Thursday, October 10, 2013


By Teresa Beem

  “Who was the greatest capitalist in the Bible?” Pastor Sleepy questioned his congregation that Sunday morning. 

     “Noah!” the pastor shouted back answering his own question, “He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation!” The praise group drummer played a rimshot as a new wave of laughing erupted from the worshippers. The down-home southern fundamentalist pastor continued:

   “And who was the female capitalist in the Bible?” The audience paused and dabbed their eyes from the tears spilling out with amusement.

   “Why it was Pharaohs' daughter, o’course! She hightailed it down to the Nile and drew out a little prophet!’ As the roar crescendoed he tried to calm them down with his hand.

   “Wait! Wait! I got one more: Who was the greatest comedian of the Bible?” Sleepy himself was now chuckling so hard he could hardly finish. 
   “It.... it,” he caught his breath, “It was Samson. He brought the house down!” 

  Sleepy was Pastor John Whitewasher’s nickname. After graduating from The Opti-Mystics Seminary (known for their rose-colored glasses), Sleepy and his wife had settled in the nice little Christian village of Berea. Their town’s quaint slogan was “K. I. S. S.” (Keep it Simple, Stupid.)

       Every house was freshly painted white with a big, bright welcome mat on each threshold. And nary a discouraging word was uttered by those in the town, for they had such simple faith in Christ. They joy of the Lord was their strength and each family wanted to prove how strong their faith was. Their smiles were their proof and their talisman against the wiles of the devil.

   The pews were always packed in Sleepy’s church. Each sermon was flanked with upbeat songs about eternal safety in Christ. “God is good all the time. All the time He is good” was repeatedly chanted until the upraised hands fell from the exhaustion of such glorious feelings.

   Sleepy’s sermons made the congregation feel they were all in an airplane going to heaven. Each Sunday they would mentally buckle up in their imaginary overstuffed leather first-class seating, turn up the celestial air-conditioning, put on headphones and watch the inflight movie, which of course was the entertaining sermon part.

    To close the program, Pastor Whitewasher always told them to keep their eye on the prize--heaven--and don’t worry too much about what happens on earth in the meantime. Be good, but remember that believer’s good works would never be anything but snow-covered dung hills. Faith-imputed justification without any actions on their part--"so, fellers and gals, no worries! If we really wanted to win the world for the gospel don’t get caught up in dead works, Christians should follow the formula of the three p’s: be positive, be at peace and be righteous partiers!" 

     Will B. Simpleton and his wife Ima, smiling and swaying to the music that morning, were appreciative that the pastor kept the service relevant, inclusive and non-judgmental. Oh don’t misunderstand, they were New Covenant Bible-believers and had daily devotions (Ima called them her “snuggle time with Jesus.”)

     But the spiritual terrorism from the dark forces were never actually spoken of by any balanced Christian in Berea. It made them uncomfortable and above all Jesus would never want anyone to feel uncomfortable. It just wan’t nice or polite to make people feel bad or guilty or humble. And talking about the growing evil sometimes started arguments which gave them negative feelings and after all, genuine Christianity was about feeling warm and cozy and good about ourselves and others. Arguing wasn’t nice. The sermons really needed to stay upbeat and positive in these troublesome times. 

    And the times were troublesome. Just last month the slashers had taken out another Christian. And even Will’s wounds were becoming infected. But no one spoke about it because he tried to keep his slashes covered with high collared necklines and long sleeve sweaters.
       It made people feel uncomfortable when they saw the slashes. They didn’t make any big deal about it. Everyone has slashes, right? It was written, “No one is without slashes, no not one.” So rather than focusing on it, they had all learned to keep themselves busy with the best medicine of all: laughter.

     Laugher didn’t stop the slashings, but it helped the pain. Everyone everywhere was arming themselves with sarcastic jokes and entertaining quips to anesthetize themselves and others. They kept their iPhones next to them to tweet a link to a funny Youtube video or episode of the newest sitcom. 

   A few days after the Sleepy’s sermon, the Whitewasher’s teenage daughter walked into her parents bedroom after having been up late facebooking with her boyfriend.

   “Daddy, there’s one in my room,” she whispered, her white body shaking with terror as her parents pretended to sleep. They didn’t want to know.

      “Daddy.... daddy,” she sobbed pleadingly, “it’s standing next to my computer!” The room was silent.

