Monday, January 02, 2006

To Justify or Condemn: A Forest Fable

Flying high above the Wisconsin prairie, a lone crow directed its course. From his mouth hung a brilliant cluster of orange berries, accentuated colorfully against the dismal autumn landscape. A sugar maple, dressed in its yearly multi-hued coat, welcomed the bird as he approached; but the energetic creature, far too busy for such niceties, merely deposited his cargo in his home on Maple Branch and departed for another round trip.

When the last streaks of daylight faded from the western sky, a veritable heap of mountain ash berries dotted the otherwise homely nest, adding a jewel-like radiance to the little abode; but later that night, howling winds and pelting rain disturbed the bird's cozy home. Three-dimensional orange dots, once safely imbedded hours before, cascaded to the ground below, joining the fury that was Rain in its gravity-aided race downward.

In the days and months that followed, the tiny mountain ash berries took different routes to their final destinations. Several, blown far from the crow's nest, were found by woodland animals and eaten. Others lay scattered about the forest floor like dispersed gemstones, adding welcome radiance to the otherwise dim woodland. Yet others the bird meticulously located, determinedly affixing them to their proper positions in his nest home, where he would later treat himself to such edible wall fixtures. Amongst the many that were transported by the crow that autumn day, only one seed survived to tell its adventures.

I found that seed (now a magnificent tree) but twenty paces from my Wisconsin cabin. The wooded lot, in desperate need of sunlight at the time, caused me to be sorely tempted to end the life of this now stately Mountain Ash. But its colorful springtime blossoms and bewitching fall fruit cautioned me against such a deed. And on winter evenings, when the air is perfectly frigid and oxygen in my cabin is at a minimum because of the depleting force of my blazing fireplace, I often meander out of doors to catch sight of that tree which was, long ago, only a possibility.

It was upon these things that I meditated one winter’s afternoon and, happening upon Matthew 12 in my New Testament, proceeded to embrace in the corridors of conscience: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”—Matthew 12:35-37 (KJV).

Like the tree’s magnificent manufacture of thousands of berries each autumn, I produce dozens of word-seeds every day and am, in fact, responsible for each of them. As the crow’s mountain ash berries had been absconded, some by beasts and others by birds and the natural process of decomposition, my words, also, are often lost to the elements. But unlike them, each will one day require reckoning. The day will come when I shall stand before the Almighty Judge, accounting for every word, whether spoken or written.

And I prayed, “Lord, let my words be only those which justify, evidencing Thy work, which has made me righteous by no cause of my own. Amen.”


Gargoyle said...

In the introduction to this blog, you claimed that one of its purposes was to give a look at the "life and culture" of American Christian Fundamentalism. So far, your three posts have been less than helpful. What do you mean by "culture?" Is it art, music, architecture and the like? I am familiar with Fundamentalism in England, and so far cannot see any cultural achievements whatsoever. Or is "culture" defined by what you do not do, like avoid the theatre, prohibit trousers on women, and so on? Perhaps America is different than Britain in this regard. As the "Female Fundamentalist" perhaps you are qualified to give me the answers I seek.

Keep on the path to the City! The Hounds of Heaven do not rest. Regards,

Heather said...

Hi, Gargoyle,

Thanks for stopping by. Because Ricci and I are both teachers, Christmas break seemed one of the only times we had for “extras” like the blog. But we’re not giving up, and we plan to keep it going—-eventually :-).

To answer your question, culture would have as its meaning the following and particularly letters b-d. (This listed on

a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.

b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.

c.These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.

d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

We hope to show that historic “fundamental” Christianity actually offers positive and encouraging truth. To many, the words stimulating, positive, and encouraging are the last adjectives that come to mind when the term fundamentalism is used. While the words appear like oxymorons to individuals whose association with “fundamental” Christianity seems more a list of don’ts than anything else, we’re convinced that there are enough virtues in fundamentalism’s core doctrines to stick with it and keep “fighting for the faith” as men like Machen and Riley did back in the 1920s.

But since we’re on the topic of culture, and we at the Female Fundamentalist are also interested in education and the arts, then you might rightly assume that culture--meaning excellence in taste, scholarship, and artisanship--will find a way into our discussion as well.

As you know, Christians throughout history have valued culture: Martin Luther, for example, was both an excellent musician and a singer whose music during the Reformation spawned an increasing growth of glorious hymnody. Luther’s music also affected the music of later generations. Francis Schaeffer once wrote, “There would have been no Bach had there been no Luther.”

Hope this helps.

Planning to return to blog world soon,