February 24, 2013 by jmar198013
—Calvin Luther Edwards, III: Contributing editor for The Phinehas Page—
After my talk with Beauregard Jones Tuesday morning, I decided to skip the pre-lunch lectures and go to the Memphis Zoo. It dawned on me that the Full Armor Lectureship—indeed, our entire fellowship—was its own menagerie, a stationary Noah’s ark whose inhabitants refused to leave, all blaming one another for the stench in there. We are not exotic breeds from faraway lands in the First United Primitive Christian Church, however. We are more like stubborn relics of the recent past, looking at the world through nauseatingly garish Technicolor lenses. We live on in the rubble of Modernism, proudly making no concessions to the rest of the world as it evolves without us, flinging our filth at each other. I felt quite at one that day with the animals in the zoo, for it came to me that I, too, had been bred in captivity.
When it got to be about one in the afternoon, I figured I ought to head back to the Doogood Ave. Church and listen to a lecture or two. I looked at the schedule provided in the lectureship brochure, and saw that at two o’clock, I could choose between Horace Upchurch lecturing on “Jude 6; Or, If the Angels Could Sin in Heaven, What’s to Stop Us Sinning Once We Get There?” and Flavil Waddey on “Jude 4: Who Are the Men Ordained for Condemnation?” At 3:30, Open Forum would begin. The scheduled topics of the day were, “Is It Okay to Blend Two Acts of Worship (e.g., Singing and the Lord’s Supper)?” and “If God Heareth Not the Prayers of Sinners (John 9.31), Does It Do Any Good to Pray for Forgiveness?” Now, my kind reader, I must admit that I was once prideful concerning our Brotherhood, because we boldly ask the questions our denominational counterparts would never think to ask. I always believed that we were cleverer than they. But when I looked at the brochure and saw the matters up for discussion, it hit me that we ask the sorts of questions that only people with nothing better to do with their time can come up with.
So I decided to grab some Chinese take-out and head back to the hotel. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening nibbling on Szechuan chicken and shrimp-fried rice and watching specials about haunted places on the History Channel. I got to thinking that many of our churches have an odd stench about them, like a god had crawled up inside them to die. I’ve always hated hanging around in church buildings at night by myself. Now I know why—they’re haunted! The spook that dwells within them is simply the God they have created in their own image, and he is a cantankerous and cadaverous fellow. He sneaks up behind you in unguarded moments and whispers frightful things to you, with his fetid breath making you sick. Usually he speaks to you in the words of old hymns, saying things like:
“Did you repent . . . fully repent?”
And, “Sad, sad—that bitter wail: almost . . . but lost!”
Or, “Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready for the judgment day?”
And when he’s feeling especially ornery, “Watching you! Watching you! There’s an all-seeing Eye watching you!”
And that, my readers, is when I began to know the truth, the sort of truth that makes you free. And I started to giggle. My soul was sort of like an arm that’s been in a cast for several weeks—a bit pale and atrophied and stinky, perhaps, but nonetheless glad to be out in the fresh air again. That’s how Lazarus must have felt coming out of the tomb, you know—still hobbled and stifled by grave clothes, still baptized in the stench of mildew and death. Doing the pogo until he fell down, then doing the worm, anything to get out of that cave full of rot. And I knew then that for years the voice that sustained the cosmos, and called into being things that were not, had been calling to me, as well: “Calvin Luther Edwards, come out of there!” I must admit, I had been ignoring my summons for quite some time. But that night, I had neither the willpower nor the desire to ignore it any longer.
The loosing of my death shroud began with me addressing an imaginary Open Forum crowd in an impromptu display of prosopopoiia: “May we mix two sorts of worship, such as singing during the Lord’s Supper?”
“No!” I replied in my best Skeeter McDoogan voice (think half Marvin the Martian, half Andy Griffith). “Just like God didn’t tolerate the mixing of two kinds of cloth in the Old Testament, he don’t ‘low no mixin’ of worship!”
“I think it’s perfectly acceptable,” I said in my best Remus Philbert voice (imagine Huckleberry Hound hopped up on methamphetamines), “so long as you don’t try and sing with a mouthful of crackers and fruit of the vine.”
“You’re wrong, Walrus!” huffed my Skeeter McDoogan voice. “First Corinthians 14.40 says, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’ That obviously means one thing at a time.”
“That is a most unnecessary inference, Brother McDoogan,” replied Pseudo-Philbert. “All it means in this instance is that you shouldn’t sing ‘Night, with Ebon Pinion’ with your mouth full of crackers, or else you’ll end up spewing crumbs all over the back of the person in the pew in front of you.”
“That,” cried the spurious Skeeter, “is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”
I laughed at that off and on for about four minutes. Then I got into the shower, and began to sing: “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God. But children of the heavenly king, but children of the heavenly king/ may speak their joys abroad, may speak their joys abroad.” And for the first time in my life, I directed “who never knew our God” at us, and not some other church.