Haphazardly parked and turned in every direction, motorcycles, cars, vans, jeeps, pickups, trucks and even a few tractors littered the hilly terrain on either side of the road. New or used, shiny or faded and in every color, clean or caked with mud, often dented or spotted with rust, they showed me where to stop. I parked just off the road beside a lavender pickup with a German shepherd in back, watching me. The sun felt good, but an occasional breeze cut through the warmth. Hanging my camera around my neck and clipping my satphone to my belt, I crossed the road and climbed a rise. A hundred meters away, I saw people standing along the near bank of the river paralleling the road and a line mostly of adolescents perpendicular to it. Growing old results in as many sizes and shapes as growing up. In bathing suits, the adolescents were fidgeting and chattering, the girls giggling and the boys, snickering. Boys were trying to pinch girls, who slapped at them. From time to time, a "shshsh" quieted the noise, which nonetheless started up again and crescendoed until it prompted another "shshsh." The only words I could discern were occasional "Praise the Lords," which alternated with bursts of laughter. A novice, I dared not elbow my way through the crowd, so I went around them upstream and sat on a rock to remove my shoes and socks, and roll my pants up. The water was icy. Hopping from stone to stone and wading, I made my way downstream towards a massive torso with a craggy face, an ample black mane down to the shoulders and a beard halfway down a chest otherwise covered with curly hair. A monumental nose pointed at me, little eyes burned like coals and big white teeth flashed: "The end of the line is over there." He pointed.
"I'm not here unh... to be baptized.""Judging by all that stuff hanging on you, you could use it." The crowd laughed.
He turned to the skinny girl next in line. "You haven't had a chance to commit many sins yet, have you, child?"
Her eyes swelled: "No sir, my mom keeps an eye on me."He roared and the crowd laughed with him. Taking her in his arms, he held her over the water and raised his eyes: "Oh Lord, cleanse your creature of sin, so that she may dedicate the rest of her life to you." Then he told her softly: "Pinch your nose," and, as soon as she had, he plunged her gently into the water, lifted her out and put her on her
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feet, shivering and chattering her teeth. "Praise the Lord!" he told her.
"Praise the Lord!" she repeated."Go get a towel and dry off before you catch a cold.""Praise the Lord!" echoed the crowd.
"Yes sir!" And away she ran.Next in line stood a Rubens. "Well!" exclaimed the baptizer, "it's about time, isn't it?"
She blushed and giggled: "Yes sir, I guess it is."Picking her up almost as deftly as the girl, he repeated the prayer, baptized her and put her back on her feet. Pushing her hair away from her face with her plump hands, she glowed with joy. Once she had chirped, "Praise the Lord!" he told her: "Go hug your husband and your kids!" And away she ran with more energy than agility.
I watched him baptize ten more, boys as well as girls and one man in his forties. Since the cold was numbing my feet, I decided to go back upstream after the tenth, dry them with my handkerchief and put my shoes and socks back on. The next person in line changed my mind, however. The harmony of her features and the proportions of her members would have been enough to inspire curiosity, but not admiration and we all admired her. You could see it in everyone's face. Nor did her modest self-confidence explain the baptizer's respect for her: "You haven't committed any sins!"
"My father told me to ask you to baptize me.""May his will be done!" The baptizer lifted her, held her over the water and raised his eyes: "We thank you, oh Lord, for sending us your daughter, so that she may lead us to a perfect life." Then he plunged her into the water, lifted her out and put her on her feet, where the sun glistened on the water streaming down her body. "Praise the Lord!"
"Praise the Lord!" said the daughter: "May he bless his servant who has accomplished his will!"The ensuing silence revealed more awe than surprize. As she left walking towards the road, the crowd parted in front of her and watched her go by. I have always regretted not running after her, even though my editor had sent me to cover the baptizer. The youngest reporter on his staff, I hadn't developed the intuition you need to recognize an extraordinary story right away and abandon a routine one without hesitation. He had assigned me to the baptizer because he needed to fill a space on the inner page where local curiosities entertained"Praise the Lord!" repeated the crowd.
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subscribers with time on
their hands. Watching her leave, I saw no dove fly down and alight on her
head, and I heard no voice speaking from above. The sky was empty and the
only sound I heard, other than the words I have reported, was the rush
of water. The supernatural phenomena would appear in mysterious oral traditions
of the event many years later. None of us needed them to understand that
something extraordinary had happened.
I did interview the baptizer, a few of the people he had baptized and a few onlookers. A happy, friendly enthusiasm predominated in all of the testimony, which challenged my dedication to the professional disinterest I had learned in journalism school. All of my interviewees assumed that I shared their emotions and I often did in spite of myself. Yet I wrote a story which, for the first time, attracted many readers and pleased my editor so much that he assigned me to the young woman whom the baptizer had called God's daughter. My interview with him yielded no evidence that he had known he was blazing a trail for someone greater than himself. Neither had he seen the young woman before, nor could he explain why he had called her God's daughter, except that the title seemed appropriate to him at the time. She just looked like someone who had never sinned! The Lord had simply inspired him to say what he did just as he inspired him to say what he did about the others who came to him. He kept urging me to let him baptize me too, so persuasively in fact that he nearly exhausted my reticence. If people stopped coming, he joked, he would baptize the cows. He thumbed around the country with a backpack, in which he carried a sleeping bag, clothes and cooking equipment. He traveled north in the warm season and south in the cold. His reputation preceded him everywhere he went, alerting towns which invited him and attracting crowds which greeted him. How he loved the children who gathered around him so he could put his hands on their heads and bless them! Kids were God's most wonderful creatures. Although people kept offering him food and drink, he prided himself on accepting only enough to stay healthy and accomplish his mission. "Hey! You could hang your clothes on that limb and I could baptize you in no time. While we wait for them to dry, I will tell you more than you will ever want to know. How about it?"
"My editor would fire me if I didn't get my story in on time."I looked forward to covering him, but his story was repetitive and he moved on to another county. A few months later, I learned that a gang
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leader's mistress had tried
to seduce him and, when he rejected her, she persuaded her lover to kidnap
him on the pretext that he had refused to baptize her. The baptizer still
refused to cooperate, so she tried to get the gang leader to have him killed,
but he was superstitious. Then she organized a dinner party and, once he
had as usual drunk too much, she called her fifteen-year old daughter in.
