Can I get a big A-men?

September 22, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND


All rightie then, if you are a Hagerstown City Council member, are you ready to:

A: Lead.

B: Pray.

C. Handle snakes.

With incredibly important issues such as a new hospital, a broken sewer plant and an East End revitalization on the table, the City Council, in an extraordinary example of "focusing," has been able to tune out all that background noise and hone in on the vital issue of revival meetings vis--vis street festivals. What, they got bored with the great "should we let the Pony League fence in the ball field" debate of 2005?

This is beautiful. The Maryland Theatre's on the block, development tax and annexation issues have yet to be settled, you got city employees allegedly threatening to blow each other up, and we're arguing over the definition of "revival."


Indeed, it's been a tough month for inspiration as a whole.

Ready to lead?

Mayor Dick Trump last week looked every council member in the eye and asked "Are you ready to lead?" which, as motivational tools go, had about as much success as former council member Wally McClure's attempt to get the council to sing.

Council vet Lew Metzner, for one, was not amused. If Trump expected Metzner to respond to the "lead" question by jumping up on the dais, ripping off his shirt, whirling it around his head and screaming "woof, woof, woof, hooowaaah" he must have experienced a tinge of disappointment.

So, we are to presume, did the proponents of a inspirational/revival/harvest festival, who asked the council to pitch in $800 for a downtown shindig featuring a tour of churches and Christian music.

Debbie Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator who was working with festival organizers, said the event "wasn't intended to have a religious theme."

Oh, OK. Tour of churches; Faith Chapel youth group; inspirational music. Yeah, I don't know how we got the idea that it had a religious theme. That was sort of a leap on our part. Sorry.

But hey, the new, more religious council ought to like this. The mayor has been leading off the meeting with prayer. Pretty soon, instead of asking for the yeas and nays, Trump may call the roll with, "Can I get an A-men?" Who knows, pretty soon he could even start calling council members into his chamber and asking if they've been born again.

And Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean mentioned the nation "was founded by the Christian principle." Perhaps. It was also founded on the white-male supremacy principle.

I know that a lot of people like to say we were founded by Christians. But I always wonder why no one points out that it was founded by Christians who were fleeing from Christians, with whom they disagreed on the finer points of Christianity. So if historical accuracy means anything to a person - and if it doesn't support his view I'm sure that it doesn't - that's a shaky peg on which to hang your hat.

The constitution card

And oh yes, there is that bothersome little scrap of paper known as the Constitution, as a couple of council members reminded us. Government can't tax a religion, but it can't spend money on one, either.

The irony, of course, is that if it's six shopping days before Christmas, City Hall wants you to equate Christ with the downtown. Or downtown merchants, anyway. There's no shying away from Christ then. I think it all depends on whether He's helping you turn a profit.

Trump, for his part, said the festival is simply a reason for people to celebrate the downtown. But one of the organizers went further, saying "It's also about healing the people downtown (who) don't have a (moral) compass to go by."

People downtown without a moral compass? You think? I don't know, most of the gentlemen and ladies I chance upon downtown are models of Christian charity. Except maybe for "No One Will See Me if I Urinate in the Alley" man and "Scream at My Children in Public" woman. (That "Scream at My Children in Public" woman gets around, doesn't she?)

But I like to think of myself as an inclusive kind of guy, and I think downtown needs all the foot traffic it can get. Even, and I want to be perfectly clear about this, even if they are Christians. I for one won't hold it against them that they want to live right and do good and spread joy and happiness in this world. It may not be my way, but I still think it's noble.

Maybe not 800 of my tax dollars worth of noble, but noble.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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