Bible Thumpers

So, I let him talk. He handed me a flyer and recited a frightening speech about my eternal soul. He told me exactly where I was going, and how long I’d be there without cable television.

11:32 P.M.—he walked a crowded Palafox Street with a friend. I saw him a mile away. They were nineteen, maybe twenty.

They carried Bibles, they wore neckties. They passed flyers to innocent bystanders who lingered outside dim-lit establishments.

They zeroed in on me.

“Howdy, Tex,” said I.

This two-word salutation was my daddy’s greeting of choice. When I say it, it sounds like he’s inside my throat.

The kid asked if I were going to heaven when I died.

Instead of waiting for my answer, he spoke in a loud voice. It took ten seconds for him to explain that I was riding the southbound train to Fire-and-Brimstone City.

While he spoke, I noticed his hands trembled.

So, I let him talk. He handed me a flyer and recited a frightening speech about my eternal soul. He told me exactly where I was going, and how long I’d be there without cable television.

I asked the kid if he would pray for me—right then.

“You mean you wanna get SAVED?” the kid asked.

“How about we just stick with a short prayer for now, Tex?”

His prayer was something to the melody of:

“God, help this sinner repent before he lands in Eternal Hellfire, where flames are hot enough to melt U.S. manufactured steel, where there are no vending machines, and the possum dieth not…”

When he finished, I thanked him. Then, I asked if I could pray for him in return.

He exchanged a look with his partner. I swore on Daddy’s grave that I’d be respectful. They agreed. We bowed heads.

The kid closed one eye.

“Dear Lord,” said I. “Thank you for these nice-looking, kind hearted young men. And let me say: I’m grateful to be alive and healthy tonight.

“And even though I don’t agree with what these fellas are saying, what do I know? I don’t know half as much as I think I do. Neither does anyone else.

“In fact, just when I think I know things, something always proves me wrong. Then, I remember that I don’t know my ass from page eight in the Birmingham phonebook.

“Anyway Lord, I know you’re busy, but thanks for introducing me to these young fellas. It’s funny, in many ways, we aren’t very different.

“Old Tex here has a pulsing heart, big dreams, he loves his mama, and he probably has no self-control around chips and salsa in Mexican restaurants. That makes us brothers. Humans.

“And sometimes we humans get lost in our own ten-cent opinions. And they make us unkind, and proud. Dadgum.

“Make me nice, God. Nice to my fellow humans who don’t believe like I do. Who’ve done me wrong. People I can’t stand.

“All the children of the world. Good. Bad. Red and yellow, black and white. And even those wearing neckties, thumping Bibles.

“Help every child with cancer. Help those thinking of suicide to reconsider. Help the hungry find food. Help that man I saw holding a cardboard sign.

“Send my best to Daddy. Amen.”

I appreciate the flyer, Tex.

48 comments

  1. Bill King - June 29, 2017 12:14 pm

    Even to an old Southern Baptist minister, that was funny!

    Reply
    • Rob Patrick - June 29, 2017 2:34 pm

      As a Bible thumper of 44 yrs, I loved the story. I’ve found its much easier to thump with good news than bad, after all, the definition of Gospel is good news.

      Reply
      • Cartersquared - June 30, 2017 3:12 pm

        Amen

        Reply
  2. Marsha Hammac - June 29, 2017 12:18 pm

    Well done.

    Reply
  3. Sandra Swindall - June 29, 2017 12:22 pm

    Priceless! Thanks.
    One morning as I was getting ready for some honest-to-God house building on a hot summer day with fellow Habitat for Humanity volunteers, I was approached by some Bible thumpers. I listened patiently then invited them to come join us but they wouldn’t do it. I guess they preferred the easier task of passing out flyers then getting back into their air conditioned cars and heading over to Full Moon for lunch.

