This past Christmas Eve (2005) I was awaiting the arrival of a friend for a lunch date. He was running about thirty minutes late so I sat in my car listening to some talk radio (as I am wont to do). I switched over to an AM station and caught Paul Harvey ("The Rest of the Story") launching into a Christmas tale. (The following is my own paraphrased rendition.)
As the story goes, there was a family all preparing to go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve. The father, an unbeliever, was reluctant to accompany but promised to stay up until their return. So the family set off to their service leaving the faithless father behind.
As the night drew on, the snow started coming down pretty hard. After some time, he began to hear a thumping commotion on the front porch; something akin to snow balls being lobbed against the door. In curiosity, he opened the front door and noticed a small assemblage of birds that had sought refuge from the snowy tempest.
Feeling compassion for the birds, the father contemplated how he could relieve their suffering. Thus, he purposed to direct the ensnared creatures to the barn in his backyard that would provide a reasonable quantity of sanctuary until the snowstorm abated.
At once he opened the door to gather them up in his arms but, in fear, they scurried around the porch unapproachably. He endeavored to place breadcrumbs from the porch leading to the barn, but with no success. Lastly, he sought to shoo them forcibly by waving his arms and corralling them, but they would not comply.
Disheartened, the father dropped into his chair wondering how to achieve his aim. Straight away it occurred to him, “If only I could become a bird myself! Then I could approach these objects of my affection and, in their own language, instruct them to safety.” Immediately thereafter, the sound of the local church bells tolled into his ears. Stricken in heart, he fell to his knees in prayer for a few moments. Rising, he seized his overcoat and made his way through the snowy night to join his family in worship.
And that is where Paul Harvey ended the story.
As I reflected on Harvey’s narrative aimed at tugging his listeners’ heartstrings (and converting them to Christianity, no doubt), I felt that he failed to paint a complete portrait of the “loving father” who obviously is the analogue to the Bible’s “Heavenly Father.” I think to properly round out the analogy, the story should have concluded as follows:
… At once he opened the door to gather them up in his arms but, in fear, they scurried around the porch unapproachably. He endeavored to place breadcrumbs from the porch leading to the barn, but with no success. Lastly, he sought to shoo them forcibly by waving his arms and corralling them, but they would not comply.
Disheartened, the father dropped into his chair realizing his own failure. Straight away he arose, located a fishing net from his boat in the garage, stood opposite the anguished beasts and avowed, “Because you have spurned my attempts at beneficence, either out of ignorance or fear, I shall now justly castigate you in proportion!”
Without delay, the loving father forcibly ensnared the weak animals into his net, dragged them into his living room where the sizeable hearth raged with the fresh fuel of newly positioned logs, and cast them squarely into the fire. As the pitiable birds writhed in misery, the father brushed off his hands and reclined into his chair, delighting in the glory of his deeds.
This, I believe, would have portrayed a truer picture of the “Loving Heavenly Father” as depicted in the sacred scriptures of Christianity. Salvatore-- “Good Day!”
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)