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Volume 9, Issue 3: Similitudes

McBaal's

Douglas Wilson

The controversy began quietly enough. Mrs. Frobisher had gone to visit the silver arches one noon, and while she was waiting for her order, she was gazing absently into the back of the restaurant. Normally she saw back there what everyone else sees back there--paper hats moving back and forth, with the personnel below the hats industriously assembling the burgers. But this time, something else caught her eye. She was astounded she had never seen it before.

There, in a niche in the back wall of the fast food emporium, was a statue of small bronze idol. She stared, unbelieving. One of the paper hats then turned, and she saw a tray of hamburgers lifted up in front of the idol. A short prayer of devotion was said, and then the tray slid out toward her. "Order up!"
Mrs. Frobisher ran from the restaurant, a silent scream lodged in her throat. Her hands were trembling so much she got her car started only with great difficulty. When she got home, she made a frantic phone call, and the word was out on the local Christian radio station within forty-five minutes.
Pastor Leikson opened the congregational meeting with prayer, and wearily rubbed his forehead. The evening before he had spent a painful three hours on the phone with Mr. Frobisher, who had demanded that an emergency meeting of the church membership be convened at the first opportunity. I'm going to write a book, he thought. Better Exegesis Through Public Hubbub. And he sat down.
The first to speak was Mr. Frobisher, who did not present his perspective at all. He simply asked if Pastor Leikson would be willing to state his perspective on the record. My perspective on the issue is that I should have listened to my father and gone into investment banking. He sat quietly composing his answer, and then rose.
"The Bible says that when meat is offered up to an idol nothing bad happens to the meat. It may be eaten without defiling the conscience, unless eating it pushes a newly liberated brother back into pagan idolatry. The behavior of McBaal's is reprehensible and disturbing. It is certainly lawful to organize a boycott, and I would encourage anyone so inclined to join with you in it."
A large woman in the back of the meeting signaled with her hand, and stood up.
"Would you join in such a boycott, and would you require all the other members of the church to join in the boycott?"
Pastor Leikson rose again. "Yes, I would be happy to join in the boycott. But as long as I am serving as pastor there will be no requirement that the members of the church stop eating at McBaal's." Here it comes. . . .
A murmur of astonishment ran around the room. They had known that Leikson was a little liberal in some of his views, but had no idea that he would come out publicly in support of demonic meat.
Mrs. McCarthy rose, and the quaver in her voice was audible to all. "Sir, you are a minister of the gospel?"
"I am."
"How can you dare to support this paganism?"
Pastor Leikson started to reply, "The Bible says. . . ." He could not continue because the undercurrent of murmuring grew into an unbelieving swell of whispering and talking. Never mind what the Bible says. He sat down again.
The loudest was Roger Williamson, who immediately got control of the floor. "But this idol proves that the restaurant chain is pagan and Satanic!"
Tired of feeling like a jack-in-the-box, the pastor rose to his feet again, and there he remained for the next three hours. I never wanted to be a dufflepud pastor. "I have no doubt that it is Satanic. The facts in the case are beyond dispute. And as for the paganism, we all already knew that--long before anyone saw the little bronze idol."
Almost everyone in the room said what?! at the same time. Pastor Leikson just stood there. Williamson repeated the question. "What?"
Leikson looked at him intently. "Three weeks ago, we would all eat there from time to time. What god did we believe they were serving then? Are we distressed because of their fickleness to Mammon?"
The congregation sat stunned for a moment, so he called on Frank who had been sitting with his hand raised for twenty-minutes. Frank was sometimes erratic in some of his observations so Pastor Leikson had been avoiding calling on him. But hey, why not? Hard to get any worse.
"What would our founding fathers have said about all this? Would Washington or John Adams have eaten in such a place? Jefferson?"
"Ummm . . . ," said Pastor Leikson.
The meeting was as unfruitful as a congregational meeting can be. When the hours of wrangling became visibly high-centered, Mrs. Frobisher asked to speak.
"I am sure we all regret this, but I am sure I speak for all of us, and for my husband too, when I say that we will have to ask for your resignation."
Leikson stepped out into the cool night air, and ran his hands through his hair. I'm hungry, he thought.

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