Not long ago, a student came in and asked if I'd read his novel. I think of myself as a good teacher mostly, but such requests don't rank high on my to-do list. It's wonderful when a kid actually writes an entire novel, but I can guess what I'd think about what's on his papers long before I'd put in the hours required.
I tried to dodge. "What's it about?" I asked him, and he gave me a list of America's darkest, most inky sins and how they were destroying us all. His novel would bring people back to the Lord, he said. End-of-the-world stuff, apocalyptic.
That fact didn't make me any more favorably inclined.
And then he said, "God told me to write it."
Playing the God card simply ends conversation. There wasn't a thing I could say, really, but consider him more than a little shaky. But then, back there in B. C. somewhere, I'm guessing the temple's elite thought Samuel a nut case too. I'm just enough of a Christian not to guffaw openly when someone says God's voice is their own private GPS. After all, there's always a chance. He's done it before.
So how about the Reverend Terry Jones, Gainesville, Florida, pastor of a 50-person flock at the Dove Outreach Center (I'm not making that up), who, along with his disciples plans to go ahead and torch the Koran come 9/11 and thereby teach those danged heathen muslims the whole gospel truth? He takes his orders from the God of heaven and earth, who must have told him a good old-fashioned book burning is just what He needs to bring the infidels to their senses.
Yesterday, the right's most decorated saint, General David Patraeus, as much as begged Pastor Jones to put his Bic aside, but that request didn't stop the starry-eyed preacher and his disciples from chugging along on their planning, although, he said, now they're praying about it. Jones told Chris Matthews that even if his own political hero, George W. Bush, were to ask him to cease and desist, he wouldn't because the Lord is his own private field general.
Look, I doubt God told him to burn Korans. I doubt whatever voice he claims to have heard from the clouds or pews or the prayer chapel. But I really do hope that the God I worship will speak to this bonzo in one of those prayers he says he's offering up right now, seeking his will. I hope that the Creator of heaven and earth will tell him in no uncertain terms that what he's doing is perfectly legal but monumentally stupid and a forthright denial of the gospel's very heart and soul, which is love. At least that's what my God tells me.
Count me among the lost, but I think we need to take cover when people think they're some shirttail relation to John the Baptist. Most all of us, once in awhile, hear voices. Only an odd few are goofy enough to think it's Jehovah God.
Tell him, Lord. Let him know that he's not only mad, but dead wrong, this fool.
Good American soldiers will die, Petraeus says. No matter, says the Reverend Terry Jones. I got to listen to God.
Lord, help us all.
Lord, help us all.