Although he had coveted the girl, her mother had kept her away from him
by a show of decency and jealousy. This time, however, she told him that
her daughter would dance for him if he promised to give her whatever she
wished and she hinted that he himself would be the prize. The girl danced
so wildly that she had the men on their feet, shouting and jumping. Finished,
she tipped the rest of the turkey onto the table, handed the platter to
the gang leader and said: "I want the baptizer's head." He was not so drunk
that he could ignore the impression that he would make on his guests if
he refused to keep his promise. As you know, the girl's dance has inspired
choreographers, filmmakers and composers; the head on the platter, painters
and playwrights. Needless to say, the three main characters in this scenario
came to an early and violent end. I hope you don't feel sorry for them.
How could anyone have wished the baptizer ill?
I rediscovered God's daughter the next day when my editor sent me to interview her in a town beside the lake, where one of my interviewees had told me she lived. Although no one answered the bell at the frontdoor, a neighbor said she had gone for a walk along the lake and pointed out the direction. A breeze wrinkled the surface of the water, bringing the sound of some ducks quacking a hundred meters away. The sun shone as warmly as the day before, but small clouds floated across the sky. I saw her walking along the shore ahead of me and her stride reminded me of her departure after baptism, except that I hadn't noticed how graceful it was. Not very long, her hair haloed her head irregularly, curling at the ends and flouncing slightly with each step. She wore a beige cardigan with a brown woolen skirt, which swished back and forth. Turning her head, she looked out over the water and her profile somehow expressed generosity, authority and power. Two fishermen huddled motionless in a boat thirty meters out on the lake with their backs to the shore and their rods extended on the other side. The breeze had stopped, leaving the surface of the water smooth, so you could see the two figures upside down with the sky and the clouds behind them. "Have you caught any fish?" she called to them. Recognizing her voice, I realized that it was a deep contralto rich in overtones.
Startled, the fishermen turned around, the smaller one shrugged with resignation and the bigger one replied: "None yet, M'am."
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"Come with me. I will teach you how to catch my father's most wonderful creatures." They looked at each other, then reeled their lines in and stowed their rods. The smaller one, who sat in the stern, lowered the screw into the water, yanked the starter and steered the boat to a small pier further up the shore, where the daughter met them. The bow rose when the big fisherman stepped out of it.
"Who is he?" he asked focusing his fierce blue eyes on me. His face might have been hewn from stone.Recognizing me, the daughter added: "He's a friend.""I'm a reporter," I said.
She started out along the
shore followed by the big fisherman, the small one and me in single file.
Their rustic gait contrasted with hers. Crossing a point to reach an inlet,
we saw three more fishermen in another boat, two young ones with their
rods on the near side and an old one with his on the far side. The old
man had caught a fish, which he held up to show us, but the young men hadn't
caught any. The daughter invited the young men to join her and, after a
brief discussion with their father, one of them rowed the boat closer,
where they got out and waded ashore while the old man rowed back. Years
later, an oral tradition would claim that she had told the four young fishermen
to cast their lines on the other side of their boat, where they had caught
many large fish. This tradition ignored the old man.
The daughter took us further along the shore to a picnic area with a view of the lake and the hills beyond, which the clouds were sweeping with their shadows. She had the fishermen sit on a semicircular bench overlooking a small beach used by sunbathers, swimmers and boat owners in warmer weather. She invited me to join them, but the big fisherman, whom, from now on, I will call the first fisherman, gave me another suspicious look:
"He's going to publish everything you say!""That's all right," she replied, "he tells the truth. My father gave me a message to transmit and the more who hear it, the greater his pleasure." He had told her, she explained, to annonce his community and prepare his children for it. They would enter it if they dedicated themselves to their fellows, embracing virtue and rejecting vice. To transmit such a message, she had to multiply her contacts with them, hence the need for disciples who could speak for her to audiences she couldn't reach. She had chosen the four fishermen first, because
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they had the patience, the
wisdom and the humility necessary for her mission. She would need many
more, but she would choose them as the expansion of her ministry required,
selecting them according to their dedication, their special ability and
their representation of God's children. For the time being, however, she
would only take the four fisherman with her as she traveled around the
lake. She would teach them while teaching the others, since they would
learn by listening and watching.
"But first, you must decide whether you want to follow me. You won't see your families as often any more; live happy, comfortable and safe lives; have time for your favorite occupation. You may live to regret it or even lose your life."
After a second, the first fisherman stood up: "Count me in.""You will justify my confidence and I will take pride in you. Together, we will pursue the ministry my father has assigned us until he decides otherwise. He hasn't told me yet how it will end... You must have questions."
"When will God establish his community?" asked the second fisherman."You will live to see it."
"Will you govern it?" asked the fourth."My father hasn't told me yet."
"If you do, will we help you?" asked the fourth."Perhaps."
"Will I be your first helper?" asked the first."The first will be the last and the last, the first." This rebuke disappointed him, because he saw himself a sergeant and the other three, solders under his command.
Typically, the daughter arrived in one of the towns around the lake in the first fisherman's rusty white pickup with her on the right front seat and the other three in back. Leaving it in the parking lot of a shopping center, she would lead them on a tour, speaking with everyone she met. She usually satisfied the expectations of those who recognized her and raised the curiosity of those who didn't. Though plain, her clothes became her, fitting her well and enhancing her charm with modest colors, more often beige than red and gray than blue. Well-tailored and well-stitched, they contrasted with those of the
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fishermen which, baggy, worn
and faded, clothed them approximately. She attracted a growing crowd that
followed her around the mall and then to an open space, inside when rain
threatened and outside when it didn't. The children always came up to her
just as they had to the baptizer and, having blessed them, she asked them
their name, their age, what grade they were in, what they wanted to do
when they grew up, etc. The interest she took in them engaged their parents,
whose relatives and friends joined in, so that she acquainted herself with
many of her listeners. Again and again, their fascination with her struck
me. Her appearance, the expression on her face, the sound of her voice
and the attention she gave each of them explained some of it, but not all.
The rest has always escaped me.
She knew exactly when to stop asking and start telling, yet she went from one to the other so subtly that you realized it only after she had done it. It sounded more like sharing convictions with friends than preaching. While repeating her announcement of God's community, she adapted it to each of her audiences and even addressed some of them by name or asked them questions, such as: "Will you be ready?" "What changes will you have to make?" "Do you have the courage to make them?" To qualify for the community, they would have to dedicate themselves to God, respect and defend his creatures and his creation, share power, wealth, knowledge and health care with each other. In the community, the differences between leaders and followers, rich and poor, learned and ignorant would diminish; the diseased would receive adequate treatment and the disabled, full support and compensation. The members of the community would live together in sympathy, equality and liberty. It would not materialize in some other world or life, but right here on this earth and in our time. Though eager to join this community, listeners who practiced a traditional form of worship worried about having to give it up. The daughter reassured them that, if they worshipped God, no form of worship would offend him as long as it did no harm to his creatures and his creation. She finished her session with a prayer, for which she spread her arms and raised her head, while her audience lowered theirs. She would pray, for instance: "Oh Lord, help us to qualify for your community and establish it at your earliest convenience. Praise the Lord."
