Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Parable of Jack and Shep

Recently an anonymous commenter at Banned had this to say:

"I stay for the fellowship."
Really? And you consider yourself a Christian? Matt 10:37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." You apparently love even your buddies more than Jesus.
August 24, 2015 at 10:24 PM
Then on the post titled

"PCG Parents Loose Custody of Daughter" 
​Dennis C Diehl gave a long list of additional Bible quotations that support this idea of shunning, banning, disfellowshipping, excommunicating, or committing other abuse against those who  question ​church dogma.
Here is a parable that pertains to this issue. The basic story is not original with me; I got it in an e-mail forward, and so I assume it is in the public domain. What I did was embellish it with character and setting details not in the original. Interesting note: the same basic plot device, with different setting and action, also formed the basis for an episode of "The Twilight Zone." The writing style here is pretty much the way I tell it in storytelling performances.

 (Retired Prof)

The Parable of Jack and Shep

This is a Jack tale. Not the same Jack as the one that traded off the family cow for a handful of bean seeds, but one of his descendants, a Jack modern enough to own a pickup truck.

He also owned a dog named Shep, sort of an ordinary-looking black and white farm shepherd. Jack and Shep went everywhere together. People in town would see Jack’s truck going down the street and say, “Yep, there go JackenShep.” Like it was one word. JackenShep. Dogs would sniff the base of a lamppost or fire hydrant and think, “Yep, ShepppenJack came along here.” Jack never ate in restaurants because they wouldn’t let Shep come in. He would order a hot dog or hamburger at the drive-up window. Two of them, actually: one with onions for himself and one without for Shep. When he simply had to go in a store where Shep wasn’t allowed, Jack would tell Shep to wait outside, because he would be back out pretty soon. The dog would stay there till Jack came out. Everybody liked Shep, especially little kids and old people, and they would scratch him behind the ears and wait for Jack to come out, or maybe if they were short on time they would go on inside and say hi to him there. Everybody liked Jack too.

Well, one day Jack and Shep had a bad wreck in Jack’s pickup on an icy bridge, and they both passed out. When they woke up, they could still walk around like always, and Jack could still scratch Shep behind the ears, and Shep could still lick Jack’s hand. Then Jack got suspicious. He said, “I ain’t cold. Here I am, ice and snow all around, wearing nothing heavier than this little old denim jacket, and I ain’t the slightest bit cold!” He looked around and got a shock when he saw his truck. The cab was crushed almost flat. He said, “Oh mercy goodness, nothing could have come out of that cab alive.” As you might expect, under the circumstances it took a while for the significance of what he had just said to sink in. Finally Jack said, “Well I be durn. I always wondered what it’s like to be dead. Now I know. It just feels normal.” He looked down and said, “Well, Shep, I don’t know nothing for it but to go on down the road. Let’s not go back the way we came. No point revisiting the past. I don’t see any future in it.”

Pretty soon they saw some kind of big impressive establishment with white walls and towers. It was high up on a hill overlooking the valley. Looked like a mosque or a cathedral or Disneyland. Something of that nature. Jack said, “Shep, let’s go check that place out.” All the snow and ice had disappeared, and the valley was green like June.

At the foot of the hill they came to a nice driveway leading up. The hill was high and steep, but the road was easy walking because it was smooth and broad and full of hairpin turns. Real crooked.

From time to time, up the hill through the trees, they could see the walls of the place, like polished marble. When they got closer, they could see coils of razor wire all along the top of the walls. Then at the top of the hill, they saw that the towers they had seen from afar were spaced a hundred yards apart like watchtowers, as far as the eye could see. Jack said, “Shep, I reckon the people that own this place must have treasures stored up here that they don’t want thieves to break in and steal.”

They came to a gate. It looked a lot like the fancy iron gate in front of a gated community or some rich man’s estate—maybe even the White House—except it was all iridescent, like mother of pearl. The driveway leading up to it was blacktop. The street on the other side was gold. In front of the gate, off to the side, there was a high desk like in a restaurant where the hostess asks if you have a reservation. The big man standing behind it had flowing white hair and beard, and he wore a white robe. He was overjoyed to see Jack.

He yelled, “Hi, Jack! Good to see you, man. Welcome to Heaven! We’ve been expecting you ever since we saw you start across that bridge.”

Jack blinked and swallowed hard a couple of times before he thought to say thank you.

The man in white said, “Now Jack, we want to fulfill your most heartfelt desires. Whatever you yearned for in life that you could not have, tell us what it was. Maybe you were too poor and couldn’t afford it, or maybe somebody wouldn't let you have it. Makes no difference. You can get it here. We aim to please.”