    Sandra Herrin Swindall
    Montevallo, AL

    Reply
  4. Cathi Russell - June 29, 2017 12:25 pm

    No tears today but a face cracking grin like a horse eatin’ briers. Bless those missionaries the Mormons send out…I don’t agree with them spiritually, but admire the effort. And bless you who regularly makes me laugh and/or cry reading my phone. Kinda puts a button my day. See you tomorrow.

    Reply
  5. Catherine - June 29, 2017 12:39 pm

    One of my very favorites, thanks Sean!

    Reply
  6. Carolyn C Furcolow - June 29, 2017 12:48 pm

    Your email is the first one I open every morning and it sets the tone of my day. Depending on the content, I share it with friends of like mind. This one really touches me as I was involved in a discussion of religion’s role in our government with people of opposing opinions yesterday.
    Although I am from Tallahassee, FL I have been living in Ohio for many years. I still use my Southern lingo when it fits the situation but haven’t used this one for a long time. Thanks for your great columns.

    Reply
  7. Buck Rogers - June 29, 2017 12:52 pm

    Epic. Had a similar experience on Clearwater Beach 15 years ago.

    Reply
  8. Kathy Daum - June 29, 2017 1:00 pm

    Amen.

    Reply
  9. Michael Bishop - June 29, 2017 1:55 pm

    Since “Amen” has already been said, I’ll just say, “Bingo.”

    Reply
  10. Gloria - June 29, 2017 2:10 pm

    Thanks for changing my grey skies to bright blue ❤️!

    Reply
  11. Susan Victoria - June 29, 2017 2:15 pm

    Thanks for keeping it real. And touche’!!

    Reply
  12. Mark Elder - June 29, 2017 2:47 pm

    To quote Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty, “now that’s a prayer.”

    Reply
  13. Becca Allison - June 29, 2017 3:57 pm

    Thank you for this. I once let the young gentlemen talk for a while until one of them said, “You know, once you are saved, you can’t sin.”
    I replied, “Oh, honey, you can’t mean that!”
    When he assured me he did, I replied, “Oh, wait! That explains something! Why so many born again people are such jerks. They think nothing they do is a sin now.”
    They quickly said goodbye…

    Reply
  14. Laura Fryburg - June 29, 2017 4:26 pm

    Wow! You are special. I read your writings every morning to kinda get my head ready for the day. You do not disappoint. I hope you have a very special and wonderful day.
    Thanks for being my morning devotion.

    Reply
  15. Bobby Reeder - June 29, 2017 5:32 pm

    Just goes to show that you don’t have to have a prayer room!

    Reply
  16. Janet Mary Lee - June 29, 2017 6:01 pm

    Yes, Sir!!! Thank you for that!

    Reply
  17. Martha Armstrong - June 29, 2017 6:20 pm

    This Methodist Preacher’s granddaughter —- raised in the South and who had the great glory of having that Methodist Preacher’s widow help with my ” raising up” —-just got the biggest laugh out of this column! I usually have to find the Kleenex box when reading your posts so this was a pleasant, unexpected departure. I think I even heard my grandmamma laugh, too. (She frequently offer to share her Upper Room with the Mormon and Jehovah Witnesses who knocked on her door trying to share their literature.)
    If I weren’t happily married to a wonderful man and old enough – in Southern terms – to be your great grandmother, I’d propose! But I suppose that your wife might object to that. How about we just “adopt” you both and become your Faux Aunt and Uncle?
    Hugs and Kisses from Wilmington NC

    Reply
  18. Amber - June 29, 2017 6:36 pm

    Thanks for giving me an interesting way to treat Bible thumpers. Typically, shamefully, I don’t usually give them a chance to say much.

    As an aside, I have a friend, who is very overbearing with her political nonsense. For some reason, I am her own friend. Weird!

    Anyways, her common-law husband died and his kids kicked her out the next day. I know this isn’t legal, but she was determined to leave without a destination or money.

    Being a hoarder, her house was awful. When I arrived to help her, there were these two ladies in long skirts of a different religion than most. Although I feel they are mislead, they were the only humans-aside from my family & her son-that helped her. Her church let her down, no one stepping up to help out, even a little bit.