"Praise the Lord."After this prayer, she rehabilitated victims of the town's disdain. Let me give you some examples. A retarded young woman came up to her
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and said in her high whirring voice: "How about me?"
"God will welcome you into his community.""Will he treat me just like everybody else?"
"How does everybody else treat you?""They are too nice and not nice enough."
"They will be nice to you in God's community and treat you as they treat each other.""Hey! That sounds great!"
The Daughter put her hand
on her head, the young woman kneeled and the daughter told the audience:
"Let us pray!" Once they had lowered their heads, she raised hers: "Oh
Lord, bless your child and move us all to treat her exactly as we treat
each other. Praise the Lord." After a chorus of "Praise the Lord!" the
young woman jumped to her feet and kissed the daughter on the cheek. The
first fisherman advanced, raising his hand to jerk her away, but the daughter
turned to him: "Down on your knees! Ask God's forgiveness!" In consternation,
the first fisherman glanced back and forth, then kneeled and murmured "Forgive
me oh Lord!" twice. I have never seen greater humiliation. In contrast
with later versions of this incident, the daughter neither restored the
young woman to normal intelligence nor exorcized any demons that might
have possessed her. When I returned a few weeks later, however, I found
that the townspeople took pride in treating her exactly like everyone else.
I consider that achievement a greater miracle than the alleged ones.
Another town, another mall. The daughter led the crowd to a beggar sitting on the sidewalk between the entrances to a supermarket and a warehouse store. Shoppers had to step down in the street to get around him and his dog, who had a red setter's coat and a boxer's head and tail. Although his wrinkles suggested that he was in his forties, his flashing eyes and clenched jaws revealed a more youthful revolt. He wore a plaid steamer cap; a queue of long hair once dyed blond; a dark, one-week beard; a shirt once pink; a striped green and blue tie loose at the neck; gray warm-up pants and brand-new, white gym shoes. He ignored us suspiciously, but his dog raised friendly eyes and wagged his tail. The daughter patted the dog, while the rest of us held back from a stench of urine and alcohol .
"How about me?" asked the beggar resentfully. A front tooth was missing on the upper left side and a molar on the lower right."God will welcome you into his community."
"I don't give a shit about God's community."
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Unphased, the daughter explained it to him.
"OK, but how about a little something until I get there?""All right!" She took his cap off, handed it to him and put her hand on his head, while his eyes rolled up, down and up again. Then she raised her eyes and the crowd lowered theirs: "Oh Lord, bless your son and move us to welcome him among us. He will need a shower, clean clothes, three healthy meals a day and food for his dog, a room and bath, and, above all, Oh Lord, a good woman. Praise the Lord." After a chorus of Praise Lords the daughter swept the crowd with her eyes. A former football player who owned a gym raised his hand and said he was going to give "our brother" a shower. One of his employees said she would wash and dry his clothes while he was taking it: "But who is going to wash his dog?"
"I am," said the keeper of the pound. He approached the dog, touched him under his snout, let him sniff his hand and scratched him behind the ears.The owner of a fast-food restaurant was going to give their brother and his dog three days of meals and three more on credit. A motel owner made the same commitment for the room and bath. We were about to worry about the job and the woman when a hairdresser offered to do his hair and trim his beard as he wished.
"Send him over to me as soon as you are through," said a dentist.After another moment of silence, a little bald man in a dark suit invited their brother to come and see him. The town could use another employee. After another silence, a minister promised that, once their brother had worked a few weeks, earned a little money and satisfied the mayor, he would find him a good woman. A haircut, a shave and two new teeth would help. The beggar's eyes grew bigger and his jaw dropped further with each promise, until he saw that everyone was waiting for him to respond. Then he stood up and his dog with him. The hagiographers would claim that he was a paralytic who stood up and walked when the daughter told him to. This opinion would have startled the managers of the supermarket and the warehouse store, who congratulated each other on seeing him come to buy instead of beg. Like everyone else I spoke to a few weeks later, they confirmed that the townspeople had kept all of their promises and their brother had lived up to all of the daughter's expectations. The minister had found him such a good woman that he worked pretty hard, stayed away from liquor and took her to church every Sunday. Hadn't the daughter wrought a far greater miracle than the hagiographers could claim.
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In another town, a handsome young woman with red hair who wore stylish glasses and a well-tailored, light-blue suit asked whether wealth would exclude her from God's community. Although she didn't have the local accent, her fellow citizens listened respectfully when she spoke.
"No," replied the daughter. "Wealth itself is no sin, but it is a temptation difficult to resist, since it tempts both poor and rich to do harm by the way in which they acquire or use it.""The bank that hired me after graduation sent me to manage its agency here. They want to see how much money I can make for them. They don't care how I do it as long as I don't cause any trouble. If I make a lot of money for them, they will promote me and send me to a bigger agency. If I only make enough, they will leave me here. If I don't make enough, they will fire me and they will have no trouble finding someone else to replace me, probably someone who doesn't care about God's community."
"Then you do care about his community?""Yes, I certainly do."
"Like most serious problems, yours has no sure or safe solution. If God's community is your highest priority, you should try to make only enough to satisfy your bank and stay where you will have a better chance of serving your fellow creatures. You should also take full advantage of any policies your bank may have to encourage the good will of the public. You didn't mention your personal wealth.""Should I assume that charity begins where tax benefits end?"
"Yes, but also that charity consists of more than money.""I take my turn one evening every week helping schoolchildren with their math and another visiting seniors. I have made a lot of friends that my bank wouldn't welcome as customers."
"God bless you! You are on the threshold of his community. How many others will follow you?"Others spoke up, promising to do so. The daughter would rely more and more on the banker as her ministry developed and she needed financial management. Apologists have adopted the legend that she told her to follow her immediately and the banker equivocated over unfinished business at her bank. They quote the daughter as saying: "it's harder for a rich woman to enter God's community than for a hippopotamus to get through a revolving door."