Somewhere across the fence Jack could hear an organ playing “Ode to Joy.” Or maybe it was a calliope. Yes, he could see puffs of steam in that direction. He also heard and saw a fireworks display. The smell of sulfur drifted in. A Ferris wheel was turning, and a tilt-a-whirl. People squealed the way ecstatic teenage girls used to when Elvis or the Beatles came on stage.

Jack said, “Well, I been traveling a ways, and right now I’m real thirsty. Can I get a cold drink of water?”

Man in white just busted out laughing. When he caught his breath, he said, “In all my days working the admissions desk, that is the simplest, the most modest request anybody ever gave. Of course you may have a glass of water.” He clapped his hands twice.

Instantly a beautiful young woman wearing a halo and a pair of wings appeared. She was holding a tray with a pitcher of ice water on it, and a crystal goblet. She held it out to Jack, and he reached for it but then stopped and looked at the man in white. He said, “Reckon could Shep have some water too? In a bowl?”

Man said, “Shep? Who is this Shep? Nobody by that name on the list.”

Jack pointed at his dog.

The big man’s eyes bugged out. “That quadruped? A mere beast? You ought to know better than to think you can bring a dog into Heaven. He’s got no soul. He’s not even made in the right image. Get that son of a bitch—and I mean that in the technical sense—get him out of here!” The veins in his neck stood out. His face was red.

Jack looked through the gate. He always used to go to the county fair every night it was open. He said, “You all got a nice carnival here. Lots of rides. Lots of excitement. I couldn’t have no fun in there, though, with Shep stuck out here. I reckon we better go on down the road and see what else we can find.”

The man said, “You mean you would give up eternity in Heaven for the sake of a wretched mongrel cur? Let me plead with you, Jack. Hear the call. Please, Jack. Answer the call today.” Jack didn’t say anything, just looked at him. “Let me warn you, Jack. This is the last chance you will ever get. You don’t deserve another one. But I tell you what, Jack. What you do deserve is what you will get if you go on to that next place down the road. Every minute of it. You hear me? Every miserable damned minute. And I mean damned in the technical sense.”

Jack said, “Yeah, well. You got a nice place here, but if you ain’t going to let Shep in too, we better just go on down the road. Besides that, taking something I didn’t deserve, I’d feel like a piker. Come on, Shep, let’s go.” They headed back down the hill to the road that ran along the river bottom.

After while they came to another driveway on the other side of the road and went down that. This was just a little narrow two-track leading out through the woods toward the river. Greenbriers and blackberry vines grew on both sides, so you had to stay pretty close to the middle of the road.

Eventually the woods opened up to a clearing with a big elm tree in the middle, and on the other side of the tree was a wooden gate between two tall cedar gateposts with a long horizontal pole joining them at the top. The gate looked like it hadn’t been closed in a long time, and if there ever had been a fence, it was gone now.  A man sat in a chair in the shade reading a book. He had on grey pants and a light blue short-sleeved shirt and looked like maybe a small-town lawyer or real estate agent, something like that.

When he saw Jack and Shep, he broke into a big smile and said, “Hey there, Jack. Glad you could make it.” He stretched out his hand to the dog and said, “Come here, Shep.” Shep went over, and the man scratched him behind the ears and told him he was a good dog. Shep grinned and wagged his tail.

Man looked up and said, “Well, Jack, you okay? Anything you need?”

Jack wiped his mouth. “I could stand a cold drink of water.”

Man in the blue shirt said, “Why sure. There’s a well on the other side of the house back there.” He pointed toward some lilac bushes, and just past them Jack could see a white house with a long porch. “I just now drew up a fresh bucket and set it on the table next to the well. There’s a dipper and a clean glass sitting on it, and a bowl on the ground for Shep. If you use all the water in the bucket, draw another one.”

Jack and Shep walked back there and stayed gone for some time. When they finally came back, Jack said, “You know, this place reminds me of Grandma’s. I spent some of the best times of my life there, in the summers.”

Man said, “It’s similar. Lot less drouth. Neighbors are all nice people. They’d enjoy a visit, only most of them aren’t home right now, because the county fair’s going on. Tell you one thing about those neighbors, though. You can count on them. If they give their word, they’ll keep it.”

Jack said, “Sounds real good. What’s the name of this place?”

“This is Heaven.”

Jack’s eyes bugged out. “Heaven? There’s a man up the road calls his place Heaven.”

