A Rabid Fundamentalist Column
John W. Cowart
When Wanda told me about the squabble, in my mind’s eye I could see the terrible situation clearly:
Villagers assembled with torches, staves and pitchforks.
Scantly-clad women run screaming thru the streets.
Emotional buttons have been pushed.
By-standers have taken sides.
Cops have been called.
All this in an upscale, gated, secure community in Savannah (although it could happen anywhere, even in your own hometown). I became aware of the situation when Wanda, our friend from Savannah, dropped by my house with a burning theological question that’s really bothering her.
Here’s what she asked me:
How should you handle it when one person’s cat tracks footprints all over another person’s just-washed car?
Person A, a long-time resident of the community, loves his car. It’s his pride and joy. He washes and waxes and polishes it and takes it to auto rallies.
Person B, who recently moved into the subdivision, loves her cat. It is her cuddle and pet and pride. She pampers the beast, feeds it choice tidbits and spends fortunes at the vet.
But B’s cat wants to nap on the warm hood of A’s car!
And it leaves tracks across the windshield.
Words have been exchanged. Names have been called. All the neighbors have taken sides. No blood has been shed yet, but law suits loom. Feelings run high. Cat-lovers and car-lovers refuse to speak – or when they do, they glare at each other and mutter as they pass.
There even has been some profanity reported.
And Wanda wanted to know if I could think of some Bible verse that might apply to the situation????
I can’t think of a single Scripture passage that might relate.
Not a one.
If King Solomon, world’s wisest man, counseled these people he’d take a sword and cut the cat in half and give each… No, Solomon’s solution only worked with babies.
Maybe if you tied the adversaries’ left hands together, then placed a meat cleaver in their right hands….
No. No, that’s not a Christian solution – but that’s the only thing I could think of right that moment.
Of course, after my friend was well on her way up I-95 – then, too little, too late, as usual when I try to think of answers to problems – I had a couple of ideas:
To start with, although I laughed at it, Wanda’s question, “How should you handle it when one person’s cat tracks footprints all over another person’s just-washed car?” is not frivolous.
In fact, at its root, there are few theological issues of more eternal importance.
The Apostle James essentially addresses the same issue when he asks, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”
Jesus once said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”.
Yes, indeed. After worshiping the Lord God Almighty, nothing is more important than managing to get along with the people around us – especially those who aggravated, annoy and peeve us.
But they are such pests!
If it’s not the cat and the car, then it’s the check-out girl’s slovenliness, or the driver who cut me off, or the boss’ imposition, or my wife’s pantyhose on the shower rod, the guy in my parking space, or the nerd from tech support, or the telemarketer calling at supper, or – well, you name it.
Some more than others.
Some all the time; all some of the time.
Personally I think it’s a bit unreasonable, but God wants me and you to get along with them.
OK. Made in His image. Brother’s keeper. Second commandment, and all that.
But also, every person we touch, every person we brush against, every person we help, every person we hurt – we nudge them, and they nudge us, a little closer to God, or a little further away from Him.
Is your neighbor’s eternal soul, health, well-being and good will more important than your car/cat?
But how? How can I get along with (much less love) my neighbors when they constantly infringe on my rights? Even the people I do love get to be a pain sometimes. The people I have to live with and those klutzes at work!!! There are cat lovers and car lovers and impossible people on every block.
Yes. There are. And – guess what -- you and I are one of them.
As loveable, kind, gentle, handsome, strong-armed and pure-hearted as I am, for some people, usually those closest to me, my wife, my children, my neighbors – I am a pain in the ass.
Could it be that you are too?
Everybody is a Babylonian to somebody.
So how do I, Impossible Person A, manage to get along with her, Impossible Person B?
Well, Here’s a place to start:
The first principle of interpretation to consider when reading God’s Word is that the Bible never tells me what somebody else ought to do. For instance, it never says, They Shall Not Steal – no, it says, You Shall Not Steal.
You. You. You.
In His Sermon From The Mount Jesus uses the word “you” 207 times (I counted).
The Bible never talks about how someone else ought to treat me; it only says how I’m to treat them.
So, I’m to take the Scripture personally.
And do what it says!
Even when it’s hard.
Now, sometimes the best example is a bad example. So, I looked back in my diary and found an unhappy example from my own life. I was tempted to edit this entry and clean up the language so you would think I’m absolutely saintly (what a fake), but I decided to go with the raw text written in the heat and aggravation of the moment.
Readers of tender scruples may want to skip this but here it is:
Sometimes I hate being a Christian.
Today was one of those times.
Earlier this week someone brought to my attention that one of my neighbors has been pissed over something I did.
Well, my first reaction is to say, “To Hell with ‘em”! I didn’t do anything wrong, in fact what I did was right and she has no reason to get her ass on her shoulders. It didn’t involve her and it’s none of her damn business”.
Then I went through all sorts of mental gymnastics justifying what I’d done and why she has no business being offended. She really needs to grow up and move on.
But, being a Christian, I could not help remembering the Scripture from Matthew 5:23-24, where Jesus said,
“If thou bring they gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gift”.
What a pain in the ass!
I’m not in the wrong about this.
Why should I be the one to apologize?
Jesus has all these dumb rules that make me belly-crawl even when I do the right thing. I’m the good guy here. Now, I can see going to another person who has offended me and trying to get things straight, but I’m not the tender, delicate offended party here.
Nevertheless, the Scripture stands.
It boils down to whether or not I intend to follow Jesus. He is my Lord, or He’s not.
So, I’ve avoided meeting the person all week long. But this morning I called to be sure she was at home and I went over there and apologized.
I went with much mumbling and grumbling and vexation of spirit – but I went.
Turns out, she says, that the original report was wrong. She was not pissed at me at all but at somebody else altogether. But I would have assumed animosity from now on if I had not marched over there and straightened out things between us.
The words of Jesus are often a pain, but sometimes they make sense.
But I could do without all this anguish of spirit I’ve been going through. I’ve got to stop reading all that Scripture, it messes up my head when I take it seriously.
Hey, that’s the best example I could come up with. OK?
Good luck with your own life.
So, how did things work out in the squabble between the cat lover and the car lover?
I don’t know. Last I heard they were talking to lawyers.
Typically in these situations we either humble ourselves and go to our neighbor to get things straight, or the tension escalates into battle, or the tension seethes and festers for years creating more and more resentment, bitterness and general upset, the background white noise in which we live .
And that’s fundamental.
A Tip For Cat Lovers: When you move to a new place and you want your cat to settle in, rub a dab of butter on its paws. When cat begins to lick the stuff off, it tastes butter and thinks it has moved to Heaven. It becomes obsessed with licking its paws and can think of nothing else – especially of tracking mud over your new neighbor’s polished car.
A Tip For Car Lovers: Since an AK47 costs so much and might really mess up the finish on your car, invest 89 cents in a child’s water pistol. When the vile cat’s asleep on your hood, give him a squirt. Won’t hurt the car; won’t hurt the cat. But it will teach him that unpleasant things happen to cats that climb on your car.
Besides, did you know that when squirted, the average house cat can jump and run faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
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