The great and wise scribe, Anonymous, an equally legendary contemporary to the philosopher Ubiquitous, once said that the argument between science and religion was solved when churches began to install lightning rods. That seems at first glance anyway to be a quick and easily recognizable signpost on theology’s passage into the contemporary era. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite so effortless as it sounds or should have been. You might even say the idea didn’t catch fire immediately.
Let us quote from an article, Morality, Religious Symbolism, and the Creationist Movement, by Joseph E. Laferriere found on the National Center For Science Education website:
In 1752, ....., during the heyday of the New England "fire and brimstone" epoch, a Bostonian deist named Franklin invented the lightning rod and was promptly denounced from pulpits on both sides of the Atlantic for challenging the power of the devil. Since his contemporaries believed that Satan cannot do anything without the acquiescence of the Almighty, this implied to them that Franklin was thwarting the will of God. Franklin had thus challenged both the people's conceptions of their deity and the folk science which supported it. For twenty to thirty years, churches in both Europe and America refused to allow lightning rods to be affixed to their steeples, with some tragic results.
So it took about three decades and possibly some roasted parishioners to convince the Wiser Ones, Elders, Clerics, and the Ones In Touch With the Great Beyond [Ed.-AKA, "the Red Bat Phone to JHVH."] that there are some things in Heaven and Earth that men are meant to understand, or at least take a stab at figuring out. High on the list would be lightning, later to be known as our helpful friend, ELECTRICITY.
Some people might remember Reddy Kilowatt, the little guy with the light-bulb head and lightning body that was the electrical company’s mascot and intended to engender the notion that electricity was our faithful though costly companion and servant. That’s why they call it a utility, it’s there to utilize, one might assume, at least now in these enlightened and superstition- free times.
Needless to say, it became a part of the tacit understanding of the deal between God and Man that natural law was to be understood, and to help all creatures above and below--one would think. Implicit to that, wouldn’t you also think that some of God’s Servants might get an exemption from natural law? Like a televangelist--say Pat Robertson--who’s now about as old as Benjamin Franklin, but is possibly planning to maintain something akin to immortality through that youth tonic he markets [Ed.The blood of infants?]? And what about the Pope? [Ed.--Definitely the blood of infants.] Surely the Pope--if anyone would--ought to be exempt from certain otherwise tragic Acts of God? Wouldn’t you think?
Think again: segue forward about two hundred and thirty-five years after Ben Franklin's day. It's September 12, 1987, the place is Miami, Florida, and the Pope is in town. It's a big deal in this Catholic-heavy part of the world. The first and only time thousands of the faithful will get to see the magnetic essence that inhabits the body of the previous, elderly Polish mortal who has taken on the mantle and spiritual essence, now renamed Pope John Paul II, the globe trotting beloved Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church. In true Florida fashion, the day starts out to be sunny and bright, with only a few clouds on the horizon. Unfortunately the day will progress in true South Florida fashion for this time of year...
A large vacant field has been selected near Florida International University and a high podium has been raised to make the Pope and the honored priests and retainers visible to the thousands who show up for this great day. And an even higher steel cross, a hundred feet high specifically, has been erected above the podium.
As the time for the Pope’s appearance nears, the weather conditions progress. Storm conditions threaten, but the show must go on. At least it starts to. However, as the opening acts appear and contribute to the build up, rain begins to fall. The Pope begins to speak and to bless the crowd. Then comes thunder, effective in it’s way, like God is giving a fanfare with a drum roll. And lightning comes, which could possibly have been a rim shot, had there been a joke involved...maybe. But nobody in the audience is laughing now. People are looking up at the highly- conductive steel cross with what could charitably be called reverence. But you know, fear and reverence do have a certain connection, just check your Bible. God did say He expected some fear there. And God's beginning to get a measure of it, increasing rapidly.
It's decided that the conclusion of the festivities would be attended by the Pope and designated clerical invitees in a place with a roof over it, and though one might suppose it wouldn't be reported in the press, they equipped it with a lightning-rod.
So this has brought to mind a question that one who remembers the event has wrestled with for over twenty years: Is anyone safe, due to a special dispensation for goodness and righteousness? Doesn’t anyone get a pass...ever? I suppose you might say the lightning-rod was for the sake of the others on the podium who might not be quite as deserving of Divine Intervention. And I know that St. Francis said that "the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike."But rain is merely getting wet. It’s uncomfortable, and frustrating at times. But lightning is a far more consequential natural event.
Shouldn’t the Pope have stuck-it-out, and showed the special benefits that go with Faith and over the top Goodness? And if he had taken the strike, so-to-speak, who would have been responsible? Certainly not God, or are we regressing back to a pre-1752 act of Satan? I highly doubt it. Sure there was a recurrence or two in that time, but after Quiet Riot, Heavy Metal was on the wane. I just refuse to believe that Evil could be that mean. Surely not to the Pope. Sure, he’d been shot and the president would tell you, it was far more serious than the workings of Satan.
The guy was a Hater, and an Islamofascist of the worst kind, ahead of his time. A prototype for one of those who we were soon to find out hate us because of our way of life And our freedom. He and his kind make Satan seem like Nancy Drew. I had come to realize that Ozzy Osbourne looked less than Evil and more like a Lou Costello. And now that I think of it, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister looked like Nancy Drew, too, after you got in shape for the concert. I was ready for Supreme Goodness to prevail.
So here is what I would like to propose: That a group be set up and people in possession of Great Faith be recruited and issued tinfoil hats with high peaks on them like the Pope’s mitre [Ed.-That fish-shaped hat from the Cult of Dagon.] and metal staffs...say eight or nine feet in length capable of being collapsed telescopically to fit in a car trunk for transporting and stowing away during fair weather conditions. At the top of these staffs would be metal cartoon-hands with four-fingers like Reddy Kilowatt himself, who might pass for the Patron Saint of Electricity, with the index extended; like the foam rubber ones seen waving at athletic events with the team name or "We’re #1" on them.
In this case , I would suggest that the team name ought to be used as something suitable for the Purpose. New recruits or rookies, to use a sports term, could have staffs with collapsible umbrella canopies, but after serving an apprenticeship and qualifying for full membership, they would be given the longer model of full membership, and no umbrella. Belief alone could keep them dry, at least theoretically. Some details remain to be tested and worked out.
These Faithful would carry their staffs in inclement weather, braving rain and thunder and the power of Reddy Kilowatt himself, pointing the way toward Heaven. And to put the finish and flair to the ensemble, how about patent leather rain boots, with really large metal dancing taps on the soles, the better to beat out a few steps for the sheer joy of Witnessing for goodness in the face of the elements, like Gene Kelly, when he sang ‘Singing In the Rain’, seemingly oblivious to even the possibility of being struck by lightning. I propose this group of the Faithful be called the Conductors. It’s a snappy name, one might agree, positively crackling with energy.
And let me say that I am not all talk here--I would gladly do my part. Things like recruiting more of the Faithful, particularly at meetings where prominent Televangelists minister, and collecting membership fees to use to purchase and dispense the requisite uniform and supplies. But unfortunately, I have a delicate health condition, and one which renders me highly susceptible to dampness and sudden changes in the weather. A lifetime of doctor's visits and contributions to faith healers has not alleviated this. Yet, I stand ready to do my part--at least as much as can be rendered indoors. I eagerly await the flood of applications which will no doubt ensue like the torrential downpour that inspired it.
Ed.'s note: Jack, you're going to get hit by lightening for this.