Biking in Severely Advanced October
Today I cycled to a rural town about ten miles away, a recapitulation of a summer ride that I’d hoped to repeat and today was fulfilled by virtue of a day off coinciding with the last possible warm day – a 72 degree high. And so I stood athwart Winter hollerin’ “Stop!” past the long vista’d farm fields, past the leveled stubble under a sun that grew increasingly perishable in terms of strength and warmth but beggars can’t be choosers and tomorrow’s Beggar’s Night after all...
For the first half I let the songs come to me and besides the obligatory full-throated “Green Acres” theme there was “Do you know the way to San Jose?” something of a subconscious surprise, and later “Joy to the World”, the version that starts “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…”. Certainly it was a joyous sort of day even though the radio on the way back had the scent of plaintive all over it, full of songs like Eric Clapton's Tears from Heaven and Billy Vera & the Beaters' At This Moment. I think what we have here is a classic case of displacement, with folks mourning the end of summer, but I'm going down fightin'.
Heading into town I spotted a 19th century Presbyterian church and took the opportunity of slipping in and looking around. An old stained glass window depicted a large anchor chained to a rock with listing sailships in the background. The nearby library drew me, and I happened upon an 1850s bible that appeared to have the book of James instead of Genesis at the front. Upon second glance, it was three or four pages of encomium to King James of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and a few leeward islands.
The library turned out to be something of a surprise. The bulletin board outside was filled with health concerns: “Have you checked your prostate?” (not lately), “Did you know that men can get breast cancer?” (yes, but I don’t dwell on it). There was a flu shot schedule and various & sundry warnings for all the physical ills that men and women are prey to, with the possible exception of venereal disease. Just inside the library was a full-page article from the Columbus Dispatch carefully preserved in amber that was titled: “Anatomy of a Hangover”, which listed all the ill-effects and/or symptoms of, well, a hangover. Killjoys.
I’d pictured the books - based on the handsome shelves and stained glass windows just outside the library - as full of heavy doctrinal assertations of the sort Scott Hahn might’ve made pre-conversion. But it was light as whipped cream. There was some Catherine Marshall stuff, a few Swindell & Billy Graham books, not even a C.S. Lewis book in the whole thing -- although “The South Beach Diet” was available. There was a musty 1940s biography of Tyndale and another of Luther, but other than those there was little goad to kick against. I found one by a Catlicker, “The Life of Christ” by Fulton Sheen, proving yet again his ecumenical appeal.
I was kind of saddened at the apparent lack of depth in the library of a denomination that produced so stalwart a soul as Thomas J. Jackson for heaven’s sake. The bible says we are to worship God with not only our whole heart but our whole mind. You can’t judge a church by its library, but it did seem that if it was indicative of the preaching then I’m somehow not surprised that so many Christians have found their way into the megachurches, some of which have pastors of deep piety and erudition.