Monday, April 4, 2011


NOTE: This might be something. What, I'm not quite sure.

“Distract them,” he said.

He gripped both sides of the podium with his small hands. He leaned forward. The audience did the same. “They want distraction,” he said. “They want to be entertained.”

“Give hem what they want. It doesn’t matter what. Make it shiny. Make it funny. Make it educational. Make it, in some way, edifying, feel-good, even if they only feel good because they’re watching a train wreck they’re not involved in or they’re whistling past the graveyard.”

He leaned back, took a sip of water. “Give them what they want,” he said. “Just as long as it’s not what He wants them to have.”

“But,” said a voice from the crowd.

“But?” he asked.

The audience was silent.

“Hang the silence,” he said. “Speak your mind. We are an open and a free and a progressive and an eager society here; if there are questions, if there are ‘buts,’ we will hear them. Without rancor, but with eagerness. We are here to learn from each other, after all. So speak.”

From the wings, a voice faltered, but then grew louder as the crowd opened up its silence and invited the words to fall in. “But, well, what I was asking, well, what I was thinking, I thought, well, I thought we were supposed to, you know, supposed to get them to—“ he swallowed. “—misbehave.”

The audience filled their silence with laughter. He at the pulpit smiled.

“Ah, this question, this perennial question, how I love to hear it,” he said. “It tells me there are some of my past mentors who still teach here. That warms my heart. Brother Humphrey, no doubt, or Brother Hughes taught you this?”

More laughter.

“Yes,” the voice said timidly. “Brother Hughes. He—“

“An excellent instructor, well worth listening to,” he said. “Is the flesh still his favorite vice?”

The audience banned silence with laughter.

The one with the question nodded.

“Many we see plodding that well-worn path,” he said. “It leads where we would have them go. It is a fine path, built for the weak. But it has many side roads, as do many of the paths we have them take. And guilt, and remorse, and longing and contemplation and—“ he spat the word “—forgiveness may be found there too. Many take that road, but many leave that road, never to return, stronger still against the other virtues of vice. Stronger still for His purposes.”

“Will you make your charges stronger?” he asked.

Silence in the hall.

“And yet there are distractions. Sideshows. We employ many carnival workers who do not entice their charges with vice, but with thought, with hints of jollity, with whiffs of erudition and wisdom. Distract them with a bout of self-confidence and guilt and remorse lose their bitterness and blunt the elderberry taste of forgiveness.”

“Lead many to forget Him – or Her, we shahn’t forget Her – through sophistry and temptation and bacchanalia, we win and we lose. Lead many to put Him or Her on the side track as other trains come through with their bright colors and roaring creatures, we win many and lose few.”

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