    I thank God that He sent these two gentle souls to help, when no one else cared.

    Reply
    • Barbara Nelle Ewell - July 3, 2017 3:30 pm

      Thank you for this comment. I am so touched by Sean’s gentle response to the young BT. But I also appreciate your additional point. Sometimes folks in weird dress walk the talk while they thump. Sometimes not.

      Reply
  19. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - June 29, 2017 6:50 pm

    I feel horrible!! I usually am curt and say no thank-you as I close the door in their faces. You were so nice! I think the Lord needs to curb my tongue and give me a bit more patience.

    Reply
    • Carolyn C Furcolow - June 30, 2017 11:14 am

      I generally do everything possible to avoid them. Next time I will be more lenient of their beliefs and listen for a few minutes. Thanks Marisa for reminding me to be nice to all those I encounter .

      Reply
  20. Sam Hunneman - June 29, 2017 8:23 pm

    Well, hell. If I didn’t love you for the way you feel about coon hounds, I sure as the dickens love you for this. You have an open invitation any time you wanna visit Maine… as one fella in Texas once told me, “Maine… ‘ass’at l’il one, up in the corner.”

    Reply
    • Statla - June 30, 2017 3:32 am

      Love this comment, even those Yankees appreciate good southern writing of telling it like it is.

      Reply
  21. Bobbie - June 29, 2017 8:26 pm

    Well done!

    Reply
  22. Jack Quanstrum - June 29, 2017 9:04 pm

    I was smiling the whole time I read your story. I am still smiling. Your prayer made perfect sense. My Dad use say, you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. And the older I get the less I think I know. I agree with my Dad and your two comments about the same thing. We think we know something, but we really just think we do. Great story, Sean.

    Reply
  23. Camille Atkins - June 29, 2017 10:19 pm

    LOVE A GAZILLION TIMES!

    Reply
  24. Wendy - June 29, 2017 11:05 pm

    Time is a gift. Seems to me that it only takes a few more minutes to be polite than to shut the door in young men’s faces. I’m as guilty as most but I eventually learned to put the DNA gene of kindness I inherited from both parents to better use. I think that even those we deem to be the holiest among us are still sinners, but we are forgiven & saved every single day by the One who loves us most.
    What a great lesson & example, Sean! Many thanks!

    Reply
  25. Wendy - June 29, 2017 11:11 pm

    Now if I could straighten out my clock. Tiny mobile shows 6:11 pm. Comment sez 11:05 pm. Maybe my techy daughter can help.

    Reply
  26. Melissa Armstrong - June 30, 2017 1:57 am

    I have enjoyed every story I’ve read that you’ve written, even though I haven’t commented every time. I’m almost compelled to say that this one was my favorite. In all honesty, I’ve said that about many of your stories. But this one… this one makes me want to be a better person, to represent better, to be more like Jesus, and I thank you for being the best example of Him in the flesh I’ve experienced lately.

    Reply
  27. Statla - June 30, 2017 3:28 am

    Your Dad has to be so proud of you!

    Reply
  28. paula jones - June 30, 2017 10:14 pm

    ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!

    Reply
  29. Debbie Smith - July 1, 2017 12:25 pm

    Wow!!! Let me stop laughing!!! What a great lesson you taught to a young man…if only he heard!!! You made my day!!❤️

    Reply
  30. Stuart - July 1, 2017 6:14 pm

    Calls to mind..

    My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
    Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

    Reply
  31. Susie Munz - July 2, 2017 12:41 pm

    That was a great way to handle those boys! I love it! 😅😇

    Reply
  32. Ben smith - July 3, 2017 2:20 am

    Awesome.. I don’t have much to say you said it all.Thanks God Bless you.

