Pastor Walter Mitty became increasingly irritated as he listened to Pastor Johnny Christian’s sermon.
“The Lord wants to bless you and make you prosper,” shouted the Rev. Christian to the 2,000 people packing his Miracle Faith Tabernacle. “If you give of your wealth to God, God will increase it ten fold.”
“I don’t know why I watch this guy,” Mitty muttered as he slurped the milk from his cereal bowl.
“If you’re not prosperin’, you’re not trustin’,” boomed Johnny Christian. “Now, people say to me, Pastor Johnny, how can say things like that?’ And I say to them, I started this church ten years ago with just eight people. We were small but we trusted in the Lord. And you see how the Lord has rewarded those who trust him.” The crowd at the Miracle Faith Tabernacle was on its feet hooting and hollering, shouting “amen” and “alleluia.”
“And you know why?” continued Rev. Johnny. “It’s because when you’re trustin’ the Lord, you become confident and decisive. You don’t equivocate. You don’t hesitate. You don’t vacillate. When you’re trustin’ the Lord, the Lord gives you a clear vision and the courage to make bold decisions.”
“I don’t know why I watch this guy,” Mitty repeated to himself as he turned off the TV on the counter and put the cereal bowl in the dishwasher.
He retrieved the newspaper from his front porch and saw that the Tribune was predicting a high of fifty degrees. Amazed that it could be so warm on the 27th of January, he put on his spring jacket, stuck the Tribune in his book bag and decided not to drive the three blocks to his office at the Poplar Park Community Church. “These health/wealth guys don’t understand the cross at all,” he muttered to himself as he walked. “. . . . . .But they know how to be successful,” he admitted. “They do know how to be successful.”
Pastor Walt stopped in the church kitchen to make a pot of coffee and pulled out his newspaper as he sat down on the step stool to catch up on the news while Mr. Coffee gurgled. On page two the name John Kerry caught his eye. Apparently Kerry and Ted Kennedy were threatening to filibuster the nomination of Sam Alito.
“Hmm,” thought Mitty. “That’s not the kind of thing I picture Kerry doing. He’s usually so careful and measured in what he says. . .kind of a look before you leap’ kind of guy. This filibuster thing seems kind of bold for him.”
“Here you are, Pastor. The mail carrier got here early today.” John Havlicek, the custodian, interrupted Mitty’s expert political analysis.
“Looks like Johnny Christian over there at the Tab is putting on another conference.”
Sure enough. Bold colors on a glossy flyer proclaimed, “Bold leaders making bold decisions , a Conference to Equip Pastors for Ministry in these Changing Times.”
Mitty was about to throw it in the wastebasket when he hesitated.
“Being wishy washy was a criticism that stuck to John Kerry during the campaign,” he thought. “I always liked Kerry because he seemed to be thoughtful and careful. . . . . .like he would have thought through the consequences of intervening Iraq before rushing in there.” He laid the flyer down on his desk and checked his calendar to see if the dates for Johnny Christian’s conference were open. “But, Kerry lost, and the man who came off as more decisive has a second term in the White House.
Maybe. . .maybe I should. . . .”
His decision making process was put on hold by a knock on the door.
“Got a minute?” said an attractive woman with short hair dyed fire engine red.
“Sure. Come on in, Daphne,” said Pastor Walt. “Nice hair.”
Daphne Hinckley smiled. “Did it for Valentine’s Day.” The owner of Retro over on Main Street sat down. “I stopped by on the way to work to thank you for being so kind on New Year’s Eve. I hope I didn’t spoil your evening.”
“Not a problem,” Mitty replied. He liked Daphne and was trying to get into his empathic pastor role, but his mind was still on John Kerry and Rev. Johnny’s conference. “Daphne, I have a question for you. What do you think of John Kerry?”
“Good guy. Bad style.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I mean I think he is a nice guy, sincere and all of that. But he over-thinks things. See, Rev., if you are in business like I am, you have to make decisions every day. For some you have more information to base them on, for others you have less. But you have to make them, because opportunity only knocks once. If I hesitate on a buying a shipment of a new craze, one of my competitors will decide, and I’ll lose money. You make mistakes that way, but in the end you’re better off.”
“So, you’re happy that Bush is president?”
“Well, it’s not that I’m happy with all of his decisions, but I do like his style.”
As Daphne got into her car, Pastor Walt picked up Johnny Christian’s flyer and thought, “Maybe this guy has something to teach me after all.”
The phone rang. “Morning, Walt. Bob Sullivan here. Just calling to let you know there’s a clergy association meeting with the village and the chamber of commerce next Tuesday. Something about them wanting to leave out the manger scene from the decorations outside the village hall next Christmas.”
“Thanks, Bob. I’m putting in my calendar right now. Say, do you have a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“What do you think of John Kerry?”
“Huh?” answered the priest from St. Mary’s. “What got you thinking about John Kerry?”
He told Fr. Bob about his conversation with Daphne and added, “Well, see, I got a flyer. . . .”
“Oh, you got Johnny Christian’s invitation, too?”
“Yeah, and it got me to thinking about leadership. And I thought that maybe I would. . .”
“You were thinking that you might go and hear what he has to say,”
Father Sullivan completed Mitty’s sentence. “Tell you the truth, I was, too. I mean, we Catholics are not known for making bold decisions that keep pace with the times. Sometimes it feels like our tradition is like a heavy anchor we are chained to that keeps us from being relevant.”
“And sometimes. . . ?” Mitty sensed that his colleague had more to say.
“And sometimes,” Fr. Bob continued, “it keeps us from blindly stampeding off of a cliff. I’ll give you an example. Bush was so anxious to go to war in Iraq, but our Catholic tradition has a thing called the Just War Theory which raises the bar of permission for resorting to violence very high. In my opinion, he didn’t look before he leaped. If he had used our tradition as a guide and been more care about interpreting the so called “intelligence,” we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in right now.
Same is true about this Medicare prescription drug chaos we’re dealing with. I mean, I don’t agree with all of Kerry’s ideas”especially the abortion thing”but I do like his style. He makes sure there is water in the pool before jumping off the diving board.”
Maybe it was Fr. Sullivan’s reference to water, but Pastor Walt had to go to the washroom after ending his conversation with the priest. When he returned to the office, the light on his answering machine was blinking. When he pressed the “play” button, he heard, “Walt, Mayor Giordelli here. Say, Walt, have you heard about this Christmas manger flap that has started. Walt, this thing could get blown out of proportion and get way out of hand. We’ve got to do something and do it fast. Give me a call right away.”
Mitty sighed. As he went about his phone calls and paper work last Friday, Johnny Christian’s flyer would catch his eye from time to time, but he made no decision. Finally, at 4:45 it came to him. He dialed the number of St. Mary’s Rectory.
“Bob, Walt. Say, I got an idea. Instead of going to the conference over at the Tabernacle, how about you and me and Daphne. . . and anyone else who wants to join in. . .buying Johnny Christian’s latest book and talking about what leadership is all about for three Fridays over at the Mainstreet Cafe?”