Many legends evolved from events that I witnessed and reported during her ministry. Touring the opposite shore of the lake, she found
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a boat more convenient than
a car. One day, when the four fishermen were revisiting towns on the near
side, she had the last two take her across in the morning and the first
two bring her home in the evening. When she had finished with the last
town on her schedule, she walked to the shore followed by the biggest crowd
she had so far attracted. The sun, which was setting over the lake, silhouetted
the big and small fishermen in their boat. They went back and forth trying
to find water deep enough to approach the beach. The daughter walked out
on a spit, took her shoes off and, holding them in her hand, waded out
to them passing between us and the sun. She was wearing a light cotton
dress which revealed a dancer's figure and grace. At first, the water didn't
even cover her feet, so that she looked as if she were walking on it. A
photo I took, which appeared in all the media, inspired various captions,
such as "Did the daughter wet her feet?" At the time, however, everyone
understood that she only appeared to walk on the water. Only years later
did people who hadn't witnessed the event or even consulted any witnesses
claim that she had actually done so. They also insisted that a great storm
had suddenly blown up, threatening the boat with waves two or three meters
high. When the fishermen resorted to prayer, the daughter calmed it with
a wave of her hand as she walked across the water. I can tell you that
a breeze tickled the surface only after she entered the boat and, as we
watched it grow smaller, never blew any harder. Anyone who lived near the
lake in those days would have scoffed at the idea that even the most violent
wind could have raised waves high enough to endanger a boat. Now, I'm afraid,
most of their descendants would insist that such an event is possible because
they are convinced that it really happened.
As the crowds increased, other reporters began to cover the daughter and they resorted to the usual tactics intended to dramatize the story. A favorite one was to question assertions by her that had shocked her critics. "You attack learned and healthy people," said one. "What's wrong with learning and health?"
Several listeners raised their hands and the daughter pointed to one of them: "She doesn't attack all learned and healthy people, but only the learned who exploit the ignorant and the healthy who neglect..."Interrupting him, a second reporter asked the daughter: "M'am, will people with advantages necessarily victimize others without them?"
She pointed to a second listener: "Advantages tempt people who have them to victimize those..."A third reporter interrupted: "M'am; power, wealth, learning, health:
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these are abstract categories. Won't your message seem vague both to victimizers and victims?"
"Awww!" protested the crowd. Designated by the daughter, a fourth listener commented: "You want her to name names and start a controversy so you can exploit it. Controversies started by the press usually obscure the issues involved. That's an example of people with information deceiving people without it." The crowd laughed.Red in the face, a fourth reporter asked: "M'am, will everything your followers attribute to you be your true opinion?"
She replied: "Will everything you publish be yours?" The crowd laughed and the reporters' anger encouraged them.Older than the others, a fifth reporter was the first to raise his hand. When the daughter recognized him, he asked: "M'am, do you acknowledge the need to keep the citizens of a democracy informed?"
"Of course! Do you keep them informed?"Not only did the reporters resent these lessons, but also the daughter's refusal to submit to an interrogation. They weren't embarrassing her; she was embarrassing them. Their resentment suited people who feared her, ranging from rival religious leaders to businessmen and politicians. The press divided into a majority of broadcasters and publishers opposed to her and a favorable minority, to which my newspaper belonged. My editor had let me cover her from the beginning of her ministry and report it as accurately and conscientiously as I could. Thus she and her associates cooperated with me, giving me all the information and interviews I needed and recommending other sources. I soon began to wonder if such a woman could have come from an ordinary family and town. I had a chance to investigate when she accepted an invitation to a wedding that united families friendly with hers. Nothing could have been more ordinary than the nineteenth-century clothes rented for the occasion and worn only at such occasions. Nor the religious ceremony, in which the minister gave the instructions and obtained the commitments imposed by his religion. As usual, however, the couple took their obligations less seriously than saying and doing the right things at the right time. The reception resembled dozens of others I have attended, in which couples who have been living together take a sentimental turn. The guests guzzled free alcohol; the jokes and pranks were as lewd and the laughter, as raucous as ever. Yet the presence of the daughter made a difference between this wedding and others. Wearing a
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sleeveless blue silk dress with a square cut neck, she eclipsed the young women by her beauty and the old women by her dignity. As for the men, she inspired their respect without making the slightest appeal for it. Drunkards with lipstick around their mouths dared only to peck at her cheek. She fulfilled all of her social obligations without compromizing her dignity or embarrassing or offending anyone. When the time came for speeches, the best man asked her for one and she replied:
"Haven't I spoken enough? It's time for me to listen."Everyone laughed. The best man suggested: "Perhaps you could bless our newly weds?"
Turning towards the minister who had performed the marriage rite, she remarked: "A second time? What could I add?"The next day, I interviewed her husband, children, parents and friends, most of whom were pleased because it had never happened to them before. They prided themselves on the success of someone who they thought resembled them. The daughter's exceptional character, ability and vocation escaped them. Her husband praised her for being a good wife; her son and daughter, for being a good mother; her parents, for being a good daughter. What did they mean by good? Her husband explained that she was always nice to him; took care of him; kept house, cooked meals, entertained guests and raised their children to his satisfaction. The children agreed with him. Hadn't she treated them well, helped them whenever they needed it and sometimes even when they didn't? Her parents saw in her an attractive, affectionate daughter who had done well in school, raised her children well and earned everyone's esteem. Though proud of her success elsewhere, her mother wanted her to finish her ministry, come home and preach in their church. All five of them felt that they could always rely on her. All except her father, who didn't like sentimentality, said they loved her, by which they understood a habitual affection observed and expected of everyone. God's community? Everyone would feel good about themselves and other people. None of the friends I spoke to had anything significant to add. How could the daughter have emerged from such a background? In my article, I had to show that mediocrity had bred an exception without offending my sources. Nor did I entirely succeed judging by a few hints of resentment when I returned a week later to check some unlikely assertions by the press. By then, however, other reporters had spoiled my sources.
The daughter addressed her fellow townspeople in the local mall one day. This time, the crowd listened with more curiosity than enthusiasm, most of
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which came from an out-of-town minority. Individuals were identifying themselves with the categories that she excluded from God's community. Encouraged by their attitude, some young people tried to embarrass her with questions and remarks which they thought subtle. The daughter ignored them, but townspeople, who ordinarily would have disapproved, smiled or even chuckled. The failure of so many disgruntled spectators to disturb or disrupt her ministry only aggravated their hostility. Then the town policeman, a little fat man with a big moustache and oversized sunglasses, made his way through the crowd, approached the daughter and asked her, please, to stop disturbing the peace. The first fisherman stepped forward and scowled down at him as he scowled upwards. "We had peace here until you came and disturbed it," growled the fisherman.
