The Common Good
September-October 2000

Defending Against Rogue Potlucks

by Ed Spivey Jr. | September-October 2000

Humor

One of the biggest issues of the presidential campaign is how the United States can defend itself against rogue nations, such as Iran, North Korea, and the Southern Baptist Convention. In the case of the first two, the fear is that they want to retaliate for decades of sitting through poorly dubbed reruns of American television shows. Being forced to watch "Three’s Company" and "Dallas" leaves you little choice but to turn to weapons of mass destruction. It’s a cry for help.

But U.S. leaders are divided on how best to respond to these threats. The Pentagon wants a missile defense system and is undeterred by the fact that, after $60 billion in research, they’ve only been able to shoot down one incoming missile. (And that was launched by the Junior Rocket Club of Littleton, New Jersey. The Pentagon has apologized and promised to reimburse the youngsters.)

Congressional leaders, in contrast, feel the nation can be better protected from missile attack by a thick layer of campaign contributions. When it comes to guarding the lives of American citizens, they reason, nothing works like soft money from undocumented sources.

But let’s look at these so-called threats, and see if they really are a danger to the United States (or, specifically, to the Junior Rocket Club of Littleton, New Jersey):

IRAN. Admittedly, this country has proven it can be dangerous. There was that thing with Salman Rushdie’s book where he compared Iranian religious fanatics to Southern Baptists and then Iran issued a death threat. They’ve moderated since then, withdrawn the death threat and even promised to welcome Rushdie back home just as soon as he gets some new glasses. (The pair he has now makes his face look chubby and that just reflects badly on the whole country, don’t you see?)

I think the real reason Americans are concerned with Iran is that no matter how old Iranian men get, they still have more hair than we do. We hate that. Truthfully, if Iran was importing razors instead of missile technology, maybe we wouldn’t be so alarmed.

NORTH KOREA. The TV reruns excuse might not work here, since North Korea has just one television set, and it only works when a palace guard, under fear of death, wiggles the antennae with his hand while the fearless leader watches. North Korea’s leader is Kim Jong Il, otherwise known as Kim Jong, The Sequel, after his dad’s impressive legacy of limiting his country’s agricultural output to a single meal, and then eating it himself. On his historic visit with South Korea’s president, Kim Jr. surprised the free world by providing the first documented example of a North Korean smile. (He was smiling because every time they dig a hole in his country, the United States thinks it’s another missile site and quickly promises to increase international aid if they "just stop digging all those holes!")

SOUTHERN BAPTIST Convention. (Not to be confused with the Republican Convention. On second thought....) The SBC recently declared that women should not be preachers. This means little, of course, since individual churches don’t have to follow such edicts. But the SBC felt it had little choice since the statute of limitations on silly doctrinal edicts had almost expired.

Because I was raised Southern Baptist, I’m qualified to criticize this action. The rest of you, however, are like Presbyterian or something and probably never ONCE had to deal with the controversial ecclesial issue of pantsuits. (The preacher in my childhood church thought it was a sin for women to wear pantsuits. Fortunately, pantsuits went out of fashion before any real spiritual damage was done.)

But Southern Baptists are not evil, just misunderstood. They were forced into this decision by a tragic potluck incident in North Carolina last year. You probably heard about it.

It seems the female pastor of a local church was busy preparing the Sunday sermon, and she asked her husband to make a dish for the afternoon potluck. Since he’d never done this before, it’s understandable that he accidentally put french-fried onion rings on top of Jell-O salad. While this is acceptable to Southern Baptists north of the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s anathema in the Bible Belt, a place that, to its credit, has never ONCE used "anathema" in a sentence or, for that matter, on top of a Jell-O salad.

The pastor’s husband made an honest mistake, but it threw the potluck into chaos. And in Southern Baptist circles, messing with the potluck is almost as bad as inviting the pope to a full-immersion baptism. It got ugly.

Some people were so upset they didn’t go back for a third helping of ham and scalloped potatoes. And a few of the Baptist men even forgot to go outside and smoke afterwards. Needless to say, the very fabric of the church’s life was at risk.

I understand how this could happen, because I firmly believe that men are biologically inferior when it comes to potluck preparation. Just last week I was making tuna salad for my church’s monthly potluck when I forgot one small ingredient (tuna). It did not go over well at the potluck. People—and I’m talking about good Christian people (though not one of them Southern Baptist)—made fun.

In hindsight, instead of forbidding female preachers, Southern Baptists should have banned husbands from making potluck dishes. Then they could have moved on to more pressing issues, such as how we can defend against real rogue threats to our society—such as attacks by the giant Japanese-speaking monsters seen in the new documentary Godzilla 2000.

EDSPIVEYJR. is art director of Sojourners.

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