   Pastor Sleepy figured his daughter was exaggerating the situation. She was a high-drama teenager, after all. Mrs. Whitewasher didn’t want to make waves. A confrontation between her husband and the slasher could get violent. Violence wasn’t nice nor Christian.

    “Be real sweet to it and say a prayer,” her mother whispered back. “Trust Jesus.”

    The girl stood for the longest time trembling, too afraid to return to her room. Then she curled up on the floor next to her father. Even there, she awoke with some deep slashes.

    Mr. Simpleton had a quip he would say with every new slash his family received, “Cheer up, it’s only going to get worse!” And he laughed to lighten the mood.

    When people saw the girl they felt so badly for her, but they didn’t want to say anything. They prayed a quick “marana tha” and tried to stay positive. This was the new normal for the town and they figured the new normal for the world.

      When Will B. Simpleton was hospitalized with sepsis from his slashes people came to see him and they sang happy praise songs bringing handfuls of jokes and funny iPhone videos.

       A male nurse came in and told the family that they needed to keep their doors and windows locked. The only way to keep the slashers out was to take action and keep their homes safe.

       “Mine came through my iPhone, not through a window.” Mr. Simpleton whimpered.

    “Then get rid of your iPhone,” the nurse replied.

      One of the visiting church ladies was offended for the Simpletons and scolded the nurse for being judgmental.

    “We are not that kind of Christian. You just don’t understand the slashers, they mean well. I think they are sincere in what they believe.” And the church lady meant it. She had a few slashes herself and it was normal, normal, she told herself.

   “We don’t worry about the slashers.” Ima Simpleton retorted to the nurse trying to keep the conversation light and positive. “Jesus died so that we all can live with each other in freedom.” She nervously giggled, “No worries!”

     “I am pretty good about keeping the doors and windows locked but the dang things are gettin’ in through the TV or phones. Whadam I supposed to do? Live in the 18th century?” Will Simpleton took up for himself as he lay there in pain squeezing his wife’s small hand.

     “You’re making it too complex, darling.” Ima Simpleton soothed her husband’s brow. “All our methods of keeping out the slashers is of no use, no merit. We have to have faith in Jesus to save us from the really bad slashers.” She spoke confidently, “Jesus paid it all.”

     The nurse looked at the family like they were insane. Then added, “Well in any case, if the slashers got to you, they can get to your family too.”

      “If we could just get rid of Obama." She began and then restarted...."We are saved! We all have a relationship with Jesus and are born-again!” Ima cried.

     “Glad to know it ma’am. But while your still on planet earth, I suggest you bolt the doors and windows and if the slashers are coming through other things, get rid of them. Mr. Simpleton, don’t be naive. Have courage and don’t let the slashers slip in.” The nurse left to the indignant mutterings of the friends and family who then sighed and began watching American Idol.

      Mr. Simpleton died. 

     It grew. It grew worse in the darkness of the nights in Berea. The adults thought they were more immune and convinced themselves they could even have a bit of a relationship with the slashers, that their cuts didn’t run so deep. But the children were being silently terrorized and mutilated as a general hysteria of laughter and silliness echoed in each home. Instead of barring the doors and windows or at least staying awake at night armed for battle, the Christian families slept and were slashed. 

     At church as the congregation bled, the songs of faith from well-dressed, smiling Christians became happier and the dance of joy more frenzied. 

     Pastor Sleepy was sitting in front of his computer one Sunday evening watching Arrested Development on Netflix and his wife was sitting next to him texting a friend about what a good time the women’s spiritual weekend had been--with the young girls coming for the edgy Christian music.

   “Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?” Mrs. Whitewasher texted to reminded her friend of the joke told by the main speaker at the women’s conference. She finished the text,       “When Joseph served in Pharaoh's court” and giggled.

     At just the same second her husband burst into laughter when on the sitcom he was watching, Michael’s brother, Buster said “Hey, hermano.”

      In their 8-year-old son’s dark room, just off where they were sitting comfortably enjoying the amusing relaxation, a Youtube video of Miley Cyrus was being watched and a deep gash was being carved in his soft youthful flesh by a demonic slasher.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Saturday morning, a couple days ago, at 7:30 am when I saw the line of cars going into the Roanoke Convention Center, I became aware of how big the eWomen's Conference was going to be. There were already several lines around the block of women awaiting to get in when the doors opened at 8 am. The plans for my husband and I  to go get coffee at Starbucks before the conference began was dropped because we realized that I better be dropped off right then! 

