“It’s dangerous being a prophet; especially in times of upheaval.”
Episode two, late December 2020 from The Stand, CBS All Access, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name and spoken by a kind, good, pandemic survivor.
More than half a century ago, about when President Kennedy was shot, my baby mouth called out “Nan-nan” in the night, because I could not pronounce “Grandmother” and because my mother was, well, ill-equipped for the job.
Nan-nan smelled of lavender. She adored me. And I, her. She raised my mother in London during the Blitz.
I was, rather appropriately, born on August 29th in the Year of our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Three. The 29th of August, in our Anglican Calendar, is the Feast of the Beheading of John, The Baptist – the “Prodromou.” The “Fore-runner.”
I would not call myself a prophet, but many say that my short-form essays have a prophetic voice.
As I have been making my Christmas gifts in the pottery studio on this little island, my windows look out into the forest of the island – dark, rich, and moist. I have been listening to Stephen King’s The Stand. I know, not high-brow, but fun. It is about the collapse of civilization during a worldwide pandemic. It has echoes of today’s life on this planet and in this church. ’Nough said.
Stuck in a tiny home in a real pandemic in Christmas week, I have found solace in good food and tv. Again, not high-brow, but real, honest, more comforting than some lofty sermon by some preposterous prelate, with a fake British accent and terrible breath.
Watching a tv adaptation of The Stand this week, I heard one line spoken by the protagonist whose fight is not just to stay alive, but to find others and to discern evil from good. He said, “It’s dangerous being a prophet; especially in times of upheaval.”
I pushed “pause” and pondered for a bit.
Six months before I was born, (on the Feast of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, remember) my Nan-nan gave me, in utero, a “Steiff” (pronounced “Shtife”) Teddy Bear pictured here – a respected, very old German brand of hand-made teddy bear. I keep him, as you can see, on a perch next to my icon of St. John, holding his head. I guess it seems to tell part of my story. An arc really. This bear and this icon.
It tells the story of a child who wanted to be a priest from the age of 7 during a conversion, alone in a church, until my recent departure from the church to which I had once so clung for status, belonging, an amazing six-figure salary and clothing-prestige.
I left priestly ministry three years ago, tired as I was of ecclesial bullying and politics. Many do, but most clergy just try to compliment their bishops enough to keep them happy and stay in the golden cages of a tremendously rich pension. And I don’t blame them. I wish I could have complimented mine, stayed safe, retired “well.”
But I have recently realized from more than 100 letters and that many therapy sessions, that I am not alone in the tension of prophetic writing and speaking. There are others out there.
The tv show The Stand is about people finding other safe, good people while navigating around the vicious ones. The good ones are, in their dreams, being called by an old black lady. The nasty ones are, in their dreams, being called by a charming, hot, young, white man in black clothing who disciplines his followers by crucifying them.
My grandmother infuriated my British family by purchasing a German bear for me. And since my birthday in Washington DC, on August 29th, the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, I have been pushing against stupidity and bullying all my life. And like my little teddy bear, I have lost hair and lost skin, and even lost my smile at times. But teddy and I persist. We keep going until that final chop, hoping, like the people in The Stand, to find other kind people “in these times of upheaval.”
The Daily Sip is written by Charles LaFond, a potter, writer, and fundraiser; who lives with his dog Sugar on a cliff on one of the more than 400 islands in the Salish Sea, pondering and writing about how to be a better human, but often failing. And sometimes not.