HOME, SWEET HEAVEN INSTALLMENT #28

Chapter Twenty Six

POTNAR failed to deny himself sleep over the loss of Taiwan to China. As long as this insignificant little island remained in its traditional place in the world economic system, he could live with the regime change. What did occupy his happy mind was the peace treaty. Its mere existence elevated him to a position of the most commanding respect in the world community for its accomplishment, something that American presidents had sought without fulfillment since just about the beginning of time. It’s time I put that respect to use, he thought, reminding himself of the deference that Poteur had shown him over the recent past. Collecting his enormous staff, he put it to them with his characteristic directness: convene a conference of the Regional Presidents. When asked deferentially by his Chief of Staff what this conference might entail, he merely said that he had a speech to deliver. With that, he retired to his favorite lounge, uncapped the exquisitely costly decanter of Scotch Whisky and poured a generous amount into a waiting goblet of silver inlaid with enormous diamonds and a painstakingly-crafted gold image of his crowned head. He called for his private secretary, who sat on the spartan chair provided for the purpose of dictation and began musing on the broad outlines of the speech he would deliver to this convention of world leaders. These days he usually delegated the task of speechwriting, like all his other duties, to his staff. But this time his mood told him that he could do this better by himself. Almost magically the most appropriate and eloquent words came into his head and out his mouth, to be collected with reverence by his secretary like precious jewels. He didn’t need an outline. The words just seemed to come out in the right order and fit without further adjustment into a grand organizing pattern that was simply there. He finished within the hour, filled his goblet with scotch, and shooed his secretary away to have the speech immortalized on paper without the usual invitation to sit on his lap. What he had just accomplished was far more enticing than the prospect of sex, and he used the interim to reflect on the recognition of greatness that this message would engender among those to whom he would deliver it.

Indeed, as he presented his speech to the body of leaders, they displayed the deference that he had anticipated. Actually, he reflected as he looked at them, their attitude went beyond deference to a state of awe, which led directly to the bottom line. “Gentlemen, I am now prepared to assume the duties and responsibilities, as is my rightful due, as your ultimate leader. I wish to formalize that position with your vote of confidence.” He paused, allowing the vote to be taken. It was unanimously in his favor, as he had expected, knowing that a win in the face of dissension by a minority would be met with virtually instant excommunication of the opposition, with a most unpleasant death very close behind.

His position having been formalized, Potnar informed them that henceforth he would be addressed by a title suitable to his position, which was GLOW, Grand Leader of the World. Under his leadership, all the world governments with the exception of China and the Vatican were now under his sole control, these governments consisting of the five Western regions of North America, South America, Western Europe, Indo-Australia and the Pacific Far West and the five Eastern regions of what remained of Russia and its old Eastern European satellites, Persia, Syrio-Turkey, Arabo-Africa and Southern Asia.

GLOW had managed to discount China in his mind as neither a loss nor a threat, preferring to adhere to the old Western view of that country as a sleeping giant, which was no longer true. The Vatican was a different matter. He had met with some resistance from the Pope to his assumption of world leadership, as evidenced by the hint in his pronouncements that the Catholic Church was still rather far away from the ideal of full secularization. It was time to have a personal confrontation with the Pope. He directed his staff to set up a face-to-face with the Pope at his residence and at a time convenient to his schedule.

The Pope knew that he couldn’t turn down a demand from GLOW to meet with him. The man was simply too powerful. What rankled him more than anything else was GLOW’s insistence that the meeting be held in the world leader’s own palatial estate, which now was considered to be the seat of world government. This venue meant that the leader held all the cards, as was obvious the moment they came together for a direct confrontation. The fearful Pope wondered if, perhaps, GLOW had a well-stocked interrogation chamber tucked away somewhere in the basement of this vast complex, which was more opulent by far than the once-grand Vatican.

The intimidation wasn’t as bad as the Pope had expected. Actually, the Church had come quite far into full ecumenism, almost to the point of accepting Islam into her fold despite the obvious differences between Christian Scripture and the Quran. What it would take to complete that massive accomplishment would be to continue the quiet, gradual setting aside of virtually all the meaningful portions of both texts, retaining only that material that would be acceptable to both peoples. This material was rather tiny and insignificant, but then most of the masses never had wanted to read their sacred texts in the first place, so the people themselves would be more than happy to see this information go by the wayside and worship a more benign and tolerant god of their own making. Given the prevailing state of the Church, the Pope was satisfied, albeit with a fearful look at GLOW, that he could support GLOW’s wishes.

