Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fables from the Book of Child-Interpretations

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.

8 comments:

jim said...

Rare, unique, highly original, child or no, whip or no, point made like no other has said it.

Dick said...

For our generation such monolithic convictions tended to draw the ideologue emerging into the world from church to communism. Clearly somewhere along the line, Roberta, that characteristic sense of humour kicked in!

Pauline said...

I love how you rope me in at the beginning and leave me chuckling by the end. Your tongue is so firmly in your cheek! And yet, beneath the humor are thoughts to chew on -

Roberta S said...

Hi jim. Thanks for that truly lovely comment that encourages me to 'write' in whatever direction those 'whispers in my ear' tell me to write.

Roberta S said...

dick, I don't know enough about politics and in particular communism to reply to your comment. But to match my story, within the juvenile context of my youth, I am going to try.

Rightly or wrongly, I must include the hippie generation (without any serious study or contemplation of their weirdness) as a movement that to my thinking was a communism-based notion that first of all sought to form self-sufficient groups that had no need for currency exchange mainly because it interfered with time for free love, drugs, and beading and flower-weaving.

As for 'currency exchange within the temple,' the alternative currently in place, I suspect, is that most churches have by-laws in place that give blessing to any 'business' being conducted on the premises, so long as all proceeds are turned over to the church.

Maybe I seek too deep a meaning in what you said, but you have got me thinking, good friend, and I do very much appreciate you commenting. :D

Roberta S said...

pauline, this statement reflects all that I hope to do, with 'zero' confidence that in all my silliness and simplicity, that it could happen. So your comment is truly precious and I thank you with heartfelt gratefulness for sharing it with me.

S L Cunningham said...

Roberta,

It is becoming a real treat to come by your way to see what you have posted recently. I enjoyed how you captured so well the seriousness of a child when any issue is taken literally, and the means by which a child will impugn those who violate any teaching or rule. Very effective use of short sentences in the beginning captures the urgency of the matter being addressed. I read to the end smiling all the way.
Scot

Roberta S said...

I'm so pleased, you were pleased, scot. I paid no attention to the length of sentences, I guess the story just kind of spurted out that way -- with a bit of urgency. I do appreciate knowing however that such crafting can transfer a particular feeling to the reader.

Thanks, a big bunch, for commenting.