aside and now I continue with my story.
I knew how to braid, and so from binder-twine I found in the granary, I wove a lovely rope whip like Zorro’s. The burden on my mind, however, was far too heavy. The whispering in my ear ever more harsh.
It was truly frightening to face a prospect similar to that of David, the young shepherd boy, alone against a warrior giant with nothing but a slingshot. Here I was, a mere child, alone against the moneychangers in the temple with nothing but my scurrilous whip. David’s story gave encouragement, his success was comforting, but not encouraging or comforting enough so I told my Mother what I must do.
Mother agreed in part. Her belief was the same as mine (i.e. no moneychangers in the temple), but she said that although I was being given a God-guided conscience in the matter, it was not a “call” to whip the moneychangers. I actually wept with relief.
My father, spying my braided whip, soon also heard the story. He agreed with my mother but said it was a lovely whip and so he attached it to a stick and showed me how to use it for snapping the heads off of dandelions and other noxious weeds. I’m not sure if I should admit how personally satisfying it was to find I could do such treacherous decapitations so swiftly and so expertly.
Ultimately, it was good to know that it would be ‘okay’ for me to have fried chicken and lemon pie in the church basement at the annual Harvest supper without my whip. And that it would be okay to sit at one of the long tables consuming such a fine repast while ignoring the utterly contemptible people sitting around me.
Not that it would ever happen. You would never catch my mother and father exchanging money in the temple! But that’s okay. I think there’s still a few cans of evaporated milk in the attic yet to be opened.