About thirty years ago in Texas, the oil boom that had powered the state’s economy since the turn of the last century came to an unexpected end. The decline in the price of oil through over-production made drilling for new wells uneconomical and many of the old wells were produced in only limited capacity. This naturally affected those who had jobs on the drilling rigs and those who provided services to them. Mary Jane and Bobbie Jo were two such women, holding down jobs as waitresses in one of the many diners that catered to those in the oil industry.
The two were out walking one Sunday after church when suddenly they heard a tiny voice cry out, “Ladies, please help me.”
The women looked around but didn’t see anyone and were about to continue on their way when again the voice cried, “Ladies, please help me.”
Mary Jane looked down and on the ground was a bullfrog. The two friends walked over to him to see if he could be the one who had asked for their help.
As the two neared the frog, he opened his mouth and said, “Ladies, I’m not really a bullfrog but a west Texas oilman. An evil witch cast a spell on me that can only be broken if a beautiful woman kisses me. Won’t one of you help me?”
Without hesitation, Bobbie Jo swooped down, grabbed the frog and put him in her purse, zipping the bag shut. Her friend was astonished.
“Bobbie Jo. Why didn’t you kiss that frog, break the evil witch’s spell and turn him back into a west Texas oilman?”
Bobbie Jo replied, “Honey, at the price of oil these days, a talking frog is worth a helluva lot more than a west Texas oilman.”
Westboro Baptist Church founder, Fred Phelps died last week at the age of 84. God rest his soul. His church of about thirty congregants, mostly family members, was well known for taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ and transforming it into a litany of hatred and intolerance. Well known for his protests of gay marriages and military funerals, Phelps directed his followers to picket, disrupt and shout the most vile epithets at those who attended these rites. There will be few who miss him or his dogma of alienation and self-righteousness.
That last sentence speaks to a common failing for those of us who call ourselves Christians. It is easy to love and care for those who are loveable but quite difficult to hold those who offend us through their words or actions in the same way. Yet we are called upon to do just that.
If the world were composed of people all of whom were saint-like, we would most likely all become saints, living out our life in charity, assisting those who were in need and being in the best sense of the Christian gospel, godly in our manner as we dealt with our fellow men and women. In a deep sense, this is the argument against living a monastic life, only exposing ourselves to other like minded people and living out our lives without being exposed to the real challenges of a real world. It has been argued that cloistered virtue is no virtue at all.
Most of us have not chosen that path and we must deal with the realities of the base, the vulgar and the depraved acts of many of our fellows. While those who fit within those categories may not represent the majority of the world’s populace, they are certainly sufficient in number that they call themselves to our attention in our nightly newscasts.
Their actions, which we find shocking and reprehensible, command far more of our attention than the acts of kindness which are bestowed by members of the world’s human community. Perhaps it is our attraction to the deviant and the lurid that fascinates us in the same way that we are absorbed by stories of werewolves, vampires and the occult.
There may be those who consider themselves Christians who rejoice in the death of Fred Phelps. His manipulation of the Gospel was as far from the Christianity in which I was raised as I can imagine. But if we rejoice in anyone’s demise, no matter how offensive his speech or actions, have we not adopted the exact same mindset as the late Mr. Phelps? Are we any better in making our judgments than the judgment he and his followers heaped on those whom they defined as sinful?
We would all like to believe that somehow we can influence people, either in word, deed or both to be better people. Very often despite our best efforts we see that our advice, counsel or example seem to have little effect. Perhaps the most we can do is continue to do the right thing realizing that it is the right thing – whether or not it provides guidance or change for those with whom we come into contact.
A friend invited me to join him for a two day outing to an area in California where there are lakes and fresh water. Perhaps there will be some frogs there. I haven’t seen any since I moved from the Midwest. If so, I’m going to try to capture one briefly and kiss it – and we’ll see what happens.