Here is Part Three (of Seven) of my Ministry Series:
Still stymied in my search for the Secret, I stumbled into the Secretariat of Salvation. I had been wandering along Church Street, without a clue; and there, where Church meets State Street, it was. I walked onto the grounds through the pearly gates and entered the temple, thinking “perhaps it’s salvation that I’ve been seeking, for I am surely lost.”
It was easy to tell who was on the staff and who was not: the clerks were all garbed in black robes, solemnly bustling about in the labyrinth of partitioned workspaces that filled the vast, high-ceilinged chamber. I walked over to the Information counter and “ahem”ed to get the attention of the robed clerk, who was reading from a massive black-bound tome. He looked up, annoyed at my interruption.
“Uh, good book you’re reading there?” I asked.
“The best book. How, pray, may I be of service?”
“Well – you see, I’m trying to find the Great Secret, and I wondered -”
“There is no Great Secret! It’s all in The Book, as you would already know, if your parents had raised you right.”
“Um, salvation, then. How do I find salvation?”
“Naturally, by doing every day, in every way, that which pleaseth God.”
“But how can I know what will please . . . Him? Or is it Her?”
“HIM, infidel! Look, it’s all in The Book. Haven’t you heard of the Many Musts?” He proceeded to recite some from memory. “Thou must, perforce, address God by His True and Proper Name, which is ‘I Yam What I Yam.’ Thou must, perforce, worship God through His designated representatives, and give them money. Thou must, perforce, love God, no matter what He does to you.”
“Ah, pardon me, but how do I know who I’m to trust as His designated representatives, to help me find salvation. . . and who I’m to give the money to, of course?”
“By their robes of Holy Office shall ye know them.”
“Okay, I think I have the first two down; but about that third Must . . . I don’t understand. How can anybody command love? It seems to me that love is . . . a spontaneous response. Or a gift. I mean, you either feel it or you don’t. You can’t make yourself love . . . right?”
The clerk’s face reddened. “Thou treadeth on the border of heresy, Bub. We are talking about GOD, not just some vile sinner like yourself! If it says in His Book that you’d better love him, or suffer eternal torment, you’d just better love Him!”
“Okay, okay, I hear you. But . . . but if I’m a sinner – and I’m not suggesting that I’m not – how am I to know what is a sin?”
The clerk sighed. “Verily thou art enough to try the patience of Mope, son of Rube, whom God didst sorely test. I tell you, it’s all in The Book! 100% of the Truth. Everything, all here!” The thumped his copy for emphasis.
“But I’m still confused. It seems to me that the only real truth we can know is in our direct experience of the world. Anything we say or write about it only reflects the truth, it doesn’t contain it. It can’t. Right?”
The clerk’s eyes narrowed to slits. His voice was gravelly with emotion. “Bubba, are you saying that you know more about the Truth than GOD? Now, why would He have gone to all the trouble of dictating The Book to his holy ghost writers if just any poor shlub, such as yourself, could figure out the Truth for his own damned self?!”
“I . . . guess I see your point,” I said, although I really didn’t. I was getting a headache, like you get from thinking too long about where the universe ends. “Thanks for all your help.”
I turned and walked away, the clerk’s reflexive “God bless you” echoing hollowly in the huge high holy hall.