Smiles We Gave to one Another

All I can write is.... masses... masses of women congregating for this conference. I had gotten a free ticket the day before and had no idea what this was about. I  wasn't really interested in the program itself, I was going to go see an out-of-town family member who was attending. As I sat down I realized I was among ten thousand women who were all pro-life like myself. How wonderful. But even better, these women were here in total dedication to God and were looking forward to worshipping their Savior. These were praying and Bible studying women. I was among like-minded females. A little bit of heaven.

And as the program went from one speaker to the next I became more and more puzzled. And actually a wee bit embarrassed. I was confused, was this a worship service? Was it a study time? Because it was more or less seeming like a time for laughter. The speakers were telling amusing stories and talking about how important it was for Christian women to laugh. Christians need to lighten up and laugh. A simple message for us women I guess.... 

After lunch Christian comedian Tim Hawkins came out on stage and yucked it up for the Lord. And the women laughed hysterically. Women were wiping their faces with tears of mirth as Tim made funny faces and gestures and wagged his bottom at us. And at the end, he said something or other about being a Christian. Funny... funny.... good times for the Lord.

Scattered Pictures of the Smiles We Left Behind

The conference's highlight was then introduced. Smoke generators to make it rock concerty--dramatic lights, cameras and huge television screens set the stage as the music burst our eardrums introducing one of the women from the reality show..... Duck Dynasty. Really. I am not kidding you. 

Forgive me, but I have never seen the show nor am I likely to become a viewer. 

However, since it supposedly the television rage,  a woman from the show got up and told us everything we ever wanted to know and a lot more about the characters. We all got to reminisce (?) about the episode with one of the family members and his love for frogs. And how much the man now loves Jesus as well as frogs. And how the show is full of spit and vinegar sarcasm for the Lord. And it's gritty and earthy and  down-home hillbilly for the Lord. 

Spending the final hour of the conference listening to the earlier infidelities and general horrific behavior of each of the cast members of Duck Dynasty before they gave their hearts to Christ wasn't too worshipful nor inspiring to me. However, judging from the overwhelming adulation of the crowd of women with standing ovations to boot, I was among the very least of these, my brethren, at least among the vast minority. 

I guess extraordinary women today are godly women who love to laugh and be entertained by real life Green Acres. I was uncomfortable. 

So It's the Laughter, We Will Remember....

My discomfort wasn't from a sense of being better than these women, but from a true sense of panic. The entire conference was devoted to entertainment and laughter. And that scares me a little. Not that we don't need laughter... we absolutely do. It is essential. But when I think of all those thousands of women, many who have sacrificed money they could have used in other ways, who worked to find babysitters or to take off time from something important, to drive perhaps from far away--and many came for a spiritual weekend with their daughters.... to... to get a few laughs and then go home? I am afraid they went home smiling with the memory of Tim Hawkins' booty wagging but empty of any real help for their spiritual lives. 

Please don't misunderstand me. We seem to be in a moment of time that we all need to relax and laugh a lot. But you have to ask why is everyone so stressed out that we need so much mindless entertainment? 

We are in a spiritual battle that is why. We all feel the warfare in our lives and in our culture. And at some point we need to directly attack the problem rather than always laughing at the symptoms. 

Our families need to see us with a sense of renewed commitment to God after these weekends--with spiritual tools, spiritual disciplines and some good down-home wisdom that will make our lives more able to combat evil that is attacking our husbands and children. We need help not a high five from God. 

If we don't get some real spiritual wisdom, each of us will require more entertainment,  more yucking it up, more laughter until all we are doing is placing ourselves in a daze of non-stop amusement. Women need a "force quit" weekend   for our mental computers to take a minute to listen to what the silence is telling us. We need a reboot not more incessant pop ups--even when they are religious.

We are a culture shattering from the effects of sin. No one is talking about it. No one wants to talk about it because it is extremely painful. 

Yet, if we really want to be extraordinary women for Christ, we need to focus in on how we can be holy and bring holiness into our homes. And that doesn't get a lot of laughs. We need to help each other deal with life's agonies and for those who are doing well, they need to be preparing ourselves for the coming battle. 

Yes, laugh. Indeed laugh. But we need some wisdom as to when. Some of this entertainment is used by the evil one to slip into our homes unawares. Laugh when we have defeated the Devil. As women of God we are living at a time we need to be like Mary, Ruth and Esther. We need prayer and prayerful support. Then the smiles will be of victory.