Friends: Please pardon my physical absence from you this week, as your generosity last week made it possible for me to crusade once again on your behalf. I even had enough cash left over after paying the hospital bills to buy the equipment needed to record today’s sermon in advance, and arrange for it to be played on this reel-to-reel tape player. I come to you, a simulacrum of a Reverend Cavendish, if you will, because by the time you get this message, the real Reverend Cavendish is engaged in mortal combat.
Of course, I have taken precautions to make sure our enemies cannot trace this communication. As you can hear, this not actually my voice, but that of the noted actor Martin Landau. I arranged for a suitcase filled with cash and directions to be delivered to him by a courier service based in Luino, a medium-sized market town near the Italo-Swiss border. The courier service was, in turn, contacted by field agents of Blackwater, a private security firm I hired over the internet. Who knew that mercenaries used Paypal?
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to help me to defray the costs of these elaborate precautions. I realize that some of you may wonder if these precautions are truly needed. So, you could ask: can I afford to fund these increasingly exorbitant requests? But I would ask you: can you afford not to?
I am, of course, talking about the threat of divinely-guided electrical discharges. We know from Job 37 and Psalm 18 that God uses lightning to achieve His ends. But will donation keep you on His right side? Let me point out that of those who donated last week, none have been struck by lightning. The ever-present risk of celestial electrocution is not one that we should lightly dismiss.
Of course, there are skeptics out there.
Today’s reading is from Sir Francis Bacon’s Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning Divine and Humane. Bacon refers to Cicero’s parable in De natura Deorum about Diagoras in Neptune’s Temple. Seems a Neptune-worshipper showed Diagoras a great number of pictures of people who had: 1) escaped shipwreck, and 2) had paid their vows to Neptune. But Diagoras refused to accept the direct connection between the worship of Neptune and safe passage over the seas:
“Yea, but (saith Diagoras) where are they painted that are drowned?”
The first thing we can say about Diagoras is that he is a real party-pooper. When he notices you with a bottle half full of Bailey’s, Diagoras is exactly the kind of person who not only will call it half empty, but will then ask you what you are doing operating a backhoe in your ex-wife’s garden while totally bombed. Cicero was trying to tell us that people like Diagoras who are skeptics are enormous pains in our arses, and we should not tell them where or when the next ice cream social will be held.
Bacon, though, is worse than Cicero. Bacon fails to see the obvious social lesson that Cicero endeavored to impart, and seems to think that Cicero’s story illustrates a fallacy of the mind wherein people pay more attention to occasional coincidences and so draw mistaken causal conclusions. He sees the Neptune worshipper’s reasoning as an instance of:
A few times hitting or presence, countervails oft-times failing or absence.
Which is all well and good except for the fact that we’re talking about Neptune, here, people! Since Neptune is not just a craven idol, but one whose religion was totally pasted by Christianity, why is it surprising that ships crashed? Whereas today, ships routinely cross the Mediterranean without sinking! Is it just a coincidence that Christianity is the new common currency of the realm? So, Bacon might be right about false conclusions in the age of Jupiter, but in the age of Christ, false conclusions have risen again as true ones!
Sure, people like Cicero and Bacon would ask you to be skeptical of my claims relating to lightning and donations, even perhaps likening this to a fictional supernatural protection racket. But as I have shown, these men not only used flawed reasoning, but they are both dead. Whereas, at least when I penned these words, I am very much alive.
So who are you going to believe on the subject of keeping alive? I leave you with that question and the following Swiss bank account number: 1117-922-3388-666. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.
Labels: Sunday Sermon