Strolling the aisles with the Lord thy God

January 11, 2004|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

WASHINGTON -- I had to go to the market to do some shopping. God went along to keep me company.

He was examining the fine print on some ice cream when I told Him about a news story I had seen. It said that Howard Dean has decided to mention God more often in his campaign appearances.

"What's a Howard Dean?" God asked.

"He's a presidential candidate," I said. "A Democrat."

"What's a Democrat?"

"Well, you see," I stammered, "there are like, these two political parties, and -- "

God laughed. "Gotcha," He said. "You are so easy."

"Oh. So you know what a Democrat is."

"I read the papers," said God. He held up the ice cream. "Have you ever read the back panel on one of these? You need a chemistry degree to understand it. What's a diglyceride, for goodness sake?"

"You think I should go to the natural food store?"

God shrugged. "I gave you free will," He said. "Make up your own mind. So anyway, you were asking me about this Howard Dean fellow, who has decided to give me a plug."

"Yeah," I said as we wandered over to the cereal aisle. "He says he intends to be more open in talking about You from now on. Voters like that, like to know that their presidential candidates are religious. He said he wasn't comfortable talking about You in public before because he's from New England. They like to keep that kind of stuff to themselves up there."

"I've noticed that," said God. "Up North, they act like I was a bad secret, something you don't mention in polite company. Down South, you can't shut 'em up. They call me out for every high school football game."

"You don't sound like you're too impressed either way."

God had been reading the side panel on a cereal box. "Trisodium phosphate," He muttered.

I tried repeating it. "You don't sound like you're too -- "

"I heard you the first time," said God, not turning around. "Why is it you people always think if I don't respond in the first nanosecond it means I didn't hear you? I hear. And to answer your question: I'm more concerned with what people are than what they say or don't say."

"What do you mean?"

Now He looked at me. "Mouths lie, hearts don't," He said. "Come on, let's go to the produce section. You should buy some fruit. I don't like all these chemicals you eat."

"What about free will?"

He spread His hands. "Just a suggestion."

"You said, 'Mouths lie, hearts don't,'" I said. He was inspecting an apple. "That's fine for you. You can read hearts. We can't. So why shouldn't we ask a politician to tell us how he feels about You?"

A sigh. "I am not a prop," said God.

"Beg pardon?"

"For years, the conservatives have tried to make me their mascot: 'God wants a "Yes" vote on Prop. 13. God wants a tax cut.' Now this Dean fellow wants to show that I'm on his side. I am the author of Creation and the painter of every sunset. I was here before the first and will be here after the last. I am not a political prop. I am the Lord thy God."

He tore a plastic bag off the roller and dropped the apple in. "And the Lord thy God says you're buying some fruit," He said, picking through the bin for more. "You say 'free will' to me and I'll give you a wart so big ..."

"No, that's fine," I said. "I'm confused, though. I don't understand what You want us to do."

"I told you a long time ago. Look after one another. Call your parents. Take one day out of seven and get some rest. What's so hard about that? I mean, you personally don't seem to have any trouble with it. You do just fine. In fact, sometimes I wish everybody would just be more like you."

My heart leapt. "Really?"

God handed me a bag full of apples and shook His head. "You are way too easy," He said.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His column appears Sundays in The Sun.

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