Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Religious Harmony

When my niece Bailey was just going up to university at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, that’s in California, I went rootling around the book stores that punctuate the heart of the Ventura area for a copy of Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet”. It has long been one of my favorite texts, crammed full of clever whimsical and profound truths that are fun to quote like:

“... thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.”

My thinking was that it would be a resource for those mellow moments that I remember occurred for me when I was at Guy’s in London, and that she might find some inspiration in it. Of course the book did not just fly off the shelves at me which might have been disappointing had the habit of nosing around dusty volumes not become a passion, pheremonically impulsed as a pig might rut out a truffle. In one of the numerous forays I glanced upon “Rhymes of the Old Cape” by Joseph Crosby Lincoln, and, thinking it might have been about South Africa, I browsed through a couple of well constructed poems and thought that at $1.50 I could risk the chance of finding at least one poem I liked.

It is now three years later and Bailey is about to graduate and launch on a new career as an operatic soprano. Opening the book the other day I found that it related to that other cape, south of Boston where Province Town dominates the north returning peninsular, Cape Cod. The book is quaint and filled with treasures, and one in particular has made all the effort worthwhile and not the least wasteful of my energy. Here is Mr. Lincoln’s delightful and hard hitting testament on getting along. I can not help feeling that if we as a nation could have found more common ground between us and been united in our efforts for Christian outreach, there would be a lot less problems in the world. In the back of my mind somewhere there is the conviction that al-Qaeda would not have become so entrenched in Afghanistan had we sent in missionaries to fill the vacuum left by the retreating Russian Army.


South Pokus is religious,--that's the honest, livin' truth;
South Pokus folks are pious,--man and woman, maid and youth;
And they listen every Sunday, though it rains or snows or shines,
In their seven shabby churches, to their seven poor divines,
Who dispense the balm and comfort that the thirstin' spirit needs,
By a-fittin' of the gospel ter their seven different creeds,
Each one sure his road ter Heaven is the only sartin way,--
Fer South Pokus is religious, as I started off ter say.

Now the Pokus population is nine hundred, more or less,
Which, in one big congregation, would be quite a church, I guess,
And do lots of good, I reckon; but yer see it couldn't be,--
Long's one's tweedledum was diff'rent from the other's tweedledee.
So the Baptists they are Baptists, though the church is swamped in debt,
And the Orthodox is rigid, though expenses can't be met,
And the twenty Presbyterians 'll be Calvinists or bust,--
Fer South Pokus is religious, as I said along at fust.

And the Methodist is buried, when his time comes 'round ter die,
In the little weedy graveyard where no other sect can lie,
And at Second Advent socials, every other Wednesday night,
No one's ever really welcome but a Second Adventite;
While the Unitarian brother, as he walks the village streets,
Seldom bows unless another Unitarian he meets;
And there's only Univers'lists in a Univers'list's store,--
Fer South Pokus is religious, as I think I said before.

I thought I'd read that Jesus come ter do the whole world good,--
Come ter bind the Jew and Gentile in a lovin' brotherhood;
But it seems that I'm mistaken, and I haven't read it right,
And the text of "_Love_ your neighbor" must be somewhere written "Fight";
But I want ter tell yer, church folks, and ter put it to yer strong,
While _you're fighting_ Old Nick's fellers _pull tergether_ right along:
So yer'd better stop your squabblin', be united if yer can,
Fer the Pokus way of doin' ain't no use ter God or man.

Joseph Crosby Lincoln