Monday is Pastor Walter Mitty’s day off, so he should have been feeling pretty good about having some free time, but he woke up two days ago feeling out of sorts. It wasn’t depressed exactly. Discombobulated was the only word he could think of to describe his mood.

So he called his friend and neighbor Michael Rosenthal who agreed to walk with him over to the Main Café for lunch. “What do you think is going on?” Michael asked as they walked the five blocks to the Main.

“Don’t know for sure,” Mitty replied. “That’s partly why I wanted to get together.”

After sliding into a more or less secluded booth at the back of the Main, Alice came with glasses of water and took their order.

“So, Alice, what do you think about how the primary elections turned out last Tuesday,” Michael asked the chronically grumpy waitress.

“What do we have to choose between for governor?” Alice replied. “Two rich guys who have no idea what life is like for working stiffs like me. Money talks.”

Pastor Walt just nodded. Maybe the election was part of why he was feeling out of sorts. He knew he shouldn’t because of his high cholesterol, but he ordered a cheeseburger and fries, choosing to indulge a little. “Maybe comfort food will lift my spirits,” he said to himself.

“So, what’s going on, Walt?” Michael asked as Alice walked away.

After a long pause, Mitty answered, “I know that part of the reason is the whole political process. But part of it is that I’m having a hard time with my sermons this week.

“Say more,” said Michael.

“OK, so yesterday was Palm Sunday, right? Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and eight days later is Easter, another upbeat Sunday. But in between is Maundy Thursday when we remember how all of Jesus’ so called friends abandoned him when he needed them most. Then on Friday we read the story about how the religious authorities falsely accused him and the political authority failed to do the right thing and sentenced him to death.”

“We have the same disconnect,” Michael replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, as you know, we’re in the middle of Passover week. So it’s an upbeat story if you stick to the miraculous liberation of my spiritual forbearers from slavery …”

“But at least you have a story with a legitimate bad guy,” Mitty interrupted his friend. “Pharaoh was enslaving your people. Just like black folks were being kept as second-class citizens in this country. So many gospel songs use that image of the exodus to express their desire for freedom. But when we Christians hear about the disciples abandoning Jesus, all we’re left with is the indictment that we have met the enemy and they are us.”

“What I was going to say,” said Michael, “is that my spiritual ancestors celebrated the miracle of the exodus when they watched Pharaoh’s army get drowned in the Red Sea but once they got into the wilderness where their trust was tested, they soon lost faith in the One who had freed them.”

“You mean like Maundy Thursday following Palm Sunday?”

“Yeah. I guess so,” answered Michael.

The two friends sat for a minute staring blankly at their glasses of water.

“Is human nature that bad?” asked Mitty.

“Sometimes it seems that way,” Michael replied. “I mean, I hear so many people complaining about ‘those politicians’ in Springfield, yet less than a third of the eligible voters actually went to the polls last Tuesday.”

“It’s a chicken-and-egg situation, Michael. I hear people excusing their political apathy by saying their vote won’t make a difference because the system is rigged, but the reason the system is rigged is because all the people don’t band together and vote the corrupt politicians out of office.”

“Are we saying,” asked Michael, “that we get what we deserve?”

“I guess so,” said Mitty.

“So have you two figured out how to save the world yet?” asked Alice as she delivered their food.

In spite of himself, Pastor Walt started laughing. “At this point, I guess we decided that it’s our own damned fault.”

“The problems of the world?” asked Alice.

“I guess that’s right,” Michael added. “It’s like President Obama said in his speech at Hiroshima. We humans have this inner contradiction. We’re capable of wonderful creativity like figuring out how to use nuclear energy to create electricity and at the same time to use it to destroy hundreds of thousands of people.”

“Well, that’s refreshing,” said Alice.

“Huh?” said Mitty.

“It’s refreshing to hear two men admit they don’t have all the answers.”

Tom Holmes, a retired Lutheran minister, writes a monthly column on the musings of Pastor Mitty for our sister publication, the Forest Park Review.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...