Dipping Marie biscuits into over sweetened tea, the cannibals savoured the flavour of their feast. It was not the biscuits nor the steaming rooibos that tantalised their tastebuds but the flesh of one of their own. Before the feast, she had been a respected church member, wealthy and wise, as chaste as a bleating lamb. That is, until her belly swelled with new life before any man had slipped a piece of gold on her finger. Who would’ve thought that the line between being celebrated and feasted upon would be so thin, a mere missed period away?
The feast continued, between sweet mouthfuls of tea and Marie, each of the church members bit off a piece of their hapless victim. She was a delight to feast on for this woman had been marinaded in holy horror: the life in her belly was the direct fruit of the pastor’s ministrations. Torn between their eyes and brains, they found themselves in a dilemma of the cognitively dissonant kind.
Their eyes saw a respectable preacher, unequivocal in his spirited denunciation of sin. Here was a preacher whose face was marked by years of fervent prayer for and with the flock, a shepherd who’d unflinchingly calmed the stormy voices of dispute and dispelled the lonely fear of the bedridden with heartwarming songs and visits. Church board meetings were never smoother and many a young lad’s heart beat resolutely with the desire to be like the righteous preacher that he saw.
The brain though, could not ignore the protruding belly that cast a shadow over the state of affairs at church. What ever where the faithful to do? Evidently, a discordant note had ruined the blissful harmony of their church community and demanded resolution.
Fantasy bends itself to the will far more readily than reality and that lends it an advantage. Cinderella is always more beautiful than the girl next door and Prince Charming never ignores his beloved. Likewise, the pastor who pleased the eye was better than the one who troubled the mind with his indiscretion. Add to that the vestigial ancient cultural beliefs that put the weight of chastity, and thus the blame of infidelity, on women, and it is no wonder that the faithful got out their crockery and cutlery to feast on the pregnant parishioner.
“She must have seduced him,” said one, “these girls of today are expert trappers.” The deacon’s wife was not to be left out, so she too, popped a morsel in her mouth, exclaiming,
“We really should pray about this situation, would you believe she claims our pastor trapped her? These young girls don’t know how to behave themselves in the presence of men! They go prancing about like fillies in heat!” A chorus of approving grunts rang out from the three choir members whose mouths were too full of rooibos tea and young lady’s reputation to say more.
The feast ended, leftovers were packed away to be eaten at a later date (reputations can never be eaten in one sitting). For now, the faithful had much to do: young girls were to be warned of the dangers of tempting men and boys were to be warned against the danger of loose women. Of course, plans were made to pray about this somber situation at some later date, probably the same as the one on which they would feast on the leftovers.
Nobody asked the lady for her side of the story. Nobody heard of how their pastor had been the first friendly face she’d seen when she joined the church after an evangelistic series. Nobody knew that he’d been a pillar of strength when her family wasn’t supportive of her new faith. Nobody knew of the first time he’d locked his office door and sat with her on the couch nor of the counselling sessions at restaurants and in his car parked in secluded spots.
Who could she have told of the long chats online and the first time her pulse quickened at his soothing words that calmed her when she cried over her unmarried status? Who would have believed he’d told her that any guy would be truly blessed to have her, especially when she wore that dress that accentuated her voluptuous figure? He had used that word: voluptuous. The reassuring hugs had grown closer and longer. Here, at long last, was a man who understood her and validated her.
Sure, she admitted to herself that the initial gnawing discomfort of all that personal attention but later brushed it off as her imagination getting the better of her. Oh, how those secluded moments had become so precious. Starved of affection and approval by a father indignant at her new faith, the pastor’s reassuring hugs thrilled her heart with warmth and stirred other feelings she dared not admit to even herself. Who could she tell of the guilty pleasure of that kiss that felt so natural? Plus, in keeping with church policy, they believed in abstinence so there wasn’t even the whisper of condoms.
Nobody would have listened then and certainly not now. Preying pastors happened to other churches, not this one. Preying pastors were evil men with eyepatches and leering grins, not their respectable pastor with his black suit and conservative tie. Preying pastors were flamboyant and had entourages of hypnotised women following them, not their quiet, somber preacher.
Thus, fantasy triumphed over evidence. Thus, jealousy for the image of the church in the eyes of society bested duty for the image of God in the downtrodden. Thus, the privilege of authority weighed heavier in the eyes of the faithful than justice. We pray for our pastors, good and bad, but who will protect us from preying pastors? May God forgive us for feasting on each other and may we let Him lead us to shut the mouths of ravenous church leaders and reintroduce Jesus to the fallen.
photo credit: Beaty Biodiversity Museum Bake a Cake for Darwin 2012 via photopin (license)