| ||Petite, the Poet|
Seeds in a dry pod, tick, tick, tick,
Tick, tick, tick, like mites in a quarrel
Faint iambics that the full breeze awakens
But the pine tree made a symphony thereof.
Tick, tick, tick, what little iambics ...
While Whitman and Homer roared in the pines.
- Edgar Lee Masters
Masters compares the "doggerel" of "Petite, the
Poet" to Homer. A "little" essay titled "Bad
Dreams" by Steve Weathers is in the December issue of Wineskins.
This piece of semi-fiction is a hybrid genre (literary type)
which combines scripture, an essay (essai) which means a literary
attempt to write something significant, and a homily (sermon).
"Bad Dreams" is a satirical take-off on the "10
lepers" (Luke 17:12)and the Canaanitish woman (Matt. 15:22).
The design of the essay is to lampoon the conservative churches
of Christ and the Restoration Movement. "Bad Dreams"
is likewise a form of "low burlesque," which turns the
narrative of the "10 lepers" into a travesty.
The Two Biblical Narratives
The 10 lepers. The life setting of the "10 lepers"
was a common sight. They were compelled by the Torah (Mosaic law)
to live an isolated existence on the outskirts of settlement.
They were provided food and clothing as commanded by the Torah
teaching which protected the dispossessed, e.g., the leper. The
leper cried to Jesus for mercy (healing). Jesus commanded the
lepers to go to the priest and show themselves. All professionals
among the Jews belonged to the learned priestly class. All 10
obeyed, as had Naaman, and went to the priest. He pronounced them
clean of the disease and the quarantine was lifted.
The critique of the first "bad dream. " Only
one leper (a Samaritan) returned to thank Jesus. (Weathers has
him returning before going before the priest, so he can make up
a part of his story.) However, the Wineskins editors have
no trouble mixing fact with fancy. When Jesus inquired as to the
whereabouts of his companions, the healed Samaritan replied,
Lord, you'll have to overlook the other nine. You see, they are
strict followers of what is known as the Restoration Movement.
They were afraid to add anything to your explicit command. You
said nothing about halting our journey to return here.
I am reminded here of a line of a Kipling poem, "The Conundrum
of Worship." The line reads, "Till the Devil whispered
behind the leaves, it's pretty, but is it Art?"
(Brother Weathers, the words you put into the leper's mouth are
"cute," but are they "theology"? I am told
that you are a university professor of English and that Thom Lemmons
is a creative writer of fiction. I would not have guessed either.)
Then our brother adds an odd twist to the story. The "one"
leper went on to say: "They disfellowshipped me ... when
I called them 'spiritual neurotics' and turned back to follow
you." What do we have here, "latter day" Sigmund
Freud? Brother Weathers informs us that often he has nightmares
reading the Bible. I am frank to say that his exegesis of the
10 lepers does give me a little headache.
The Canaanitish woman. The lampooning of the conservative
churches of Christ is also strangely found in the story of the
Canaanitish woman who implored Jesus to heal her daughter "vexed
with an evil spirit." His disciples would have sent her away
since she was a Gentile living outside the pale of Jewish acceptability.
Jesus replied with a seeming appalling rudeness. He was sent only
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Should he take the children's
bread and give it to the dogs? Thereupon, she reminded him that
the dogs ate the crumbs which fell from the master's table. Jesus
did what all along we knew he would do. He assured the distraught
mother that her daughter was restored whole, and he commended
her for her great faith.
A critique of the second "bad dream. " (Brother
Weathers, you surprise us with your "fictional" antics.
You have this "innovative" mother shouting and shouting
at Jesus somewhat like the priests of Baal. Her shouting wore
Jesus down and caused him to heal her "wracked" daughter.
Next, you proceed to ridicule your conservative Christian brothers
with this interpretation. You paint still another picture of the
distraught woman who chose not to face up to Jesus and to grapple
with God. You have her turning away, a defeated, loyal "Restorationist"
and returning home to her still "demoniac daughter"
without putting up a fight. Why do you hold your conservative
brethren in such low esteem?)
I have a life-long love affair with great literature. I have read
Augustine's Confessions, the Divine Comedy, Thomas A. Kempis'
Imitations of Christ, and Milton's Paradise Lost. (I confess,
brother Weathers, that you weary me with your pious nonsense.
