MYSTERY BABYLON DENOMINATION
Based on Bill Britton’s satirical classic on how the Apostle Paul might be processed by a modern church committee. Updated by Dean VanDruff, with permission from Bill’s daughter.
FOREIGN MISSIONS BOARD
To: Rev. Saul Paul
First Christian Church
Dear Mr. Paul:
I have your application for missionary appointment before me, and will be as frank as possible concerning your qualifications as a foreign missionary. We have to be very careful in choosing our emissaries, and our Missions Board has reviewed your case thoroughly. We have decided that it would be unwise to send you as an ambassador of our religion for the following reasons:
- It has come to our attention that you are doing secular work on the side. We do not feel that making tents and full time ministry go together very well. [1Th 2:9] It seems that you do not have enough experience in trusting the Lord for your income. You should make up your mind whether you want to preach or continue your profession.
- Your previous actions have been very confrontative and unseemly for a minister. We learned that in a public meeting you opposed Dr. Simon Peter, an esteemed minister with a high reputation. [Ga 2:11-14] We also hear that you refused to compromise with other ministers such that a special council meeting had to be called in Jerusalem to prevent a serious split in the churches. [Ac 15:1-30] We frown on putting ideology before people. For your own good, I am enclosing a copy of Daius’ Carnegus book on “How to Win Jews and Influence Greeks.” [Ga 1:10, 1Th 2:4-6]
- You have conflicted with mature Jewish brethren in nearly every city you have visited who simply want to encourage the converted Pagans to be properly circumcised. Mr. Paul, you must know that these men are our most learned sages with a deep sense of the roots and history of our faith. As well, and more importantly, these men control the synagogues you could be ministering in if you would simply tone down your dialog into a more friendly and respectful exchange. [Gal 5:2-12]
- In checking back, we discovered your Christian education consisted of a three year course in Arabia. [Ga 1:15-20] We find that the Arabian school has not been approved by our accreditation board.
- Further, you admit to being an unskilled public speaker. [2Co 10:10, 11:6] Paul, surely you must know that people expect fine elocution from men of God, and that as a denomination we stand for the highest levels of excellence in the pulpit. Yet instead of going to much-needed oratory classes you spend your time making tents instead. From your correspondence, you also appear to be spending a considerable amount of time writing letters to insignificant little “churches” that meet in homes. [Ac 28:3-6] Honestly now; do you really think that such misguided activities are what will lead to your success in the world of religion? We strongly suggest that you put down your tools and set aside your pen, and instead practice hand gestures, facial expressions, and voice modulation in front of a mirror for several hours a day until you come up to par.
- It has come to our attention that you often emphasize “the power of God” and “the gifts of the Spirit.” [1Co 2:3-5, 12:1-7] Also that you speak in tongues a great deal. [1Co 14:18] Surely you must realize that such as this only drives off the better class of people, and lacks the dignity of a more nuanced approach. [1Co 3:18]
- It has been proven to our satisfaction that you had hands laid on you at Antioch with prophecy going forth, [Ac 13:1-3] with none of the Apostles or Headquarters brethren present to conduct this ordination service in the prescribed manner.
- We see here that you have a jail record in several places. [2Co 11:23-27] If this is true, it puts you in a bad light, for our denomination has always stood for a high standard of civic responsibility. I fear it would damage our reputation to have someone representing us that had served time in jails and prisons. Frankly, Mr. Paul, we seriously doubt you could have been innocent and the judge wrong in so many cases. It just doesn’t look right.
- It seems that you are a troublemaker, Mr. Paul. Several business men of Ephesus have written us that you were the cause of severe loss of business to them and stirred up a mob protest. You must learn to cultivate the friendship and influence of men and groups such as these. [Ac 16:16-22]
- We also have some details of a shameful “over the wall in a basket” episode at Damascus, [2Co 11:30-33] plus a stoning at Lystra, and several other violent actions taken against your ministry. [2Ti 3:11] Haven’t you ever suspected that conciliatory behavior and gentler words might gain you more friends?
- We have learned through channels that following some trouble with a preacher on the island of Cyprus, you began to allow yourself to be known by the Gentile pronunciation of your name rather than the proper Hebrew. [Ac 13:4-11] Yet another conflict, and then a name change. This does not seem to us to be conduct becoming to the ministry.
- You admitted in your application that in the past you neglected such needy fields as Bithynia, just because “the Spirit didn’t lead that way,” even though it was listed on the Mission Arrow Plan (MAP). For another example, you undertook a dangerous and hazardous journey on the strength of a dream at Troas. [Ac 16:6-10] Mr. Paul, surely you don’t expect us to go along with such flimsy and fantastic excuses for your seemingly purposeless wanderings.
- Where you did go, many times you did not stay long enough to get a church properly established in our opinion. You left your converts many times without even a pastor to guide them, and without setting the church in order in some good hierarchical denomination. [Ts 1:5]
- We hear also from Troas that you preach too long, one sermon lasting almost twenty-four hours, even to the extent that a young man fell asleep and was seriously injured. [Ac 20:7-12] Studies have shown that 42.5 minutes is the average time a minister can hold the attention of an audience. Our advice is thus for you to shorten your sermons considerably. Our motto is “Stand up, speak up, and shut up.”
- It is reported from your home church that you could not get along with your fellow ministers; that John Mark–the nephew of one of our highest leaders–had to leave your party in the middle of a journey; and that you had a sharp quarrel with gentle, good natured Barnabas. [Ac 15:36-40] Now these men are well thought of in Jerusalem and we wonder why you are always having trouble with your fellow workers?
- We have notarized affidavits from four very popular and influential preachers: Diotrephes, Demas, Hymenaeus, and Alexander; to the effect that it is impossible for them to cooperate with you. [1Ti 1:20]
- From what we hear, you seem to think that you have some direct sanction from on-high to reveal some “Mystery”. [Ep 3:3-4] Can’t you realize that any truth that is to be revealed would come through Headquarters to the recognized, established brethren, and that after it had been checked by our Procedure and Doctrine Committee that we would distribute it on to the field workers?
- Finally, we hear that you claim to be an Apostle. We know nothing of this being passed upon by the proper authoritative channels and wonder how you could back that claim up, when the last Apostle was voted into office right here in Jerusalem by casting lots. [Ac 1:26] Now that our denomination has been established, why do you imagine there would be any need for God to continue the Apostolic gifting?
As you see, Mr. Paul, we feel definitely after close scrutiny of your case, that you are undoubtedly the most unqualified applicant we have ever seen, and my advice for you is to find a church where you can work in harmony, and use your past education as perhaps a Sunday School teacher.
I hope I have prevented you from making a terrible mistake in your life.
Most sincerely yours,
J. Flotsam Bureaucraticus