During GLOW’s presence at the leadership conference and his follow-on meeting with the Pope, his staff was preoccupied with maintaining these events on track with his wishes and demands. America enjoyed a brief respite from his micromanagerial interest in the everyday affairs of the citizenry.

During that time a kinder Ralph took over some of the duties in the store, freeing Henry to wander down the aisles chatting up his customers. Putting his people skills to use, Henry was able to accurately differentiate between those who might be open to barter business and those who would call the authorities. Although there was an ever-present danger of his encountering a well-rehearsed government spy, he had devised a series of clever questions to help in outing such a person. Of course, he had the ever-present assistance of the Holy Spirit, although for the life of him Henry couldn’t grasp how such a presence could be so ubiquitous as to include him among the billions of people on the planet, each with his own problems.

Over a relatively short period of time the shop acquired a substantial base of repeat customers, most of whom came in to utilize the shop’s black market service. Collecting a nominal fee for each barter transaction, Henry was able to maintain the survival of his extended family, which included Ralph and the three couples who continued to live in his home along with his wife and himself.

There was a side operation to the business, one that fulfilled Wisdom’s motivation to create it. As the store became ever more popular among those who had avoided accepting the body mark, Henry was able to offer them the Scriptural materials that the three couples had generated. As a result, there was a substantial harvest of souls. As Ralph continued to develop spiritually, he also began to be influential in winning people to Christ. With every soul he participated in bringing to Christ, his countenence became sunnier. Henry slowly lost his missionary sense toward Ralph, which was replaced with a real brotherly friendship.

As Henry’s business expanded, so did Arnold Bliss’ Church, thanks to the excitement over Earl’s ongoing presentation of Jesus’ feeding events and the word-of-mouth draw of people into the Church and her Bible study.   This Wednesday evening in response to a question he moved on from the topic of Jesus Feedings to the trustworthiness of the Bible.

The question had been posed by Dick Billings. “Given the precision of the information on the feeding events, it kind of suggests that the Bible should be interpreted more literally than most of us are used to doing. At one Church I attended several years back the pastor scoffed at the notion that the creation story in Genesis One was literally true. He’d told us in the congregation that science, and particularly Darwin’s theory of evolution, had pretty much trashed the possibility of a literal interpretation.”

“Well, at least he told it like it is,” Earl responded. Too bad about that. Let’s see by a show of hands how many of you have bought into Darwin’s evolution.” Earl didn’t need to count, as everybody’s hand except Joyce’s shot up, including pastor Bliss’.

“Are you trying to suggest otherwise?” Dick asked as Earl shook his head in disbelief.

“Suggest? No, that’s way too weak a word. I’m telling you that Darwin is wrong, and that you and the rest of America should have placed more faith in your Bibles and less on the culture. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Christians who blew the whistle on him. It was science itself.

“For well over a century now,” Earl continued, “we have been told with the most positive assurance by our scientific authorities how the earth was formed. They have told us with a fool’s certainty how long ago this was, and how the life upon it came to be and how it changed, always upward, from the simple to the complex all the way up to that masterpiece of chance, mankind itself. Not only are we told by them, but their words are parroted to us by their followers in all walks of life. Our teachers from the very first grade had measured and controlled our development by the efficiency with which we swallowed the information that they had implanted within us. Added with equal authority to their voices are those who wrote, enacted and produced our television programs, especially by those who had professed to teach our children. Absurdly, even our national park rangers had arrogated to themselves this same function, who took it upon themselves to furnish us with the prevailing view of our geologic and archaeological history. We were told by this legion of instructors that man’s current understanding of his roots and the surrounding soil is so complete, exact and infallible that it must obviously and necessarily be true.   No matter if, from time to time, the mechanism of formation changes a bit here or there, or the time frame is halved, or quadrupled, or slashed to a tenth of the previous date so long as the antiquity is sufficiently great, measurable in millions of years.

“But common sense alone should have told you that the entire uniformitarian scheme of huge tracts of time has a serious flaw. Who among you doesn’t retain some unease at the concept that out of all these millions of years man in his full glory as recorder of history has been around for only the past few thousand years? That just seems a bit too coincidental, too pat in reasoning, does it not, the apparently sudden explosion of the ability to reason abstractly and to write? Perhaps we should question our experts a bit more, make them more accountable for what they insist is the truth. Despite the rigorous training that supposedly places them above errors of logic they remain, alas, human beings with all the faults of the mind that we share, perhaps even having a larger portion than others of that most disagreeable shortcoming, intellectual arrogance.