Man said, “I think I know that establishment. Way up on a hill?” Jack nodded. “Whitewashed walls and watchtowers?” Jack said they were white, all right. “Cheap plastic mother-of-pearl veneer on the gate?” Jack allowed that could have been what he saw. “Streets spray-painted gold?” Jack said maybe so. “All kinds of noise and confusion inside?” Jack said definitely so.

“Yeah, that’s Hell.”

“Hell? Hell? Don’t it make you mad for somebody to operate a place like that in the name of Heaven?”

“Nah. Doesn’t bother me. They do part of my work for me. They screen out everybody that would walk off and leave their best friend.”


Anonymous said...

Now that makes sense. Sad to say the people who should be reading and thinking on that, won't be on this site.
Too bad that can't be copied and pasted to face book or email!

otis C said...

Getting shunned, marked or kicked out. That must be traumatic, finding your fair weather friends turning their back on you.
As it's written, you shall know them by their fruits, When that happens is when you need the support of true friends.
How many of us in the church have REAL friends? You really have only Jesus and your spouse!

DennisCDiehl said...

Outstanding!!! Thank you for the analogy. It is the truth. Marking, disfellowshipping, avoiding, no with one such not even to eat and dis-membering assures one that they will swap their true friends and family for a fake but organized (so called) group of folk you would never have met in real life and who ultimately will renig and withdraw themselves from you in a heartbeat if told to.

Life and spirituality is an inside job. The MOMENT you try to organize it, you kill it and lose it. Outside in demands that one conform or "all speak the same thing" which is usually , no always, the same thing the leader wants spoken, is a formula for down the road regrets one ever heard of such a thing. All speaking the same thing denies critical thinking, blocks the kind of observations about leadership that may notice mental illness , delusional thinking and dangerous ideas that is vital to one's PERSONAL MENTAL HEALTH, financial well being and happiness in the now which is all one really has.

Living in the world of "Prophecy" is another formula for missing one's actual life and substituting a never ending negative tension , which also takes its physical toll on the body and mind, for reality. NO ONE CAN OR EVER HAS KNOWN THE FUTURE. Guessing is what humans do to relieve their inner tension and give meaning to terrible circumstances or a generic hopelessness they feel.

Men like Dave Pack and Bob Thiel make theological fools of themselves playing with prophecy and assigning meanings to scriptures and events that they don't actually mean. And foolish non critically thinking people evidently love it to be so.

As, in my own mind, a sincere minister who was very much wanting to know, be and do "the right things" and encourage with such amazing "truth", I trusted my new "family" , i.e the physical church leadership to make good on my own concerns about such frivolous things as no Jesus yet and getting older with years of service in what I thought I was supposed to do. While not wishing to endure the occasional "you got what you deserved" , let me say that trust was misplaced and
"we'll take care of you," has come to mean something else to me personally. People do need to eat and take care of the basics in life. Eastman Kodak made good on its commitment to take care of my dad for his service to them, which was great. He retired at 62 because his other three close friends at Kodak all died before they had a chance to retire. He died at 98 and Kodak, which had gone bankrupt by the time of his retirement, met their promised obligations to him. In his later years, dad bought a Canon Digital Camera because Kodak, who invented the digital camera was too stupid to believe it was the next big thing in photography.

Anyway...just Sunday morning thoughts before work sitting in my rented room in a beautiful home owned by wonderful people who invited me to eat with them this evening. It's kind of ironic to me that I am living and working in the Willamette Valley along the Willamette River where HWA roamed and set in motion my own life events before I was ever born.

All this rummination to say....Thanks Prof for the analogy. Spot on!

James said...

Excellent Professor. Just plain excellent!

DennisCDiehl said...

PS I contacted a former minister friend who pastors a major COG here in Oregon and lives a short distance from me. No response. I dropped a short note to the former friend who heads another major COG, well acutally, the response. I contacted a local fellow who reads my writings and lives nearby and no response. I EVEN saw Bob Thiel as COGwriter on line on AOL and got curious to say "Hi Bob" and you never saw a name disappear so fast online in your life! lol.

I even offered to come see Dave Pack for a Bible chat at his compound, 3 guessed it! LOL.

Art Mokarow was kind enough to pay my way to Dallas to "debate" him and from that he claims he was inspired to write 20 or 30 more "books" so glad I could help him out.

Just goofin around here. Off to work.

Connie Schmidt said...


(As I show up with my totally black cat named "Midnight")...