The local majority grumbled their disagreement. "Unauthorized assembly, obstruction of traffic..." recited the policeman.The out-of-town minority mumbled a protest. The fisherman grinned with contempt: "Who are you? The sheriff?" The out-of-town minority laughed.
The local majority raised their voices. The moustache bristled: "Interfering with an officer's accomplishment of his duty!"The fisherman's brow knotted: "Is it your duty to hinder free speech?" The out-of-town guffaws and the local howls intensified. Members of the minority and the majority began to square off against each other. The fisherman was raising his arms to shove the policeman, when he felt the daughter's hand on his shoulder.
A young man yelled: "Hey, Holy Josy! Maybe you better ring your hotline to heaven."Unmoved, the daughter watched them a moment, then addressed the crowd: "God is my father. All of you are my brothers and sisters. All of God's creatures are my family."
Angry, the father brushed the statement aside and left. Distressed, the mother gasped, then ran after him. Irritated, the husband followed shaking his head. Dismayed, the children glanced back as they retreated. Hopeful, the neighbor lingered. Surprized, the teacher waited.
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The daughter's serenity reduced
the crowd to silence, inspiring anxiety
This was a turning point
in her ministry. Until then, she had raised spontaneous enthusiasm in everyone
who heard her except a small contingent of reporters. She had converted
a large majority of the people who lived around the lake and they eagerly
supported her, coming to hear her and contributing, unasked, to her expenses.
Their modest means and humble habits had opened their minds to her attacks
on abuses of privilege. Hometown pride in her success elsewhere had yielded
to resentment when she refused to honor local claims to precedence. People
guilty of the abuses she denounced no longer hesitated to manifest their
dissatisfaction and join with others who shared their irritation. Rising
to the occasion, demagogues channeled their hostility into several tried-and-true
complaints, such as the impudence of claiming to be God's daughter, the
presumption of pretending to represent him, the fraud of his alleged community
and the perfidy of declaring her adversaries his. While the ease with which
she refuted these accusations humiliated them, this humiliation only incited
them to continue repeating them with a vengeful determination. The emergence
of a small but hostile minority and the conversion of a large, enthusiastic
majority in the lake country persuaded her to schedule a big assembly every
weekend at a rural site. On other days, she and the fishermen revisited
the towns around the lake and ventured beyond to others in new territory.
Though less effective than her, they had remarkable success in reaching
all levels and categories of society. Meanwhile, the banker was controlling
receipts and expenditures, while the newly recruited manager planned itineraries
and organized assemblies. A middle-aged man, he had lost his job as the
regional coordinator of a supermarket chain when another company bought
his out. His former employees and customers, most of whom the daughter
had also converted, said that he had treated them too well to satisfy his
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The assemblies took place
in fields, state parks, on beaches, anywhere people could gather, hear
speakers speak, circulate without jostling each other, sit without getting
dirty, let their kids and dogs run, picnic, etc. In six weeks, the numbers
grew from several hundred to a few thousand as the weather warmed, yet
careful planning and dedicated volunteers ensured order, enlightenment
and enthusiasm, even when it rained. Since more were coming from further
away, the daughter encouraged them to bring the entire family and enough
lunch to share with neighbors. The numbers no longer allowed her to begin
by making her listeners' acquaintance, so, at ten o'clock, she urged every
family to greet the others, first those on either side and then those in
front and back. They should say their names, where they came from, what
they were doing and anything that distinguished them from others, such
as a little girl who could find four-leaf clovers or an old man who could
train squirrels to climb his leg and eat out of his hand. But they should
never brag about advantages they had over others, such as the authority
to supervise subordinates, money to buy things others couldn't afford,
knowledge enabling them to exploit ignorant people and the luck to enjoy
recreation that others were physically incapable of. The happy voices of
hundreds or thousands making each other's acquaintance still rings in my
ears. Once it had subsided, the daughter invited all willing musicians
to come forward and accompany the assembly in singing traditional hymns.
The enthusiasm generated by singing together had a higher priority than
the quality of the performance.
Towards eleven, the daughter delivered a sermon on her essential message, which she varied each time by reorganizing the material and illustrating it with new examples drawn from current events and trends. She explained the need for God's community by human abuse of his creatures and his creation. He wanted his creatures to live in harmony with each other and nature. Beginning with the theme of small minorities exploiting large majorities, she distinguished on one hand between the types and degrees of abuse, and, on the other, she exposed the possibilities of interference between types and degrees. For instance, masters of power were often slaves of ignorance; the wealthy suborned the middle class, who, in turn, suborned the poor; ambition exploited ignorance to persecute difference on the pretense of inferiority. God would judge all living humans when he established his community, admitting those he found worthy and condemning the others to death. Defining death as simply the end of life, the daughter refuted all claims to an afterlife, which she attributed to wishful thinking encouraged by
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demagogues claiming supernatural
knowledge. There is no reason to fear death, because the dead, who no longer
exist as individuals, can't suffer or regret the loss of life. Before their
death, they may suffer from dying or the impending loss of their individuality,
but the certainty of surviving as a species should console them. God has
no sympathy with the selfish desire to preserve one's individuality after
death. One can please him only by serving his creatures and conserving
his creation, which alone determine eligibility for entry to his community.
Although sacrificing one's life for such service forfeits this reward,
one has the satisfaction of dying with the certainty of others' gratitude.
Self-respect is an essential human need. The only greater satisfaction
than entering God's community will be helping others to enter it. Most
of the daughter's listeners would have the opportunity to do both.
Finishing her morning sermon by twelve, she invited questions and comments from the audience, who always responded eagerly and sometimes critically, but seldom resentfully. Persistent humiliation had taught the reporters to wait until the rest of the audience had satisfied their curiosity, formulate their questions politely and refrain from asking another one before she had answered the previous one. This discipline tried their patience, yet the grimmer their determination, the more the audience enjoyed refuting their insinuations. Afterwards, the adults conversed with each other and the children chased each other through the forest of legs. Everyone was ready for lunch by twelve-thirty, but no one began before an initial sacrifice. The daughter told everyone in every family to exchange a bite of bread with someone in another family. Once they had done so, she raised her head and spread her arms: "Oh Lord..."
"Oh Lord...""Bless this bread..."
"Bless this bread...""Which you have given us for our nourishment..."
"Which you have given us for our nourishment...""And which we share with each other..."
"And which we share with each other...""In fellowship devoted to you..."
"In fellowship devoted to you...""And in anticipation of your community."
"And in anticipation of your community."Then they ate the bread. Next, she told them to exchange a sip of water in
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a paper cup with a neighbor
and they repeated the litany substituting water for bread.