    Reply
  33. Joyce - July 6, 2017 2:36 am

    Sean, I enjoyed this story very much . I can picture it in my mind it all happening in small town. You are a wonderful writer I really enjoy your stories. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face. Much Appreciated, Joyce Anderson

    Reply
  34. Janis - July 14, 2017 5:16 am

    We grew up with Jehovah’s Witnesses earning their brownie points by cold calling at our front door following Noah’s edict of two by two. My father was staunch Southern Baptist, serving as Training Director, Sunday School Superintendent and Deacon. His was a life-changing conversion, and he quietly and confidently lived his faith out loud in public everyday. Upon those occasions when a pair of JWs would grace our front door, my father would indulge them while listening intently. Then it was his turn to reciprocate with one of his salvation tracts, heaped in scriptures pointing the way to Jesus and exposing the foolishness of other doctrines that relegating Jesus to simply a good man. Of course the JWs would rarely if ever accept his offer of a tract, which meant that my father then returned the tract he was given by them, as he would point out that there should be a certain reciprocity when people are

    Reply
  35. Janis - July 14, 2017 5:31 am

    We grew up with Jehovah’s Witnesses earning their brownie points by cold calling at our front door following Noah’s edict of two by two. My father was staunchly Southern Baptist, serving as Training Union Director, Sunday School Superintendent and Deacon. His was a life-changing conversion, and he quietly and confidently lived his faith out loud in and among the public everyday. Upon those occasions when a pair of JWs would grace our front door, my father would indulge them while listening intently. Then it was his turn to reciprocate with one of his salvation tracts, heaped in scriptures pointing the way to Jesus and exposing the foolishness of other doctrines relegating Jesus to simply being a good man. Of course the JWs would rarely if ever accept his offer of a tract, which meant that my father then returned the tract he was given by them, as he would point out that there should be a certain reciprocity when people are trying to attempt to convert non-members to their way of believing. The JWs were befuddled by his kind demeanor and indulgence only to have him turn the tables by sharing his tract and sharing scriptures of salvation through Jesus Christ the Son of God. I have tried that a few times myself. I don’t always quite have the finesse to convince a JW to accept my tracts. I have turning down theirs pretty well mastered.

    Reply
  36. Kimberly Wilkins - August 18, 2017 11:17 am

    Sweet friend! Your response was perfect. I had a similar situation about 30 years ago. I was working retail and a young man from the bible college in town came up to me. He said, “Do you know Jesus? If you don’t, you need to.” Then he walked away, didn’t even wait for a response. I looked at my co-worker and said, “It’s a good thing I know Jesus, because that boy sure didn’t introduce us.” I’m thankful you handled the situation the way you did. I would think Jesus smiled on that response.

    Reply
  37. Jonathan - August 18, 2017 11:23 am

    Sean, I’ve been reading your stuff now for about three weeks. I’m looking for your books but the library here in Grafenwöhr Germany doesn’t have any. Several of your posts I’ve saved to re-read later on and more than one has brought a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes. But after all that, I have to tell you, I’m stealing that no “self-control around chips and salsa” that means we’re brothers line.

    Reply
  38. lpmartin - August 18, 2017 11:53 am

    You kill me. One way or the other. Every day.

    Reply
  39. Beverly - August 18, 2017 1:07 pm

    As much as you always touch my heart….I love the comments people give you in return…..you bring a great spirit out of all of us…..and because of your words we are all one for a minute. Thank you.

    Reply
  40. Beverly - August 18, 2017 1:08 pm

    Do you read these comments?

    Reply
    • Barbara - August 18, 2017 2:03 pm

      Sean, Sean, Sean, you get me every day, and always by surprise. I love you more and more each and every day. I grew up in the Fla. panhandle, shopping in Dothan or Panama City for special shopping trips. I “get” your southern humor and sayins’. My day starts with you and I either cry or laugh out loud. God bless you, keep those columns coming.

      Reply
  41. Sylvia Williams - August 18, 2017 1:53 pm

    Love your prayer!

    Reply
  42. Pat Wilhelm - August 18, 2017 3:27 pm

    My husband follows your posts daily. He identifies with the things you say. I love seeing the illustrations. I’m guessing you do them–they are really quite good. Please sign them.

    Reply

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