Eventually the woods opened up to a clearing with a big elm tree in the middle, and on the other side of the tree was a wooden gate between two tall cedar gateposts with a long horizontal pole joining them at the top. The gate looked like it hadn’t been closed in a long time, and if there ever had been a fence, it was gone now. A man sat in a chair in the shade reading a book. He had on grey pants and a light blue short-sleeved shirt and looked like maybe a small-town lawyer or real estate agent, something like that.

When he saw Connie and Midnight, he broke into a big smile and said, “Hey there, Connie. Glad you could make it.” He stretched out his hand to the called and said, “Come here, Midnight.”

Midnight acted like he never heard the Angel.


Midnight ignores the angel again, and actually looks away the other direction.


Again no response from Midnight. This goes on several more times, as Midnight ignores him and even dares to lick his hindquarters in derisive arrogance right in front of the angel.

Finally, the angel in frustration tosses a rock at Midnight, and the cat rears up and loudly growls and hisses at the angel.


Byker Bob said...

I've contended for years that deep spiritual lessons come to a person in the course of drinking in of regular life from our particular surroundings, and this includes art, music, television, and the movies. In Armstrongism, we were taught that every spiritual lesson of value would come from the teachings of "God's Apostle", and was restricted to what we would learn from the church. Even our understanding of the Bible could only be as filtered through HWA, or through the principles of Armstrongism. Second opinions were not tolerated. And, of course, this is one of the bases of cults and controlled, cultic thinking. I don't believe we would have experienced this level of repression even if HWA had been the quasi-Biblical figure that the severely indoctrinated have made him out to be.

I remember this Twilight Zone episode, not from back in the day, but from Memorable Entertainment Television. When the Twilight Zone first aired, church members were taught that this was a whacked out program, probably influenced by demons, that "true Christians" should not be watching. So, I had missed it, though undoubtedly my friends and fellow students in school had had the benefits of such input, as part of the contemporary culture and Zeitgeist of that day. In the early days of television, Jewish writers and producers were very prominent and often based the "All American" morality plays on television on principles from the Talmud and the Torah. Such a man was Rod Serling. Michael Landon was another.

Thanks for providing a bit of COGniscent relevance, RP! I have to tell you when I saw this episode a few years ago, I saw the curator of the first "heaven" Jack visited as being HWA, and the guy from the second place with the real facts as being my old buddy John Trechak.
There were certainly others in the forefront in the 1970s setting the facts straignt, but because of his passions in this direction, John has come to symbolize all of them.


Byker Bob said...

Dennis, in their binary thinking, you now represent Satan. These people whom you attempt to contact are either wary of the potential influence you might have on what they believe to be their salvation, or would rather avoid having their cherished beliefs challenged through discussion with you. Figuratively, they feel like they are avoiding a leper.

From time to time, some of the rarer of the zombies have attempted to anonymously, and retrospectively make us better understand the many teachings of HWA which we have rejected, believing that if we the had "proper" understanding that they believe themselves capable of imparting, we might return. But, these folks are not like the character Robin Williams played in the film where he literally went to Hell to rescue his wife, who ironically enough, had committed suicide. They would only go so far, and probably would not ultimately enjoy sitting down with any of us, in real friendship, to enjoy some beer and pretzels. To them, humanity takes a back seat to the programming, and friendship can only be based on similar attitudes towards and acceptance of that programming. They never got past the idea that, and I reverse paraphrase here, "Man was made for the sabbath."

Culties filter incoming input through their cultic understanding, and new input only serves to reinforce what they surrendered to years ago, and believe that they "know". This is why you can have an Art Mokarrow indulging in debate, but then writing 20-30 new books from the position of the debate having validated and strengthened his original position. The problem with Armstrongism is that it is programming, and is continuously exercised by will-power. There never was any transcendent spiritual enlightenment component to it all. It is simply a behavior pattern, practiced in the belief that the spiritual enlightenment will come, if you qualify, in the next lifetime.


Allen Dexter said...

Dennis, I was thinking of sending you an email to see how you are doing and you just cleared that up. I'm just hoping everything in your life continues to go well. It's quite an adventure, this thing called "life."

DennisCDiehl said...

Hi Allen...oh man yeah !

Anonymous said...

yes this story is very similar to a Twilight Zone episode....the man was coon hunting and the coon ran out into the water....he drowned the dog and the man drowned trying to save the dog....

another one that comes to mind is "Howling Man"...where Satan is caged in a monastary of sorts...tricks a visitor into releasing him.

there are a number of biblical themed stories on that show...I loved watching it as a kid.