Then they drank the water. Since I took part in this ritual many times
and covered the daughter from the beginning until the end, I can say that
she never made the slightest allusion to her body and blood.
While they enjoyed their
lunch, she, the four fishermen, the banker, the manager and the other disciples
she had recruited circulated among them, making their acquaintance, discussing
any issues they wished and noting any requests they had. Her ministry was
developing so rapidly that she needed an increasing number of competent
and dedicated disciples, not only to communicate her message to towns she
couldn't visit herself, but also to do many things she had no time for,
such as finding places to hold assemblies, renting amplification equipment,
a large tent for rain and portable toilets; keeping order, taking care
of emergencies and cleaning up afterwards. The spontaneous generosity of
her followers astonished people who knew of her only through the media,
but it dismayed the administrators of charitable campaigns and foundations.
When the sum exceeded what the contributor could evidently afford, the
banker returned part of the money, yet an increasing number made anonymous
contributions. The funds enabled the manager to provide useful services
at assemblies, such as an infirmary, a baby station with a nurse, a playground
whose attendent also took care of lost children, a lost and found, etc.
On instructions from the daughter, he refused all requests by merchants
to sell food, souvenirs, etc. on the grounds reserved for the assembly
and asked local police to discourage them from setting up shop along the
approaches. Nurses and doctors volunteered to serve in the infirmary, mothers
and grandmothers to change diapers and feed babies, preschool teachers
to watch over the playground. Previous missions had attracted only a narrow,
homogenous segment of the population, usually rural, ignorant and conditioned
by charismatics. This one drew an increasing diversity of people previously
indifferent or hostile to such movements, including businessmen, intellectuals
and even socialites from nearby cities. Attending the daughter's assemblies
was in fashion.
Sixty-five years later, I have no fonder memory than those mass picnics. I remember grassy meadows, rocky outcroppings, forest clearings and sandy beaches on sunny, cloudy, windy or rainy days, with hundreds or thousands of happy people eating, drinking, talking, laughing, playing and snoozing. It reminds me of the lost ages of innocence that all of us who
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read have read about somewhere.
I remember following the daughter, the four fishermen, the banker, the
manager and other disciples as they circulated among the crowd, listening,
talking, joking, laughing, sympathizing, remembering, regretting... Painters
and movie directors have often celebrated the daughter holding a little
baby in her arms, but they have neglected the scene where she called the
first fisherman over and put the baby in his arms. Never have I seen so
big a man so embarrassed over so little a baby. His face went pale and
his body trembled with panic. You could almost hear what he was thinking:
"if I don't hold it tightly enough, it will fall; if I hold it too tightly,
I will crush it. What if it slips through my arms?" But then it giggled
and pinched his nose. Although he didn't really know how to smile, he forgot
all of us who were watching, as if a spotlight had focused on him and the
baby, leaving the rest of the world in darkness. Beaming, the young mother
approached and, once he noticed her, he gave it to her with extraordinary
precautions and continued to contemplate it after it had nestled in her
arms. If I had had any artistic talent, I would have devoted an entire
career to representation of this scene. In addition to babies, the daughter
blessed little children, who converged on her so she could put her hands
on their heads. She even blessed lovers who approached holding hands, some
more shyly than others, but all of them eager to receive her approval.
Seniors and people who had no friends received especially cordial attention
from her and her collaborators. She urged families to adopt them and sometimes
the adoption became permanent. You could see the enthusiasm she inspired
in people's eyes and hear it in their voices, yet I could never determine
what she did exactly that moved them so deeply. While the four fishermen
and her other disciples followed her example scrupulously and successfully,
they never aroused the same enthusiasm.
Once everyone had eaten and drunk, and some too much, the manager made recommendations for the disiposal of waste, repacking food and cleaning up. He also recommended ophanages, shelters and homes that would welcome gifts of food. The collective memory of the daughter's mass picnics moved fools and demagogues to claim a miracle: In their enthusiasm, the thousands who followed the daughter into the country had forgotten the need for food. She fed them by multiplying five loaves of bread and three bottles of water bought from a young peddler -- whom the manager wouldn't have allowed on the grounds. After the crowd had satisfied their hunger and thirst, a prodigious amount of food and drink
20 of 264 ©
remained. Only this detail
After rest and recreation,
the program resumed with another sermon, in which the daughter treated
an issue of current concern. I admired her ability to determine causes
by an analysis of effects in language accessible to all but the youngest
of her listeners. Although she never quoted statements, named names or
identified individuals in other ways, everyone understood who she meant
and why she disapproved of them. Her sermons therefore infuriated the perpetrators
of the abuses she was attacking, who meditated their revenge and conspired
with fellow sufferers to get it. She developed most of these sermons from
the same schema, which distinguished between a dominant minority and a
subservient majority. The ambitious minority achieved this dominance by
seizing and abusing power; the cowardly minority submitted rather than
risk the danger of solidarity with each other and mutual defence of their
rights. The minority sinned by indulging themselves and forcing the majority
to contribute to this indulgence; the majority, by yielding to the minority
and sacrificing their integrity. Both were sins because God endowed his
human creatures with reason so they could treat each other fairly. The
daughter attacked the minorities who controlled governments, political
parties, radical movements, religions, foundations, media, companies, unions,
schools, colleges and universities, institutions, learned and professional
societies, clubs, teams, sport and crime syndicates, gangs, militias, etc.
to their own advantage. She illustrated her argumentation by parables that
put it in a context which her listeners could recognize and understand.
I will relate some examples after I have finished with my description of
After the parables and the discussions that followed them, we sang for another hour and the daughter led us in prayer to end her program. Since many always wanted to talk to her, she lingered as long as it took. Some wanted to discuss her ministry or her doctrine, others needed her help, which she gave generously. When they had a mental or physical handicap or a disease, she sent them to one of several doctors who had offered their services free. Still others complained of unemployment, failure, debt, family conflicts, discrimination, depression, etc. and she referred them to professionals willing to help them without charge. Never did she perform a miracle or pretend to. By the time she was free to leave, volunteers supervised by the manager had cleaned and restored the site to nearly the same condition as they had found it. My newspaper published a series of
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photos showing one site before,
during and after an assembly, which reappeared in all of the regional and
some of the national media. The editor devoted a full page to letters and
messages with comments on these photos.
