Friday, February 11, 2011

It's all math

As I’m sweeping, I see a man walk up the steps and look into the church. He comes back down and approaches. Lean, rangy. Short, gray hair and neat beard. Plaid shirt buttoned at the neck. And that wild mad prophet look in his eyes. “They serve meals in there?”  he says.
“No, we’ve been closed. No heat...there’s food down the street, at the Methodist church.” 
“What kind of church is this?”
“What’s that mean?”
“Well, Protestant.”
“That’s the devil’s work, all that division, dividing Christ like that.”
(I’m almost ready to agree with him.)
“It’s all about the first commandment, thou shalt have no other gods before you, it’s all false pride, I’m right, you’re wrong, it’s all in scripture, I keep right here, close to my heart,” he taps his chest, “it’s the only thing I have left, they can’t take away. Every sin, every sin, comes from that first one. From Adam on down. Trying to be like God, know right from wrong. False pride, my friend, false pride.”
I’d like to tell him that I once preached a sermon on that, how all the commandments follow from the first, all sins a form of idolatry. But I can tell I’m not going to get a word in edgewise. 
And then he’ s off.  Quoting Peter Stoner (‘How ‘bout that name?” he says.) in Science Speaks, with a forward by “famous scientist” H. Harold Hartzler and inevitably to Josh Mc Dowell’s More than a Carpenter.  The 60 prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. The odds of one man fulfilling all these being 1 in 10 to the 157th power. The state of Texas covered knee deep in silver dollars, a blindfolded man finding one marked silver dollar. “It’s all mathmatics, my friend. All math. The only true science. The rest is opinion. If you haven’t read Mc Dowell, you don’t know nothin’.” I’m receiving a five minute rapid fire seminar on the evidentiary evangelical literalist apologetic.
“Every word true, my friend,” he taps his chest, “it’s all math.” He’s talking faster and faster, now off onto becoming a sovereigned citizen. “It’s a fact. Like diplomatic immunity. You can do anything you want. Except murder or treason. Anyone can do it. But if you do, they’ll conspire against you. Oppress you. Come out to get you...” I’m trying to imagine him in a dialogue with George. He’s leaning right into my face.
“Excuse me,” another voice says. “Can you tell me the way to St.Luke’s hospital?” I’m thankful for the interruption. I begin to tell him how to get there from here. The Prophet says, “All right then, my friend. I’ll be on my way. Next time. You’ll see, it’s all math.” And he’s on his way.
“Sorry for the interruption,” the second man says, “but maybe I saved you.” I consider the irony of that statement and repeat my directions to St. Luke’s.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mark Koenig, our national Presbyterian UN person at the corner on his cell phone. The buzz in my pocket says he’s calling me. I greet him. Take him inside for a tour of the church. Then take him next door to Barney Greengrass for coffee and conversation.
Mark shares my Pittsburgh roots. Years of experience in international peace causes. I share with him our vision for the Centre. A place where we can explore these issues. Bring people together for exploration, collaboration. How we could work together. He’s getting ready for the annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. He’s taken by the vision, what it could be. That’s the issue, moving from what it could be to actually being. Before those who can see the vision get worn out.
Later, John and I meet to prepare for our meeting with Susan from Housing Works. And our neighbor Susan. Financial issues have arisen. The economics are hard right  now. Still, the project seems right. And we need this kind of anchor to have any chance at all of making it work. We pass through a difficult moment. Then agree to meet to continue to come up with a proposal that might work. John is working hard on the numbers. It’s all math.

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