Once upon a time, in a land where the sun was warm and the ocean breezes drew tourists in droves with the anticipation of enjoying the exquisiteness of an endless summer, a place where the blue skies merged with the green of palm trees to outline the essential beauty of nature, there was situated a small, prosperous community. This community was known to those who lived there as well as those who were familiar with it as TCC – The Christian Community.
TCC was a rather unique community in that while the society around it prided itself in, and existed on its belief in its history of honorable men and women who sacrificed their blood, youth, and innocence for the freedom to live without governmental institutions that were overbearing and unduly restrictive, TCC provided an example of the other end of this political spectrum – it was a microcosm of an authoritarian, repressive government.
But its structural circumstances were unique, and everyone seemed to be, for the most part, happy, thus rendering renewed meaning to the phrase, “ignorance is bliss.”
The mayor of this community was a man by the name of Carlin Morton. Carlin was a fairly well-respected man. He ran the community with a tight fist and an iron law that basically came down to his word, regardless of whether or not that word was consistent with or in contradiction to any pre-established norms, standards or premises.
While Carlin was concerned about the day-to-day activities of his community, he had a particular interest in unique ideas. These ideas were an unusual mix of philosophy, theology and sociology that resulted in a potpourri of well-intentioned, but often imprecise standards. But he loved these ideas. He loved them more than anything else in the world, because they were his, and they were unique only to him.
He would often travel to other communities and towns to show his ideas, and people who aspired to wear the cloak of these ideas would also frequently visit TCC to see for themselves Carlin’s ideas. They were magnificent, no one could doubt that; and they were powerful, for no one would admit otherwise.
Virtually everyone in the community praised Carlin for his ideas, ideas he wore with the ease of a conqueror. His ideas, you see, had allowed TCC to grow fat on the material gains it derived from their application (not to mention some good, old-fashioned business savvy). The community had everything you could imagine – beautiful houses, immaculate gardens and landscaping, cutting-edge instruments for the pursuit of science, entertainment facilities. . . you name it – all as a result of Carlin’s ideas, and all because they were unique, and different from anyone else’s.
One day, some swindlers came to TCC to introduce some new ideas to the mayor. No one really knew these swindlers, or even that they WERE swindlers. These men had simply seen the opportunity to make a profit off of Carlin’s love of unique ideas. They set up a meeting with the mayor and introduced to
him their proposal.
“Mr. Morton,” one of them started, “we have some ideas that we think will go marvelously with your existing collection.”
“Splendid! What do you have in mind?” returned Carlin, obviously delighted with the idea of new and even more exquisite ideas.
“Well, what my partner and I had in mind was this. Many of your townspeople spend a lot of time outdoors reading this Book together, called the Bible, where everyone, particularly visitors can see them.
“Go on,” replied Carlin.
“And since this Book supposedly allows people to read it freely wherever and whenever they wish, to prohibit them from reading it in only CERTAIN places will make your community look better AND will give you a new, unheard-of idea!”
“Magnificent!” exclaimed Carlin, “but how do you intend to devise this new idea?”
“Well,” replied the swindlers, “it may take us a few days and some money, but we promise you it can be done. And one other thing – the validity of this idea has a special quality. The idea’s validity will become invisible to anyone who is stupid, rebellious or who is unfit for his job.”
So, Carlin agreed, and the swindlers got to work immediately. They set up headquarters in a suite of offices located out of the sight of the regular townspeople. They brought in their books and their treatises, their encyclopedias and their religious texts (for you see, this was essentially a religious idea), and they began to work. Night after night they toiled, formulating their imaginary idea.
The mayor was so anxious to see this new idea that he called into his office his vice mayor to have him take a look at the new idea. He knew the vice mayor wasn’t rebellious or stupid and that he was perfectly fit for his job. Therefore, he thought to himself, the vice mayor would be the perfect person to check on the progress of this new, magnificent idea. So the vice mayor went to the swindler’s suit to observe the idea’s status.
“Oh my,” thought the vice mayor to himself, “I can’t see any validity to this idea!” He was obviously disturbed, for he knew he wasn’t a rebellious person, he wasn’t stupid (after all, he had a Ph.D.), and he felt himself fit for his job.
“The idea is starting to make a lot of sense, gentlemen. I know the mayor will be quite pleased,” commented the vice mayor with an unsettling sense of anguish in his soul.
A few days later the mayor took with him the vice mayor and a few of his highest ranking officials in the community to see this new idea. The two swindlers proudly displayed the structure, text and foundation of this new idea. They called it the “Devotions Policy.”
“I don’t see a thing! Surely I am not unfit for my job,” fretted the mayor in his mind. “The idea is exactly what I want!” he exclaimed out loud to the swindlers.
The mayor’s officials didn’t see anything either, but they weren’t about to admit that there was no validity to this new idea called the Devotions Policy. It’s premise couldn’t be weak, for the mayor himself admitted to seeing it. It didn’t go contrary to all they said they believed because they WERE fit for their jobs. These were the kinds of internal turmoils that were churning like a burning cauldron in the pit of each official’s stomach – the Devotions Policy was a splendid idea they all outwardly admitted, yet none could internally rationalize or see it.
Meanwhile, the community at TCC had been waiting anxiously for the unveiling of this new idea. They had always respected Carlin for his ideas, even though many of them didn’t make much sense.
The swindlers were putting on the final touches when the mayor asked his vice mayor to call all the townspeople together for the announcement of the new idea. It would be a festival and a time for celebrations, although each person had to get permission to leave work from their Form Supervisors. The
anticipation was building. Each person knew the special quality that this new idea possessed, and so they were all eagerly awaiting to be able to objectively prove that they were neither stupid, rebellious, nor unfit for their particular job.
Finally, the day came for the reading of the new Devotions Policy. All of the townspeople were gathered at the town’s main center which was generally used for big announcements and festivities, the Vale Morton Auditorium. The people were excited. They loved Carlin and everything he did.
The mayor got up slowly, pulled out a piece of paper from his coat pocket, and read the details of the new idea. This Devotions Policy was simply a prohibition of, and a sanction against, anyone reading and studying this Book, called the Bible, in certain public areas.
Sure, ideas similar to this had been used for centuries to shut down “religious” folks. In fact, it was rumored that there was even a story in this Book about some Hebrew named Daniel who faced a similar “idea.” The freedom to worship how one pleased was a sensitive issue in the country, but not to the community at TCC. They didn’t care what went on around them, for Carlin said it was ok, and if Carlin said it was ok, it didn’t matter what anyone else said.
As the idea was pronounced, all of the people nodded in agreement. They each espoused an acknowledgment that this idea truly was wise, yet amazingly unique. However, while all were in outward agreement, not a one of them could see the validity of this idea, yet they were not about to admit to this
fact, because they knew what it would say about them individually – they were either stupid, rebellious, or unfit for their jobs. So the public praise continued unabated. . . until someone spoke out.
A representative of some community group called The Prudent Choice stepped up and shouted, “Hey, look! The mayor has no idea! There is no validity to this Devotions Policy!” And the crowd gasped, but they all knew in their hearts and in their minds that it was true.
The mayor’s reaction was one of surprise and defensiveness, but to this day, the community is still waiting for the mayor to acknowledge the emptiness and illegitimacy of this idea, and that the swindlers did just that – swindled away the spiritual maturity and exploited the intelligence of an entire population. . . and they are still laughing all the way to the bank.