I mentioned the parables
with which the daughter illustrated her teaching. Let me give you a few
"The high priests of a religion
decided that the prophet whom they alleged to have founded it had authorized
them to determine the conditions of marriage when he urged his followers
to multiply. Thus they required all adolescents to attend courses given
by priests, who taught them the duty of marrying as soon as they reached
puberty, having as many children as possible and bringing them up in the
faith. Fifteen years later, the high priests applauded an increase in the
birthrate among the faithful, but deplored the number of adolescents who
refused to marry and multiply. The population of a rival religion, which
was growing more rapidly, worried them. They decided to subsidize couples
who married early and had many children with the proceeds of a tax on individuals
who didn't. Another fifteen years later, however, they had to admit that
the new policy had backfired, since homosexuals and adolescents who didn't
want to marry were converting to the rival religion. Forced to discontinue
the subsidy for lack of tax revenue, they found that couples who had married
early to have children stopped having them. The birthrate was falling even
further behind that of the rival religion. Alarmed, the leaders of the
laity took the power to regulate sex and marriage away from the high priests,
restricting them to a sacerdotal authority, and canceled their demographic
policy. To everyone's surprise, the vast majority of adolescents began
to marry as soon as they reached puberty, have as many children as they
could and bring them up in the faith. The birthrate soared so that the
population began to approach that of the rival religion."
No sooner had the daughter finished this parable than a woman reporter, who had never covered her before, raised her voice without raising her hand:
"Should clergy, who have dedicated themselves to God, have no influence over marriage?"Several listeners raised their hands and the daughter pointed to one of them, who accepted the microphone handed to her: "The right to council young people about sex and marriage, which laymen sometimes confer on
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priests, doesn't justify
interference and coercion by the clergy to increase their influence."
Interrupting her, the reporter addressed the daughter: "Your doctrine contradicts the opinion of nearly all religious leaders.""It isn't my doctrine," replied the daughter. "It's God's wisdom."
The reporter smiled and tossed her head like an angry believer and ironic reporter.The crowd laughed at her.
I raised my hand and, when the daughter nodded to me, asked: "How about young people who marry only because they fall in love with each other and want to have children together?""They accomplish God's will."
"The owner of a television station was dissatisfied with the number of spectators watching the programs it broadcasted. Rival stations were attracting larger numbers by entertaining and exciting them instead of educating and enlightening them as his did. So he replaced his program manager, a cultivated lady in her fifties, by a young man, who substituted quizz shows for panel discussions; slapstick for theatre; soap operas for mini-series derived from literature; pop music for classical; popdance for ballet; variety shows for opera; interviews of celebrities for interviews of artists, scientists and intellectuals. He also hired a scoundrel to host a talk show, in which he goaded vulgar, ignorant guests to quarrel with each other over current trivia. Though continuing to show movies, he choose them according to their popular rather than their critical success and he discontinued foreign films. Sports received three times the previous coverage and included professional wrestling. The news programs ignored international events unless they were catastrophic, seemed threatening, flattered chauvinism or tickled smug delusions; they stressed scandals, crimes and personalities on the national and local scenes. When airplanes crashed, explosions killed people, storms destroyed buildings, hostages were taken, military units took casualties; reporters converged on the victims, the survivors and the next of kin inciting them to display their emotions. The presentation favored actual and potential advertisers, while sacrificing convenient scapegoats to popular wrath. The new manager
23 of 264 ©
hired young women with big
bosoms and buttocks whom he ordered to appear in low tops and high bottoms,
and to smile and laugh as often as possible. He hired men whom women thought
cute; whether they had a handlebar moustache; a toothy smile; a gleam in
their eye or wore their hair in a queue; big, shiny earrings or an unbuttoned
shirt displaying a hairy chest. Men and women improved their salary by
casual flirtation on the air.
"The channel lost a third of its old audience, but it attracted so many new viewers that the total doubled. Although elegant advertisers withdrew, vulgar ones competed to replace them, the advertising manager raised rates and revenue increased. The owner gave his new employees a raise, invested his surplus earnings and avoided taxes by contributing to charities in favor with his advertisers. Yet friends began to make excuses when his wife invited them to a cocktail party on Friday evening or he proposed a foursome for Saturday morning. They avoided him when he saw them in restaurants, at conferences, concerts and clubs. Instead of nineteen holes with the president of the college, the conductor of the orchestra and a neurosurgeon, he had to settle for the coach of the football team, the owner of a discotheque and an ambulance chaser. His wife, who was complaining of a similar disgrace, overheard a conversation in the booth behind her at a café. Women she didn't know were laughing over the replacement, in the advertising on his channel, of a luxury car company by a liquor store, an upscale women's clothing line by a medicine for haemorrhoids and a resort hotel by a loan shark. He reminded her that their income had doubled and she reminded him that they had had more money than they could spend reasonably even before he adulterated his programming, but he refused to admit that he had made a mistake. Although his station continued to prosper, his advertising manager warned him several months later that his advertisers were beginning to bargain for lower rates. Since they could get lower rates from other stations, he had to compromise in order to keep their business. The owner asked how the other stations could underbid him. The manager reminded him that rates not only depended on the number of consumers who saw and heard advertising, but also their purchasing power and their cultural level. If programming quality didn't improve, the channel would have to insert more advertising more often at the risk of losing viewers to other channels. The owner sold his television station and moved with his wife to a fiscal paradise on a tropical island, where they sat on chaise longues on a terrace overlooking the beach. Sipping a rum cocktail, each listened with earphones to his own portable radio. He was checking his investments
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with a station that followed
the financial markets and she was improving her mind with one devoted to
"Television gave the owner access to the minds of his viewers," a listener commented. "Instead of enriching them, he cluttered them and enriched himself. He therefore abused a privilege that God had allowed him."
"What's wrong with giving people what they want?" asked a television reporter."How do you know what they want?" replied the listener. "You only give them what you want."
Another listener added: "You constantly tempt their vanity and self-indulgence."
"Is that a sin?" asked the reporter."Tempting someone to sin is a sin," said the daughter.
"After much success in extending the lives of his patients, a geriatrician decided to found a retirement home dedicated to this purpose. In seeking investment, he argued that an increasing number of wealthy people were growing old. Extending their life would enable them to continue paying for it and, since they would have retired, their income would come from conservative and stable portfolios. Investment in his home would therefore bring a certain, substantial and continuous return. Risk would be negligible. Thus he easily raised the capital he needed; built, equipped and staffed the retirement home and managed it successfully for ten years. He had divided his administration into three departments: one to keep all residents busy and happy, both physically and mentally; another to keep them healthy and prevent or treat all diseases that threatened or might threaten them; the third to treat them with life-extending therapies including drugs and replacement of failing articulations and organs. The business succeeded so well that he built an addition to the original home and a new home in another location. Earnings increased his own wealth dramatically and encouraged investors to finance expansion. Since residents were living well beyond life expectancy, the waiting list grew longer, thus ensuring immediate reoccupancy of apartments and rooms left vacant when deaths did occur.