We will accept that you are a person of charity and piety. But
why do you use these stories to heap scorn and ridicule upon your
conservative Christian brothers who find worth in Restoration
principles - precept, apostolic example, and necessary inference?)
An Introduction to Satire
Note is taken of the fact that brethren Weathers and Lemmons are
creative writers; this means they are informed in the art of literary
rhetoric. "Bad Dreams" would contain elements of literary
satire but fails to do so. (This writer has more than a passing
acquaintance with the satire of Swift, Dryden, Pope, Mark Twain,
and Rabbelais.) The civilized art of satire originated with the
Romans. Horace first comes to mind. Satire is the artistic use
of an instinct to laugh at what we hate. Satire is the literary
use of a laughter which implies rebuke. (Jesus used satire in
reference to the Pharisees.)
Swift's "Lilliputians" for 2 centuries have epitomized
the perpetual type of human pettiness. Satire is at all times
a criticism of human conduct. Fairness is demanded, and truth
must be recognized.
The obvious purpose of "Bad Dreams" is to ridicule and
lampoon conservative Christians who recognize the worth and limitations
of Restoration principles. Have you, by chance, read the May issue
of Wineskins? The editors piously proclaim that "Our
background and commitment is to the church of Christ born of the
The old saying is: "Give a fellow enough rope." Each
issue of Wineskins reveals that our trendy "New Age"
brethren have an unlimited supply of rope of their own creation.
We never cease to be amazed at the pouring out of strange new
"mixed" wines with each new issue of the magazine. We
do understand Gamaliel's advice that if what they say is indeed
of God, that unity, tranquillity, and peace will come to the churches
of Christians whose troubles are of such magnitude as have not
been seen in this century. The "trouble that the churches
are in" came to the forefront during the Nashville Jubilees
(I 991 and 1992) and was further aggravated by the publication
Our trendy "New Age" brethren should not depend too
heavily on the senior editor of Wineskins for leadership.
The German genius, Goethe, is reputed to be the last scholar in
command of universal knowledge in his age. A knowledge of philosophy,
a surface knowledge of modem theology, and a very limited understanding
of great literature hardly qualifies a person to sit in the honored
academic halls of the "Ivy League." The ability to speak
well on any subject with a "glib" tongue and a quick
"wit" was perfected by the ancient sophists. Their counterparts
flourish in every generation. Such fellows stand in pulpits and
on public podiums all around us who far "outshine" our
"New Age" church of Christ counterparts.
Satire is at all times a criticism of human conduct. Satire is
the artistic refinement of a human instinct to laugh at what we
hate. Satire is the fine art of calling names without seeming
to do so. Satire is a scornful amusement at the foibles and follies
of an individual or human nature and human institutions in general.
Great satire has behind it the driving force of moral conviction,
a burning hatred of evil, the strong antipathy of good to bad.
So as the Wineskins editors and staff find amusement in
"poking fun" at their "Restorationist" brethren,
we shall, as Paul advised, "bear with the foolish gladly"
(2 Cor. 11:19).
A special note. "Bad Dreams" is a typical example
of the suppositions of the "new hermeneutic." Pattern
theology is abandoned, and the books of the Bible are regarded
as occasional documents with a meaning only for the age in which
it was written. Exegesis of scripture is replaced by eisegesis.
To exegete scripture is to draw out of scripture the meaning intended
by the Holy Spirit. Eisegesis is to impose into scripture
a meaning regardless of its original intent. How brother Weathers
reads the "Restoration Movement" into scripture from
2000 years ago is a marvel to behold.
A personal note. Readers are urged to subscribe to Wineskins
and not to depend solely on articles, such as this one to
give the full details of what is alleged.
(Editor's note: Steve Weathers, who wrote the article
in Wineskins magazine, is a professor of English at Abilene Christian
University. We are not surprised that another professor at ACU
has such little regard for the Restoration principle that he seeks
to undercut it by sneering at fundamental Bible teaching. Steve
Weathers reveals in his mocking, sarcastic attack a limited knowledge
of scripture and a woeful misunderstanding of the Bible doctrine
of the meaning of silence. It is inexcusable - Dobbs)
Feature Book: Among the Scholars
by David W. Hester
Paperback, 167 pages
$7.99 + shipping and tax if applicable
Click here to order