“This unjustified attitude, as a matter of fact, extends to all of us who were taught to believe that our present age of technoscientific enlightenment prevents us from falling into the errors of our ancestors.   We shake our heads condescendingly at the rigid thinkers who came before. We marvel that they were so blatantly medieval as to accuse as blasphemous such forward thinking geniuses as Galileo and Kepler and Columbus, men who risked their lives in their insistence that the earth was not the center of the universe, nor that the heavenly motions were composites of perfect circles, nor that the earth itself was flat. Virtually all of us would agree that such narrow thinking as fueled the engine of the Inquisition could not happen today. And in our agreement we are all terribly wrong. It may so happen that we are every bit as narrowminded as those who persecuted Galileo, being every bit as wrong. And the motivation behind their savagery and our just as terrible sin of passive acquiescence to our own self-proclaimed experts of the natural sciences would not be religious. It never was. It is now, as then, the attempt on the side of the information disseminators to maintain the concepts most dear to the prevailing intellectual regime, and on the side of their audience of a vile and ubiquitous intellectual indifference. Galileo, by the way, was a devout Christian. He was chastised for attempting to tell the Duchess of Tuscany that the geocentric view of the solar system was extrabiblical. But in the end he was right – the Church had embraced a notion that wasn’t even Scriptural.

 

“Over and above our own indifference, the uniformitarian basis of our earth and life sciences threw an almost insurmountable conceptual stumbling block into the path of any person who came to the Bible and other historically respected sources in search of understanding the nature of the world about him. The person who wished to speculate on the accuracy of our current understanding had a lifetime of injected information to sort through and logically test for truth and consistency. Beyond that, he had to have sufficient courage to withstand the attitudes and opinions of his associates, neighbors, and often even his loved ones. This was especially true for the individual who sincerely desired to comprehend the truth of the Bible, for our present science had declared it mythical, allegorical, and certainly not compatible in a literal sense with our advanced understanding of ourselves and the universe around us.

“I see that I’m running out of time and I haven’t even started to show you how modern molecular biology has tossed the theory of evolution into the intellectual dumpster despite the efforts of several molecular biologists to assert that Scripture and evolution were compatible. I’ll end this session by putting it to you straight. What if, despite the ponderous mass of prevailing opinion and the enormous weight of malevolent disdain that presses against those whose intellectual vision disagrees with it, our entire system of naturalist thought was indeed wrong? What if the Bible contained far more literal truth than virtually all but a tiny minority of the persons in this or the last several generations could have imagined?

“What if the gradualists had been recognized as wrong at the outset, allowing the early catastrophists to pursue their initial advances in the field of natural history? An acceptance of a different truth in Charles Darwin’s day might have led his naturalist contemporaries along a quite different path in their acquisition of knowledge than the one they so foolishly chose to follow. They may then have arrived at a scenario similar to the one that real, working scientists just a short time ago finally came to recognize as representing our very recent geological past. This picture places Jupiter, in response to the awesome Hand of God, as a source of very great violence against the Earth.” He and Joyce left, allowing them the opportunity to digest that thought.

One day Henry received a visit from several bikers, whose presence initially alarmed him. They turned out to be so cheerful and friendly that he went out on a limb and bought several of the bikes, giving them some badly-needed cash to survive as human beings for whatever short time remained. Although cash had been prohibited, the black market continued to use it as its principal means of exchange. Its portability and generality continued to make it more useful than straight barter, and the bikers insisted that the transaction involve cash.

Henry knew that he’d have to face Terry’s wrath when he told her about his purchase, and was sorry that the apprehension that he’d harbored about it was confirmed as all too real when he discussed it at the dinner table. Her tirade had hardly gotten off the ground when Moshe intervened. “Please,” he said. “Those bikes just may be the most valuable possessions you have.”

“How so?” Henry asked. Even he was taken aback by Moshe’s enthusiasm. “Nobody here even knows how to operate one.”

“Wanna bet?” he retorted. “I had a bike in Israel while I was going to college.”

“Did Somebody talk with you last night, Moshe?” Joyce interjected.

“Yes. She did. I have a very strong feeling that what you did was in the will of God, Henry.”

“Isn’t that interesting,” Henry responded enthusiastically. “I had this strange feeling of comfort while were were making the transaction – like this was something that was supposed to happen.”

“I give up,” Terry said in exasperation. But she, too, seemed to accept this new development.

[to be continued]

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