"Yet the average age of the residents was increasing, so they made less use of the recreation offered by the first department. The departmental manager had to lay employees off, close facilities and terminate contracts
25 of 264 ©
at the risk of discouraging
the younger elderly, especially those on the waiting list. These people
wanted to go swimming, play tennis, golf and bridge, see films, attend
concerts and cocktail parties, and do all the other things they were used
to doing. Nor did they look forward to finding themselves among others
who couldn't. The increasing age of the residents had the opposite effect
on the second department, because of their more precarious health and greater
vulnerability to disease. The departmental manager had to hire more employees,
engage more doctors and other professionals, buy more equipment, etc.,
indeed the expenses surpassed the savings achieved by the first department.
The geriatrician dealt with these problems by shifting resources, expanding
capacity and spending more on advertising. But then the third department
encountered a problem no one had anticipated: the more residents aged,
the less they accepted age-extending therapy. When urged to take advantage
of this wonderful opportunity, some reacted angrily and others, plaintively,
saying they didn't want to live any longer. Their life had shrunk to a
mere existence that depended on artificial means and efforts. Will had
survived the opportunity to exersize it, as gentle enslavement by the attendants
constantly reminded them. Many admitted that they wanted to die and two
who had tried to kill themselves resented the efforts of their attendants
to save them. The first department confirmed the prevalence of this death
wish among the older majority, who no longer wanted to watch television,
listen to radios or stereos, read or do any of the things they had previously
enjoyed. All they wanted to do was sleep or sit staring into space, except
for momentary distractions such as visitors, little children and cats,
all of which the manager introduced. Far more numerous than the widowers,
the widows couldn't even remember the husbands with whom they had spent
most of their lives and who had left them enough wealth to pay for the
best retirement home money could buy.
"The geriatrician had the courage to reorganize his business, accepting lower profits in the short term and initiating a long-term limitation of admissions to the younger elderly. During the second ten years of his business, he achieved a statistical cone of which the oldest residents formed the point and the youngest, the base. Although he continued to offer life-extension therapy and promote it in his advertising, he charged fees for it and accepted outpatients. After an initial period of adjustment, profits reached even higher levels than before, so he built three new homes and enhanced his facilities and services with the latest technology.
26 of 264 ©
Towards the end of the second
ten years, however, new problems began to threaten his business. A majority
of the population, who couldn't afford retirement homes like his, resented
the injustice, as they saw it, of greater longevity for the wealthy. They
voted for representatives who advocated a surtax on the profits of private
homes to pay for public ones that would provide the same kind of care.
A more enlightened minority, who saw the fallacy of life-extension, objected
to the deception of seniors who feared death. They voted for representatives
who advocated euthanasia and, since these politicians didn't belong to
the same party as the others, the two factions negotiated a compromise
that reduced our geriatrician's profits from extraordinary to ordinary.
The lobbyist he had hired nonetheless succeeded in having an amendment
approved that allowed private homes to offer both life-extension and euthanasia
to residents and outpatients. Congress didn't want public homes to offer
these services. A few years later, the geriatrician celebrated his sixty-fifth
birthday and retired, appointing his most capable manager to run the business
for him. After ten years of happy retirement, he died suddenly from a stroke
and his wife moved to a luxury suite in the original retirement home. Refusing
both life-extension and euthanasia, she eventually died in a comfortable
The questions, answers and comments revealed disagreement between the daughter's followers over the geriatrician's eligibility for God's community. The doctor had not only offended God, some argued, by wasting resources and suborning his fellows, but also by exploiting seniors and tampering with human nature. On the contrary, others replied, hadn't he enabled many people to expend their most vulnerable years as happily and comfortably as possible? Didn't he have a right to earn an honest living? What harm did he do? Closing his homes would hardly have benefited the envious who couldn't afford them. Using resources to comfort seniors who would otherwise suffer didn't offend God. Man has been tampering with human nature ever since he shared his cave with his grandmother or suddenly put her out of her misery. Once the debate had reached a repetitive stalemate, the daughter intervened: "I agree with your disagreement. This is a case that only God will be able to decide."
"Then you don't necessarily condemn healthcare for profit?" I asked."No," she replied. "The quality of care, the percentage of profit, the sales technique and the treatment of employees are factors that determine whether the provider has sinned and how badly he has sinned." She recognized a listener who had raised his hand:
"Wasn't the geriatrician's stroke punishment by God?"
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"No. God neither punishes
nor rewards his creatures before the establishment of his community. Only
then will he exclude the unworthy and admit the worthy. Since the geriatrician
is dead, however, he will not face this judgment."
Since I have published a
critical edition of the daughter's parables in another volume, there is
no need to add further examples of the many others she told during the
first part of her ministry. Never did she repeat one she had already told,
never did she hesitate to tell a new one, for she had a fertile imagination,
an acute perception and a penetrating judgment. All of them held her listeners'
attention and stimulated their curiosity, hence the fruitful discussions
that followed. Nor will I attempt an exhaustive account of her demonstrative
acts during this period, many of which were later adulturated as miracle
stories. An increasing number of physically, mentally and morally handicapped
people were waiting for her everywhere she went. When they could be healed,
she recommended them to someone who could do it and, when they couldn't
be, she recommended them to someone who could appease their suffering.
Never did she pretend to heal them by supernatural means.
The lake region, where the
daughter started her ministry, had attracted no important industry by then.
The region depended on the state and the nation to support the economy.
The state department of agriculture maintained the number and health of
the fish in the lake, the cattle industry sold and bought the steers fattened
along the shores and small business provided supplementary employment.
The inadequate revenue raised by local taxes forced towns and counties
to rely on state and federal subsidies for schools and hospitals. The beauty
and resources of the region hadn't attracted the developers yet who built
the resort hotels, the recreational facilities, the elegant malls, the
advanced clinics and the sumptuous residences that have enriched and spoiled
it. Nor had business, professional, intellectual and artistic classes developed
to the point of providing a public for the educational and cultural activities
available today. The population had little influence over the remote government
officials and business executives whose decisions resulted in prosperity
or hardship for them. Uncontaminated by urban passions, however, they adhered
to the robust ethics they had inherited from ancestors who had settled
the region centuries before. Like the four fishermen, they took pride in
their generosity, integrity and independence. Consequently, the daughter
couldn't have chosen a better time and place to start her ministry than
the one in which she had grown up, made a home and raised a family.