Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
There are some arguments, yes, for brazenly taking your piece, your gat, your equalizer, into the churchhouse. Not necessarily good arguments, but arguments.
For one thing, you never know when that big buck deer whose head you've dreamed of putting above your mantel is going to crash in through one of the stained-glass windows, and if you're pewed there unarmed, you'll likely miss the best opportunity of the season to bag up some fresh venison and get it on home and dressed and butchered and seasoned and into the skillet in time for Sunday dinner that same postnoon.
Of course in that circumstance you could always leap aboard the deer's withers and try choking it with your bare hands, but that would be unseemly somehow in a church, out of keeping with the charitable spirit befitting a house of praise, and your prospects for a successful outcome would, I would hazard, be considerably diminished. You'd probably need help, for instance, and every extra pair of hands on the animal's throat would represent another call for a portion of the spoils — a haunch, a side, the madstones in a pouch, the forelegs for making into a gun rack.
Shooting the deer rather than choking it would be preferable in several respects, including shortening the disruption of the worship service, so that, say, the pandemonium that threw the tail-end of the Doxology into chaos wouldn't obtrude over into the meditative opening bars of the offertory. Decorum could be restored for an edifying sermon, altar call, and postlude. You wouldn't get that sort of quick ambience turnaround and the attendant benedictive closure with a drawn-out strangulation.
There might be other reasons, too.
In every Sunday School class, for instance, there are sanctimonious people who want to argue with the teacher, and they can get pretty purple when the lesson topic broaches with disfavor certain marginal behaviors of which they might be fairly well-known community or at least congregational exemplars. It could provide the teacher with moral support, if nothing else, if he or she were able, as the situation began to take on the look of a budding ruckus, to give a conspicuous pat to a certain holster-shaped underarm bulge and to speculate calmly whether the time might not be approaching to bring in the esteemed Mssrs. Smith and Wesson as arbiters.
And there's this. Often, especially in this season, it occurs that someone in the nave will decide that the more hushed parts of the service are just the time to take up the hobby of repetitive throat-clearing, which involves the frequent raucous bringing up of gelid bronchial horrors indubitably of recent Beelzebubbian concoction. Now I can't speak for the Great Scorer, but it's my personal opinion that it would not be held against you on Judgment Day if during one of these outbursts you should very quietly unholster, screw on your silencer, maneuver until you have a clean line of fire, and dispatch a ball to scorch a shallow trough across the hawking malefactor's most likely shoe-polished hairline, giving it a new part, if you will.
But as the Burning Bush taught us, or tried to, we should be very cautious, just extry cautious, of introducing hardware, or even footware, into the presence of the holy mysteries. The keepers of those mysteries don't appreciate the introduction of instruments that might profane the proceedings, and shooting irons are surely rather high up on that instrumental list. Remember what happened to those impious Nazi shoot-em-ups in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
I recall members of my own family saying, “Well, if Mildred hits that sour note on ‘The Old Rugged Cross' again like she's done every time we've sung it for 25 years, something's just got to be done,” and I shudder to think what might have happened if, when that sour note inevitably recurred, one or more of my exasperated loved ones out in the omnium-gatherum had been packing. Would the temptation have been just too great to give Mildred's towering blue do a new chunnel?
A sign of the times — “Please don't shoot our organist as she's doing the best she knows how.”
Mother used to say that nobody ever got sick from going to church. Not once in 2,000 flu and cold seasons. I doubt the veracity of that but she was on solid theological ground. Since the advent of the germ theory of disease, it's been common doctrinal orthodoxy that the Holy Ghost kiboshes lurking streptococci when the Cup is passed, even the nastiest ones during flat-out contagions. And if there's fact in that holding — if the sanctuaries do indeed seat a power that can detoxify pathogens just by invocation — then whanging your trespasser piece into a plowshare should be a simple matter for them, and you might not want to make too strenuous an objection if your pistola is nominated as the whangee.
If you don't feel safe going in there unarmed, then don't go in. It's a test of faith, and the gun signifies that you've already failed — besides serving as a cold rebuke to the Founder's core teachings, notably the one instructing you to love those who would do you harm, to do good to them rather than throwing up chancel breastworks and returning their fire.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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